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Home Poker Tournaments - Chip Races by Michael Thomas

How to Handle Chip Races for Home Poker Tournaments

You can’t host a poker tournament without knowing how to handle specific circumstances that may arise. The more you understand about the rules of poker, the easier it is to ensure that your games are fair. When the games are fair, everyone can relax and enjoy the tournament without focusing on incorrect calls or confusion over rules.

It is common for players to start out a game with stacks of low-value chips that they will use for the blinds. Eventually, game play brings out bigger blinds and those low-value chips become tiresome to count out. Who wants to throw out $200 in chips when all you have are $10 chips?

Chip races allow you to take low-value chips out of the game once the blinds become more substantial. The first step is always to allow players to cash in their low-value chips for higher-value chips of equal value. Unfortunately, you will almost always end up with a player or two holding odd chips that do not cash out so easily.

You have multiple options to get those chips out of the game:

1. Leave the chips in play and don’t think much about them. Eventually, a player will collect enough low chips to cash them in for a higher-value chip. This occurs as players go all in and put their lower chips out. Other players win those chips, eventually trading them out for higher denominations.

2. Use chip races to quickly eliminate the smaller-denomination chips. Every player agrees to this, and it starts with the dealer accepting one card for each odd, low-value chip in their stack. So, the dealer will receive four cards if they have four low-value chips in their stack. The dealer then moves around the table handing out cards for other players in the same manner. Cards are placed face-up.

Once all cards are distributed, the low-value chips collected are counted and traded out to create a stack of higher-value chips. The new stack is created with chip value one higher than those collected. For instance, if you collect $200 in $10 chips, you would create a stack of $25 chips that total $200.

You can round up if you have odd numbers. For example, if you have $210 in chips and are swapping them out for $25 chips, you would place $225 into the new stack. You now have a higher denomination stack ready to make its way into the game.

Identify the highest card turned up on the table, and give that player one chip from the new stack in exchange for all of his cards. Continue identifying the next highest card and trading it out for a chip until there are no chips left in the stack. This is fair play because each player loses all of their cards once they receive a chip. Some players may not get a chip if they only hold the lowest cards, but they can be given a higher denomination chip in order to remain in the tournament once the chip race is over.

Should You Run Chip Races?

There are some situations in which chip races are fun, but many players find them time-consuming and annoying. You don’t want to hold too many races, so you might want to hold off until you are seating the final table. At that point, you can race off the lower denominations at once, allowing the final game to move forward. You may choose never to use these races, but at least this guide will ensure you know what others are talking about if this issue comes up at one of your home tournaments.

This article was published on Friday 31 July, 2009.
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