How to Play Poker Without Chips: A Beginner’s Guide

Whether you’re looking to save money or just want to mix up your poker game, playing without chips is a great option! This beginner’s guide will show you how to play poker without chips, and still come out on top! We’ll cover the basics of betting, starting hands, and more so that you can hit the felt with confidence.

How to Play poker without Chips:  7 Creative Ways

Recently, I was at a friend’s house and the topic of poker came up. He asked me if I could play poker without having to use chips. After that, I thought about it and decided to share some tips.

Follow this guide and learn tips on how to play poker without chips.

Poker games are built around betting or wagering. You will need some currency or a monetary substitute to play poker, unless you are playing strictly for fun. It is almost impossible to tell who is winning and losing without a currency or monetary substitute.

Poker chips are the most commonly used alternative to real currency.

Sometimes, however, an impromptu game of poker will occur and no poker chips will be provided. Don’t worry. There are likely many other options available to you in your home or business.

I know this because I searched my home and office for ideas to satisfy the needs of avid poker players who want to play without chips.

Here are some options for quasi-poker chips that might not be so obvious:

1. Spare Change

how to play poker without chips

This is the obvious one, but I saved it for the end. You might have forgotten about the piggy bank of your child or the coins stored in your car’s center console. I did once build a $4,000 bankroll using spare change.

You could surely use your accidental savings to play a quick round of golf with your friends and family. You could use rolls of pennies, nickels or dimes, or even all three. You should set the parameters before the time to determine who gets the money.

2. Play Money

how to play poker without chips

The most common way to have money lying around is through play money from various board games. Monopoly, Payday and the Game of Life are some of the most common. It is likely that at least one of these games is hidden in a cabinet or closet somewhere.

You can use the fake money to play poker if you have it. The best part about using fake money is pretending that it is real money and you are part of a high-rolling group!

3. Board Game Pieces

how to play poker without chips

If you discover that you don’t have any games that contain play money while you’re going through your game closet, you shouldn’t despair. Many other games have game pieces that can be used as poker chips. Here are some examples of games that offer money-altering items or chips.

There are three games that have good substitutes for poker chips: Othello and Connect 4. Backgammon is also available.

You can mix and match game pieces from multiple games to make enough poker chips. One could also use Scrabble tiles to make a bet and they can be as low as $1. Red Connect 4 chips may be $5.

Black Othello pieces could be $1,000.

4. Dried Foods

how to play poker without chips

You can also use dried foods from your kitchen pantry, but this could cause problems for your partner. Dry beans, corn, and/or other legumes are a good choice because they don’t make a mess and can be bought in large quantities. You can even boil them and make some poker chili!

Be careful not to eat foods that are already cooked. The temptation to eat all the profits is too strong for most people.

Aside from that, who wants an M&M that has been touched over and over at the poker table? This is pretty disgusting.

5. Office Supplies

how to play poker without chips

You won’t have many options if you don’t have any poker chips if you play an impromptu game in the office. Even so, I’m confident that there are plenty of office supplies that can be used in a poker game. Make sure your boss is not around.

Here are some things you might have lying around or in your desk drawer.

  • Paper clips (Preferably color).
  • Tacks
  • Rubber bands
  • Posted Notes (Fold them).

6. Color Popsicle Sticks

how to play poker without chips

This is a great stackable option, which most households, especially those with children, have stored in a drawer somewhere. To increase the number of chips you have, I suggest dividing each stick into three. This will give you a lot of variety in your game.

If you don’t have color popsicles, it won’t take too long to write different denominations on each stick. It is best to give each player a stack and have them each write on a different amount. You can also have the sticks be one denomination.

7. Garage Items

how to play poker without chips

Many garage items can be used as poker chips. This is especially true if your toolbox contains a large variety of the following:

  • Nuts
  • Bolts
  • Nails
  • Washers
  • Fasteners
  • Electrical Terminals

How many “Chips” do you need to play poker?

You will typically need 500 poker chips to play most poker games. For games with less than 6 players, you can usually manage to get by with 300 poker chips. Although this sounds a lot, it’s not because your home or office will likely have many items that can be used as poker chip substitutes.

If you have coins in rolls, you can just distribute them evenly among the players.

What type of game should we play?

My advice is to play only short-stacked cash games and tournaments where the blinds aren’t going up. This will allow you to play poker without having to buy replacement chips. Your boss or partner might not appreciate you making a big mess and digging around like a groundhog.

Assigning Denominations

You don’t have any real poker chips so it is best to keep things simple by only using three poker chip amounts. I recommend playing 25/50 blinds, and giving the following “chips”/value denominations that go in a player’s stack:

  • $25-8 Chips
  • $100 – 8 Chips
  • $500 – 2 Chip

Each player will receive $2,000 and 40 big blinds, to begin with. This setup allows for exciting, action-packed games.

What if someone runs out of chips?

I advise that if someone loses, they “rebuy” for a half-stack of 20 big blinds (20 or $1,000). This will ensure that no one is ever out of a game and that some players can play deep-stacked as the game progresses.

Other Methods of Playing

how to play poker without chips

You can play against your friends for play money if everyone in your group has access to a computer, a smartphone or tablet, or both. Many poker sites offer play money games that allow you to create your own “home table” to compete against your friends. Pokerstars has the best software and it is easy to set up private games.

The Bottom Line

We hope our article was helpful in giving you some ideas on how to play poker without chips. You can try those substitutes for poker chips in your next home games. Consider all other factors when using alternative chip solutions and you’ll be fine.

Good luck!