Poker Tournament Chip Distribution

Getting to Grips with Tournament Structures and Home Games

The bankroll is all set, you’ve plunked down your tournament buy-in, and ready to roll. You’re seated at your table and given your weapons, a stack of chips to, hopefully, build throughout the tournament. That initial stack will vary from tournament to tournament and casino to casino, but those colours and chip values are essential to any tournament, and hopefully, you’ll have a massive stack by the end of the tourney.

The starting stack and chip distribution, as well as tournament level times and the blind progression, determine a lot about a tournament such as how long an event may last, the amount of time you have to make a move, and other variables. 

Don’t follow Kenny Rogers’ advice – it’s always important to know how many chips you have at the tables.

Poker Tournament Chip Distribution

In a typical tournament, players get a particular number of certain-valued poker chips. That chip stack usually includes a few larger values, some of a medium denomination, and several lower values for the early stages when blinds and antes are low.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) offers several tournaments of varying buy-ins each year. In 2019, the series includes events ranging from a $500 buy-in with $1 million guaranteed to the winner, known as the Big 50 to celebrate the series’ 50th anniversary, to events ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. 

The annual series also features several $10,000 championship tournaments attracting plenty of big-name pros. The number of chips and distribution depends on the tournament buy-in. While the WSOP added more chips in general to its tournaments this summer, larger buy-in tournaments tend to offer more chips for players.

For example, players in the Big 50 event will start, fittingly, with 50,000 chips of varying denominations. With blinds starting at 100/200 and a 200 big blind ante. That ratio gives players a starting stack of 250 big blinds.

The special 50th Annual High Roller event features a starting stack of 300,000 chips with blinds starting at 1,000/1,000 and a big blind ante of 1,000, giving players a stack worth 300 big blinds. The event has one-hour level durations while the Big 50 has 50-minute level

Other lower buy-in tournaments have even shorter durations, many in the 30- and 40-minute range. The larger distribution of chips certainly offers more play for the poker buck. 

The annual $888 Crazy Eights (of course, sponsored by offers players 40,000 chips with 30-minute levels on Day 1 and then one-hour levels on Days 2-4.