Understanding poker chip values and colors [complete guide]
Published by: PokerOrg StaffPosted on: March 2, 2022 11:11 am EST
Poker chips are poker currency. Players use them in cash games and tournaments, home games, and casino or cardroom events. They represent dollar amounts during play, and provide a way to play poker with a shared understanding of those amounts.
Standard poker chip values and colors
Every casino, cardroom, and home game host can establish their own poker chip values. The values may vary by tournament operator, casino owner, or local poker community standards. One of the first questions a player should ask at a new venue is: “How much are poker chips worth?”
Poker chip values
Values assigned to chips are generally the same across most poker rooms: $1, $5, $10, $20 or $25, $100, $500, and $1,000. For higher stakes, there are usually $5,000 and $1,000 chips on hand, with some as high as $25,000 or $100,000.
Chips used for home games are often the same, with white as the lowest denomination, then red, blue, green, black, purple (or lavender), yellow, orange, and another shade of green. Some venues offer pink and various shades of blue.
Poker chip colors
The primary reason poker games use chips is to create consistency. Players in almost every establishment must exchange money for chips and use the chips only at the tables. The chips are all the same size, with only colors to designate the difference in values.
Color coding also allows security systems to better monitor the action at tables, as chip stack sizes and different colors are easier to see than dollar bills.
Poker chip color value: cash games vs tournaments
All venues will differentiate their poker chip colors for cash games and tournaments. The basic reason is that gaming chips in cash games are worth the exact value on the chip. In tournaments, however, players buy in for a specific amount of money that doesn’t usually correspond with the amount in their starting chip stacks.
Another reason to use separate chips is to prevent players from trying to sneak cash game chips into a tournament. Tournament chips are kept in a very secure location until the event takes place. Additionally, poker players are allowed to keep chips and take them from the casino — usually as memorabilia.
Tournament chips, however, are the strict property of the establishment.
Different poker chip colors separate the two types of chips. Tournament chips must have higher denominations, and they often bear the name of the event or host, such as the World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour.
Chip values in cash games
Most poker rooms use the same poker chip values across different cash games. There’s no industry standard, but most establishments apply identical poker chip color values for at least some denominations, like the $100 black chips. Other values may vary, especially for the higher-value chips.
- White = $1
- Red = $5
- Blue, Brown, or Orange = $10
- Green = $25
- Black = $100
- Purple = $500
- Yellow, Orange, or Gray = $1,000
- Orange, Gray, or Red/White/Blue = $5,000
- Dark Green, Dark Blue, or Brown = $25,000
- Light Blue or Gray = $100,000
Each state’s gaming control board (or national gaming regulators if outside of the United States) must approve and register most aspects of different poker chips. That includes logos, chip colors, weight, sizes, designs, and materials. Each state may have its own requirements and standards.
Most professional poker chips at poker rooms display the room’s logo in the center of all gaming chips. The logo display is a form of advertisement, but the logo or brand name also makes the chips optimal for mementos and collections.
Removing colored chips from casinos
Some restrictions apply to removing poker chips for cash games from casinos. There’s usually a time limit on cashing in the chips. Because of the time limit, you usually can’t cash in chips used as collectors items at a later date. Poker rooms may also change their logos or designs periodically to prevent counterfeits and fraud.
Rectangular poker chips
For the highest-stakes cash games, casinos started using rectangular plaques. These are heavier and clearly different from any poker chip. Their unique design is an indicator that the stakes are high. High-stakes players often enjoy using something other than standard gambling chips. And it’s not a coincidence that the shape of these chips resemble the shape of paper money.
Chip values in poker tournaments
Poker chip values don’t represent actual dollar amounts, so most tournaments report chip counts by prefacing the number with T$.
For example, a player may buy into a tournament for $400 and receive 40,000 in chip values, spread across different colors of chips. That player now has T$40,000 in the tournament. The chips don’t correspond to a real-life dollar amount. But an amount is necessary to track stack sizes and poker chip distribution.
High value chips in tournaments
Anyone or any establishment hosting a poker tournament must have enough chips to supply all potential players. While high-denomination cash game chips may be rare, every tournament must have high poker chip values on hand.
Colors are important for many reasons in a poker tournament, but they must be easily distinguishable when the dealers and staff do color-ups.
As players bust out of a tournament, the remaining players accumulate their chips. Those remaining players will pile up many more of the lower values than necessary with increased blinds. The tournament staff will remove the smaller denominations in exchange for higher values, reducing the chip stacks to more manageable sizes.
Stacking poker chips by color values
Poker chip color value also matters when stacking chips. The standard way to stack is to separate poker chip values by color in stacks of 20. Tournament players should be able to look at another’s stack and determine how many chips they have. This is necessary for calculating odds and making betting decisions.
Setting chip values and stack sizes for home games
Home games almost always use the same poker chip colors from house to house. The average poker chips set contains whites, reds, and blues or greens. Larger home games may use bigger poker chips sets with more colors, such as black and yellow.
There are no values printed on chips intended for home-game use. This allows poker-night hosts to set the values that best represent the money at stake in their games. For example, instead of white chips representing one dollar, they can be worth one cent.
Typically, home games start with 25 to 50 chips per person. This depends on the stakes and number of players, as well as the general betting patterns of the participants. More advanced and experienced home games may let players buy in for a specific dollar amount that matches the exact poker chip values. A standard game may use $1/$2 blinds.
Home game poker chip color values
Different options for poker chip distribution could be:
- $40 for 20 big blinds (20BB) = ten $1 chips, four $5 chips, 1 $10 chip
- $100 for 50BB = ten $1 chips, ten $5 chips, four $10 chips
- $200 for 100BB = ten $1 chips, ten $5 chips, nine $10 chips, two $25 chips
The above distributions can work just as well for $0.01/$0.02 games.
Home game tournament poker chip color values
Home game tournaments are more complicated but still manageable. Running a home game tournament requires knowledge of (and setting up) a blind structure and instructions for how to color up chips. A host could hold a tournament for up to six people with a set of 300 poker chips, but a 500-piece set is optimal, especially for deep stacks.
To start each player with 100BB, the host would judge poker chip value by color. For instance, you may decide that eight white chips represent T$25 each. You may also set eight reds at T$100 each, eight blues at T$500 each, and five greens at T$1,000 each.
Pro tip: When playing with a 300-piece chip set, recycle the white chips as higher denominations later in the tournament. As long as everyone agrees that the chips can take on a higher value, recycling the colors works well.
Chip values in major poker tournaments
How much are poker chips worth in poker tournaments? The value is shown right on the circle in the center of the chip. Most establishments will print chips especially for a particular tournament series, like the WSOP or WPT. Casinos like the Venetian also print special tournament chips for their signature series.
Multi-colored tournament chips
Poker chip colors in major tournaments are often multi-colored designs. The chips typically display multiple colors around the outer part of the chip but one primary color in the center.
For example, the T$100 chip at the World Series of Poker at the Rio was the standard black but with blue highlights. When looking at the top or the side of the chip, though, it’s clearly a black chip. And when a player or tournament staff stacks them perfectly, they align to show the primary and secondary colors clearly.
Cashing in colored tournament chips for stated value
Tournament chips show their tournament value (500, 1000, etc.) but also add a disclaimer of “no cash value.” That means you can’t take the chip to the cashier cage and exchange it for cash, because tournament dollars don’t equate to real dollars. The values of gambling chips for tournaments correspond with the blind structure.
Tournament poker chip colors and values
Major poker tournaments typically start at a value of T$25 (or just 25) and increase per standard blind structures.
- Green = 25
- Black = 100
- Purple or Light Blue = 500
- Yellow or Gold = 1,000
- Orange or Gray = 5,000
- Dark Green or Brown = 25,000
- Pink or Lavender = 100,000
- Red = 500,000
- Light Yellow = 1,000,000
The higher-valued professional poker chips only come into play in the late stages of very large tournaments, such as the WSOP Main Event.
A brief history of poker chips
Centuries ago, gamblers used various tokens in games like poker. These were called tokens, jettons, fiches, mils, checks, or cheques.
The modern-day customisable poker chip came into play when saloons and early casinos realized using a standard set of betting chips would prevent misunderstandings between players and dealers. Standard poker chip colors and values had the added benefit of reducing cheating opportunities.
Clay poker chips
Original poker chips were made of clay, but they were brittle and needed frequent replacements. As the years and games progressed, manufacturers began to use clay composite materials with additives to make them more durable.
Today’s most commonly found chips are made of mineral clay with additives for strength. The highest-quality gambling chips are called ceramics, though they’re actually made with highly durable plastic resin. However, these chips are expensive and lack the feel of clay chips that most players prefer for stacking and shuffling.
Plastic home game chips
Home game chip sets are often made of plastic. The very cheap, original chip sets consisted of very thin, plastic discs. Those transitioned to stronger plastic chips with metal inserts to make them heavier. Manufacturers eventually added some amount of clay to better mimic the look and feel of real casino chips. Professional chip sets with strong clay chips can be prohibitively expensive for the casual home game player.
Poker chip sizes
Over time, the size of casino chips has changed, but it’s now consistent in almost all casinos. Poker chips are 39mm in diameter, with only an occasional high-limit chip a little larger — possibly up to 48mm. The standard thickness of a poker chip is 3.5mm. The weight can vary from 7g to 20.5g, though most stay between 8g and 14g.
What is an RFID poker chip?
Today’s casinos have begun to incorporate RFID poker chips into their rotation. These chips contain radio frequency identification (RFID) using electromagnetic fields for tracking purposes. Manufacturing these chips can be expensive, but using them can prevent theft. They also help track player action at the tables, as well as dealer performance.
Poker chip values FAQs
What color poker chip is worth the most?
In most casinos, the light blue or grey poker chip is worth $100,000, which is the highest chip value available. In lower-stakes games, the black chip is often the highest in value, worth $100 in most casinos.
What color poker chip is usually assigned the lowest value?
White poker chips are typically assigned the lowest value, usually starting at $1 in casinos. As such, low-stakes Hold’em games can be easily identified by the stacks of white chips on a table in front of each player.
Are casino chip colors universal?
There is no universally standardized color scheme for the value of poker chips, even though many casinos follow the same system as introduced above. It always makes sense to familiarize yourself with the value of each of the chips used by a casino before buying and placing your bets for this reason.
Do all US casinos use the same color chips?
Most US casinos follow the standard poker chips’ value and colors, although there are a few exceptions. So, before sitting down for a game of poker in the casino of your choice, you need to double-check the value of the chips in front of you – never just assume!
How do casinos verify chips before cashing them?
Casinos have various high-tech ways of verifying their chips before cashing them. Some use holograms and color-shifting ink, while other casinos have RFID transmitters, which make them impossible to replicate. This prevents fraud and ensures that only legitimately won chips can be cashed in on the casino floor.
Featured image source: Flickr by Marco Verch Professional Photographer used under CC license