After the poker boom of the early 2000s, more people are warming up to the idea of poker as a fun way to spend their pastime. Yet, not many people are thrilled with the idea of losing their hard-earned cash to a friend or family member who’ll make sure they remember it for a long time to come.
It is true, that poker chips are universally accepted as the ideal betting currency for poker games. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to play poker with money or chips. Whether at work (if your boss allows it) or at home, there are a few hacks to help you enjoy playing poker without spending a dime.
The game of poker is centered around betting or wagering. Without some form of wager involved, it is hard to determine who wins or loses; hence, the need for betting chips or another monetary substitute to play poker. When poker chips are not involved, players will need to get creative with substitutes.
If you’re playing poker at home, there are a few things around the house that may work as a poker chip replacement. From fake money to scrabble pieces, you’d be surprised by how many things around your house could work perfectly as chips. As for playing with money, you can completely cut it out, but there are a few things you may use as substitutes for cash to make the game a little more interesting.
If you are hosting a home poker game then it is almost an unwritten rule that there are also snacks and drinks available to everyone. Want to know what is the ultimate list of food and drinks for poker night? Find out in this article that I wrote.
Can Poker be Played Without Real Money?
While poker is definitely more exciting when money is involved, the game can be played without real money. Not everyone has what it takes to make living playing tournaments or cash games. Understandably, some players would rather enjoy a game of poker without having to lose money, and just like other games, poker can be enjoyed amongst friends and family members with zero wagerings involved.
Since the game is predominantly centered around placing bets, you will have to get creative to find ways to place false bets during a hand. Look around your home, and there could be several items that would replace real money.
If you can get your hands on poker chips, that would be great, but even without chips, it’s still possible to pull this off. What you’re looking for is any item around the house that comes in different shapes, colors, or sizes. Those parameters would come handy while trying to assign denominations.
Play Poker for Fun Facts
- playing poker for fun doesn’t replicate the same experience as playing for real money
- no real adrenaline rush when going all-in
- less competition
- no need to have actual money or poker chips
- can still have fun with friends
- games are more chat friendly and more relaxed atmosphere
- suitable for kids and the whole family
Now that you know what playing poker for fun brings and how it differs from playing with real money or poker chips, let us have a look at 8 ways to play poker without money or chips. This list starts with ideas of items you can substitute for poker chips or real money.
1. Pieces of Board Game
An excellent way to play poker without chips is to use pieces from board games as substitutes for chips. It could be pieces from Othello, Checkers, Backgammon, or Connect 4. If you can lay your hands on Scrabble tiles, you can make it work as well.
If you own more than one of the games I mentioned, you can mix them together to give you enough pieces to play poker. You can substitute scrabble tiles for a $1 chip, Othello pieces could be $5, and you may even use red Connect 4 as $1000 chips. It depends on how many of these board games you can lay your hands on.
What to bet? The winner of a hand can get to enjoy an ice-cold drink while others watch.
2. Garage Items
If you have a toolbox laying around somewhere, there are tons of stuff you can substitute for poker chips. Items like bolts, nuts, washers, nails, electrical terminals, and fasteners can be used as poker chips. If you don’t have a toolbox or own a garage, you could ask a friend to bring along. Surely, you must have a friend or two who own a toolbox.
What to bet? This can be made into a game of truth or dare where players who lose out on a hand gets to tell everyone a little secret.
This is probably the most appropriate substitute for poker chips on the list. It’s common to find a pile of coins stored away in most houses. If you do find some around your home, then you may just have found the perfect poker chips replacement. It could be dimes, pennies, nickels, or a combination of all three.
If you can’t assemble enough coins, you could ask your friends to bring some along while coming to your house. If you can’t find enough, then perhaps you may want to consider other options on this list.
4. Fake Cash
The idea behind this list is to create a viable poker chip substitutes by thinking outside the box. One excellent, creative idea you can make do with is substituting fake cash for real money. These fakes cash could come from board games like Monopoly, Game of Life, or Payday. I assume you have one of those games stacked somewhere in your closet.
If you don’t, you can always ask your friends or buy a board game that comes with fake cash. People commonly use fake money because of its distinctive colors and its resemblance to actual cash, which makes it easy to distinguish the denominations.
5. Office Supplies
If your working environment allows it (or your boss isn’t around), nothing is stopping you from enjoying a friendly game of poker with your colleagues. Sure, money isn’t involved, but there are bragging rights at stake, and it’s undoubtedly an excellent way to bond with your co-workers. Your office is most likely filled with lots of items that can pass for substitute poker chips. Look around you. What can you find? Paper clips? Tacks? Posted notes? These items can work just fine as chips for your game.
What to bet? The winner of a hand gets bragging rights.
Why not? Candy can work just fine as poker chips and compliments for the lack of money involved. Placing bets with pieces of candy can make the game that bit more interesting.
If you can’t lay your hands on some candy, you can make do with whatever food you have around the house. The promise of a little treat at the end of the game could make a friendly game a little more challenging for players.
7. Online Poker With Play Money
Several websites allow people to play poker without money. You can place bets like regular games, but you won’t be using real money to do so. Apart from websites, you can also download apps on your PC or smartphone to play free poker. You can play alone or with others as most online poker games feature multi-players options. Most people who play cash poker online usually practice their hands by playing on websites/apps that allows people to place bets with play money.
This option is a little more promising because you get to play the game as you naturally would if you’re playing with money, and you can play alone ( vs. COM) as opposed to the other options where you need at least two players to play a hand.
Or you maybe you want to play some real money games while not risking any of your own money? There are websites that do exactly that. On this website, you will get free $50 to play with (not available for US players anymore). They even provide you with free coaching materials. it is in websites’ best interest for you to be a winning player. This is exactly how I have become a winning poker player.
8. Strip Poker
Well, as long as the kids are nowhere near and everyone is comfortable with showing a bit of skin, strip poker can be a fun way to enjoy poker. While many people play strip poker using 5 card poker, nothing stops you from using texas hold em.
The strategy of the game is straightforward; the player that wins a hand gets to keep his/her clothes on while other players have to remove a piece of clothing. The rules are flexible, and in some cases, players who fold their hands are allowed to keep their clothes on.
The Basics of Playing Poker Without Money or Chips
With no money or chips involved, the rules and gameplay might be a little different. So let’s run through a few adjustments you can make to ensure the game is still enjoyable.
- Number of Chips: In a standard game of poker, around 500 poker chips are sufficient to get the game going. Without chips, and with fewer people involved, you may not need to assemble that many items around your house to substitute for chips.
If the number of players on the table is below 6, you can assemble 300 pieces of your substitute poker chips to get the game started. If the number of players is more, then you must find a way to collect more pieces.
- Assigning Denominations: This is perhaps the most challenging part of playing poker without chips. Your best option is not to complicate things.
Setting only 3 chip amounts will make it a lot easier to enjoy the game. You can play 25/50 blinds while setting chip denominations to $25 to 8 chips or an even lesser amount. Since it’s not real money, you can pretend to be a big spender.
- Number of Players: If you can’t assemble enough items to replace chips, then you may have to reduce the number of players on the table.
It doesn’t make any sense if over 10 players are playing a hand with less than 300 chips top play with. Players can take turns to play hands. This may be a little challenging to pull off, but it’s better than nothing.
Poker Without Money Vs. Poker With Money: Which is Better?
Without a doubt, cash poker is more challenging, more thrilling, and definitely better than playing poker without money. While most people don’t want to lose their money, a little wager shouldn’t hurt anyone. In most games between friends, the betting amounts are usually low.
Nobody likes to lose money, but I’d imagine that not many people would make a fuss about losing a couple of dollars. In fact, I have seen games where people stake blinds as low as $0.01/$0.02. If that’s too low, you can take it up to $0.05/$0.10. Any money is decent enough as long as you’re not playing to enrich your pockets.
There’s a drive that comes with playing cash poker that you don’t get when there’s nothing to play for. Without that drive, there’s a real chance that poker might just be reduced to a boring game. This is why many people who play poker without money try to place little wagers like candy or small pieces of food to make the game a little more interesting.
Benefits of Playing Poker Without Money
It has been established that poker is better played with money, but are there any benefits to playing friendly poker? Below are a few.
- No Risk: Have you seen poker players? There’s so much tension around that table as they try to figure each other’s move. With money to be won and lost, some players may even resort to cheating to try and win a hand.
When you’re playing poker without money, there’s no need for all that pressure. You know you’re not going to lose any money, no matter how badly you play. It saves you all that mental stress.
- Avoids Hurting Your Friends: No one is ever happy to lose money. If you’re playing cash poker with your friend, chances are someone is going home with a few dollars less than they came.
If you’re the kind of person who would rather not see their friends lose money, you can play poker without cash and make it strictly for fun. This way, the only thing at stake is bragging rights, which is obviously not as severe as losing money.
- Work On Your Poker Skills: If you’re still learning the game or trying to perfect your skills, playing cash poker might be a bad idea since you’re more likely to lose money. Playing without any money involved will help you master the game without your inexperience, costing you some hard-earned cash.
Also, with virtually nothing at stake, there’s less pressure, and this gives you a more unobstructed view of the game while helping you make better choices during a hand.
- It is Casual: With no money involved, playing poker without cash tends to be casual. This casual nature of the game can be a good thing if you have a few things to discuss with your friends or family while playing the game.
Your poker games could be a weekly or monthly thing where you and your friends get to talk about your jobs, family, and relationship while playing poker. This can be fun and therapeutic for everyone involved.
- Fewer Hostilities: When people are losing more, they quickly get upset. It is a common sight to see individual players take an aggressive tone or pick a fight with another player, especially when he has reasons to believe his opponent is cheating.
You wouldn’t want your friends fighting over poker, would you? With no money involved, players naturally won’t mind much if they lose, neither do they care that much that another player on the table might be cheating.
Benefits of Playing Poker With Money
If poker can be played without money, why bother playing with money at all? The following points will tell you should think about playing poker with some real cash.
- It’s Challenging: The most obvious benefit of playing poker with real money is that the game becomes more challenging when there’s money on the line. Players are more focused, and there’s less chatting on the table. Playing without any money involved can be quite dull, with a little wager on the pot, poker becomes instantly more exciting and fun.
- Sharper Skills: While playing poker without money can help you work on your skills without much pressure, you will never know if you’ve made real progress unless you play a serious game with some cash to win.
There are several strategies that you can only be faced with during a cash poker game. Hence, any serious poker player will ultimately need to finetune their game while playing in a game where there’s something to lose.
- Win Some Good Money: If you get really good at it, you can win a lot of money when you play cash poker. Some of the best poker players around the world have earned a small fortune playing the game, and you can too.
Poker was my only source of income for more than 10 years, and I started at the lowest limits, slowly moving up.
- It’s More Thrilling: What’s the game of poker without the thrill of winning or the agony of defeat? Those emotions are completely sucked out when there’s nothing at stake. It is worthy of note that some players don’t play cash poker to win. To these people, the rush of adrenaline that comes with playing out a thrilling game is worth more than the value of cash.
Poker is a fun game that can be enjoyed by anyone. Unfortunately, religious beliefs, personal convictions, and a general unwillingness to stake real money means some of us are not too happy to make real bets.
Luckily, it’s still possible to enjoy this game without needing to part ways with your hard-earned cash. Some of the options listed above could even prove to be more fun than you expect.
If you’re playing with your partner, then a game of strip poker can do wonders for your love life. Sometimes, the problem might not even be money; it could be a case of finding items to replace poker chips in the case of an emergency at home or the office when you need to enjoy a quick game with your friends or co-workers.
With the options provided in this article, you can enjoy poker anywhere and everywhere.