What Happens When You Run Out Of Poker Chips?

It’s quite common to see poker players run out of chips during a hand. So what happens when this happens? Do you just walk out of the game or something else? Don’t guess, we’ll be explaining everything in detail in this article.

You have the option to go all-in (and bet with all your remaining chips) or fold when you are about to run out of chips in poker. A side pot will be created for players still in the game and subsequent bets cannot be won by the all-in player.

You can only wager the amount of chips you have with you at the beginning of a hand throughout the session. You can always buy more chips during the hand but you won’t be able to wager with them until the next session begins. It’s more like you buying chips for the next hand. And you’ll have to go all-in with your remaining chips.

Without the all-in rule, it’ll be easy to be your opponents and push you out of a hand. You just need to have more money than them and eventually, they won’t be able to call your bet. But this would make poker super boring as the richest player on the table (in terms of chips) would always win.

We’ll be talking more about the all-in rule below. Keep reading.

Player going all-in and out of poker chips.
If you were to bet all of your chips it means you can’t be forced out of the hand and you will see the showdown.

Running Out Of Poker Chips And All-in Bet

You are said to be ‘all-in’ when you wager all your remaining chips. The time to go all-in is when you are about to run out of chips. And the benefit of the ‘all-in’ rule as explained above is that you can’t be bet out of hand. There is always the option of calling for all your remaining chips.

The rules of all-in also depend on the number of players in a hand. Imagine a scenario where you are playing against just one person in a hand and there’s already $200 in the pot. You look at your chips on the table and you have only $25 left. Then your opponent bets $50, making you go all-in with your remaining chips.

Since it’s only the two of you in the hand, $25 (the amount you couldn’t match) will be returned to your opponent immediately. And all betting will come to an end. The next thing is the showdown and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

All-in rules for two players are simple and straightforward. However, things get a tad complicated when you have three or more players. But hey, it’s poker, not rocket science and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

A side pot will have to be created when a player goes all-in and there are still at least three players remaining in the hand.

Understanding The Side Pot

When you go all-in, a side pot is created for players that are still in the hand. You cannot win money from the side pot as you are only entitled to the main pot. Imagine a scenario where we have three players in a hand. Players A has $25, player B has $50 while player C has $100. If all the players have to bet $25 in the first betting round, player A will have to go all-in with all his chips. After the end of the first betting round, there will be $75 in the main pot. And this is the amount of money player A is entitled to win.

After player A has gone all-in, a side pot will be created for the remaining two players in the hand. If the two players (B and C) are to undergo another betting round, player B who now has only $25, will have to go all-in. After the end of their betting round, there will be $50 in the side pot.

Since player B has no more chips to bet with, there will be no more betting round. After the river card is dealt, then comes the showdown. If player A happens to have the best hand, he’ll only win from the main pot ($75). He has no rights to this side pot as he has no bet in it. Then players B and C will compare their hands and the player with the best hand wins the side pot.

If during the showdown, player B has the best hand of all three players, he’ll win both the main pot and side pot. The same also applies if player B has the best hand of all three players.

This is the basics for the side pot. And this exact formula will also be used in a scenario where more than three players go all-in.

Poker Side Pot explained.

Can You Play Poker Without Chips?

Yes, you can play poker without chips or money. While using poker chips can be more thrilling, there are several creative chips alternatives you can use.

The explosion of poker in the early 2000s has done wonders for the game and boosted its popularity. More and more people are falling in love with poker and seeing it as a game to entertain themselves and their loved ones.

If you are going to play poker at home, chances are that you don’t have poker chips. At the same time, you may also not be very keen on betting with real money instead. After all, it’s all about fun between friends and families and you wouldn’t want to lose your hard-earned money in the process.

So what do you do when you have no chips and don’t want to bet with real money? Do nothing? No. There is other stuff you can use as alternatives to poker chips or cash. And the good thing is that you already have most of these items in your home so you’ll be saving money on that front. Lack of chips is never a reason not to enjoy the beautiful game of poker.

As you already know, poker is centered on betting. Without some sort of betting, the game loses its flavor as winners or losers can’t be easily determined.

You just need some items you can attach a monetary value to and you can use them instead of poker chips. Look around your home and you’ll start seeing items you can use.

Yes, you’ve already seen some monopoly money. Ha, those scrabble pieces.

As you can see, there are a number of alternatives to chips and we’ll be discussing them below.

What Can You Use If You Don’t Have Poker Chips?

Let’s quickly take a look at the items you can use as alternatives for poker chips.

Garage Items

Haha, you most likely weren’t thinking anything in your garage could be used to tellace chips. It’s all about being creative. Take a look around your garage and you’ll realize there are items you could use to play. See those nails? Yes, you can use them. Open that toolbox lying around the corner and you’ll see a number of alternatives to chips. Bolts, nuts, washers, electrical terminals, fasteners and nails are some of the items you can get from your garage.

Don’t own a toolbox? No worries. Just tell a friend or two to bring theirs along when you guys want to play. You’ll have to allocate values to these items of course.

Using toolbox tools for poker chips.
Browse through your garage and you will find anything from tools to bolts to use as poker chips.

Pieces of board games

Board games like chess, checkers, othello, backgammon, connect 4 and the likes have many small pieces you can use to substitute poker chips.

You just have to give values to particular pieces and you are good to go. Scrabble tiles are also excellent alternatives to poker chips.

It’s even better if you own more than one of the games we mentioned above. That way, you can use different pieces from different games. This will ensure you have more than enough pieces to play. You can even designate values for specific board game pieces. For example, you could make all scrabble tiles pieces equal to $1 chips, othello pieces could be assumed to be equal to $5 or $10 chips. It’s all up to you, pal.


Coins are probably the most natural poker chips replacement you can use at home. After all, chips are technically special coins used in the casino. A little tour of your home and you could find a couple of coins lying around. Could be old or outdated coins, doesn’t matter. Nickels, dimes, and pennies are some of the most common coins used to play poker.

If you find out your coins won’t be enough, you could tell your friends to come along with some whenever you guys want to play. Coins are marked and already have values, so you don’t need to allocate values to them.

Fake Cash

Another excellent alternative for poker chips. After all, poker used to be played with cash until chips took over. Another benefit of using fake cash is that you don’t have to worry about working out the values of each note. Just use the values already indicated on the notes.

There are many games that you play at home that come with fake cash, the most common ones being a monopoly, Payday, or Game of Life. Fake cash is also favored by a lot of people because they have different color prints which make each note distinct.

We must also mention the not-so-weird satisfaction of throwing dollars around, even when it is fake. Keep splashing that cash, pal.

Office Supplies

Who says you can’t play poker at work especially if your working environment doesn’t stop you? It could be during an impromptu game breaks out with fellow poker enthusiasts. While real money isn’t involved, a number of things are still on the line, mainly your pride and bragging rights. It’s very pleasing when you tease your friends after losing to you.

So what are the items you can use to replace poker chips at work? The most obvious is the paper. You can use bits of paper to replace chips. There are also clips, rubber bands, tacks, and so on. It’s not possible for you not to find any item you can use to represent stakes in your office.

If you ever get to play poker in your office, we wish you all the best. After all, bragging rights are up for grabs.

Office supplies used instead of poker chips.
Office supplies can be a great substitution for poker chips.


Haha, you didn’t see this coming, did you? But you see, using food to replace poker chips can be very fun. You could use candy, cookies, rice, nachos, or beans. The good thing is that you’ll most likely have one of these items at home. You and your friends just need to work out how the worth of each piece.

There’s a risk here though. Hungry players could eat all of the candies before the game ends.

Technology/Online Poker With Play Money

What would we do without the internet? We don’t want to find out. There are dozens of poker websites out there that allow you to play games without using real money. Some sites create virtual markers to represent currency instead. You play the game as you’d when playing regular online poker, placing bets, and so on with the added benefit of not using real money.

There are also several apps that allow you to play poker without using actual money. This is a great alternative as long as you and your friends have access to a PC, tablet, or smartphone. You guys can easily create a virtual table where you’ll battle it out and a champion will emerge.

You can also play alone if you want. A lot of poker players improved their game by using sites and websites that allow them to play for free without using real money. So you won’t just be having fun. You’ll be refining your game as well. It’s a good way to gather poler experience.

There are also websites that offer you free money to play with it. Some even provide you with free coaching materials to improve your game. It’s not a fairy tale.

Strip Poker

Okay, this is a little unconventional and potentially embarrassing. And it’s not something you can place as an everyday event. First of all, make sure there are no children around. Also, all the participants must be comfortable showing a bit of skin.

Here, you are essentially wagering clothes. The winner of a hand will keep his or her clothes while the losers strip – remove a piece of clothing. Yeah, you have to be comfortable showing some skin.

How Many Poker Chips Do You Give Out?

Poker is one of the most popular casino games people play in their homes with friends and families. However, there is always the question of how to divide the chips (or its alternatives) among the players. The dilemma that most people face is this – give out too many and the game will go on forever, give out too little and players will get eliminated easily making the game less fun. So it becomes clear that a balance must be achieved when giving out chips.

It must be stated there are no official rules as to the number of chips needed to host a poker game. Also, there are no rules about the colors and values to be assigned to chips. Still, there are some guidelines you can use to ensure the proper distribution of your chips before playing your game. The simplest method of achieving proper distribution of chips is to have a flat rate for the buy in. After that, all the players will be awarded everyone an equal starting stack.

So how many chips should you give each player? In Texas Hold’em, you should make sure that every player has enough chips that are equivalent to at least 50 initial big blinds. The maximum value of chips you can give out is equivalent to 100 big blinds. So you have a range there. The actual value of chips you give out should be within this range and is up to the discretion of the host. Still, the chips must be high enough so the players don’t run out of chips too easily.

What’s The Total Amount Of Chips Needed For A Poker Game?

The total amount of chips needed for a poker game largely depends on the number of players. There is also the need to consider if players will be allowed to rebuy after being eliminated and if you are expecting more players to arrive after the game is on. Generally, the more chips, the merrier. You’ll also do well to have some extra chips.

As a rule of thumb, budget about 70-100 chips per person, the actual number being up to your discretion. It’s a lot more than will be needed but there will be enough extra for rebuys or to cater to the arrival of more players.

There’s also a player to chip ratio you can use. If 2 to 3 players will be playing a game, then you should budget for a total of 200-300 chips. For 4 to 5players, a total of 400 to 500 chips will do.

For more information, read this article to know how many poker chips you need exactly depending on the game you want to play.