To wager bets in poker, you need to play with some sort of currency - or something that can act as a specific value. Poker chips are the most common thing to use for this in poker. 

But what about when you don’t have a poker chip set available, and you want to play?

Well, fear not! In this article, we’ll reveal some other substitutes you can use for poker chips. 

We’ll also go over other considerations when determining what to use:

12 Brilliant Alternatives to Poker Chips

1. Real Money: What is it that poker chips typically replace? Real money! So, why not skip the chips altogether and use this old-fashioned method? 

Say it’s not for stakes like those played in typical home games or at a casino. What’s stopping you from breaking out the change jar and just using the nickels and dimes that you’ve saved up over the years?

You’ve already got all the “chip” denominations there in front of you. Being able to stack the coins is simply a bonus!

2. Fake Money: Say you’ve got a game like Monopoly or The Game of LIFE somewhere in your house. Then you’ve already got some counterfeit bills from these games handy. Use them to represent wagers in a poker game. 

Best yet, while the bills might be of the same size, you can easily determine the value denominations. Look at the colours on the print! You don’t even have to rely solely on reading the big number on the front of each bill!

3. Create Fake Money: If you don’t have fake money available from a board game, you could always create your own! Fold and cut various pieces of paper and then use a marker to write on the value of each homemade “bill”

If you want to take things to the next level, use coloured pieces of paper to differentiate the bill denominations. 

In this case, you wouldn’t even need to write on the numeric value of the “chip”. Use the piece of paper’s colour to determine its value!

4. Food: There are a many food options you could also use to represent different denominations of poker chips. Dried foods, such as crackers, beans, and pasta noodles (like penne, for example) are great options for different “chip values”. 

When using food, keep in mind whether you’ll be able to still eat the foods afterwards, too. (Or are you just using them to represent the poker chips for the night, and then you’ll toss them later?)

Using candies like Skittles or Smarties may appear like a great option at first. But with everyone’s hands touching them throughout the game, it’s unlikely that anyone would want to consume them after the game. 

Candy also has the possibility of getting everyone’s hands (along with the table surface) somewhat sticky. So, it’s best to go the “individually wrapped candy” route as your makeshift poker chip solution.

Poker Chips - Board Game PiecesPoker Chips - Board Game Pieces

5. Board Game Pieces: Start by getting out your chess sets! You already have eight pawns per colour for one denomination of “chip”. Then, you could even add the other pieces into the mix. Perhaps use the value corresponding to their actual value in a chess game: 3 for the bishop/knight, 5 for the rook, etc. 

Using Scrabble tiles is also another idea. You can either use the same value for all the tiles or base the value on the value listed on the front of the letter! 

To create an entire alternative chip set from board game pieces odds n’ ends, you could also mix and match game pieces or dice from different games.

You could even play 3-card poker (casino table game) at home with roommates or family members using the tiles from Rummikub! You don’t need to have chips of various denominations for 3-card poker. So, all the tiles end up being the same value. 

6. Household Items: There are several different items around the house or office that you can use to denominate poker chip values. The easiest solution would be paper clips (they come in boxes FILLED with hundreds). You could also use pens, pencils, tacks, or rubber bands to get the job done. 

If you’re someone more on the artsy side of things, you might have a variety of beads or bracelets at home that you could use, as well.

7. Coloured Popsicle Sticks: For the same reason as using Monopoly money, this option is fierce. Not only can you stack them on top of each other, but you can also use the colours to represent different chip values. Now you just need to get your sweet tooth on to get things started!

8. Toolbox Items: For the handypersons out there, how many nuts, bolts, washers, fasteners, or similar items do you have lying around the toolbox or in the garage? These are great items that are small in size that you can use to make your wagers in a pinch. 

9. Clothing: You don’t necessarily have to play strip poker to use (or lose!) clothing in poker. What if you used socks, shorts, and t-shirts as currency in your next poker game!? (Loser has to fold the laundry at the end?) 

Make sure you use clean clothes to start. No one will want to play with smelly socks surrounding each side of the poker table!

10. Another Deck of Cards: If you’re looking to use things that already have a denomination to them, a separate deck of cards can be a good place to start! Use 2’s thru 10’s as their respective values. Then perhaps assign Ace = 1, Jack = 11, Queen = 12, and King = 13. Now you have your values of “chips” ready and set to go! Another Deck of CardsAnother Deck of Cards

Just make sure that your deck of cards for chips has a different backing from the playing cards you’ll use for poker. So, the “chips” and the cards don’t get mixed up.

Another option is to use cards from another “board game” that have numerical values. Those from the game of Sorry! would be a great candidate, as an example. You’d have the numbers already listed out from 1 to 12. (You wouldn’t need to convert for Jacks thru Aces). 

There are also 41 cards to start (or 45, if you include the Sorry! cards). This number is pretty close to a standard 52-card deck! 

11. Use Apps/Websites Designed to Replace Poker Chips: For the more tech-savvy folks out there, you could always incorporate the tech from a website like www.pokerchips.io. Or use an app like Chips of Fury in your next poker game! 

These tools allow you to keep track of your betting actions and chip stack with a standard deck of cards in real life!

12. Play Online: While it might be one of the more obvious options of playing poker without physical chips, it still needs to be mentioned. Online poker is an excellent alternative to playing live poker. You can instantly jump into a game of virtually any stakes you want at any given moment – even with play money. So, you never even have to worry about risking real money. 

Want to give it a try? Just sign up at www.888poker.com today to get started!

Are you looking for a just-for-fun option where you can easily play with ALL your friends at the same table at the same time?

There are even some website options where you can create “Home Games” and use play money chips (or real money, too!).

Other Considerations When Substituting Poker Chips

How Many Chips Do You Need for a Poker Game?

When figuring out how to set up a poker game – whether it’s a cash game or tournament – it’s crucial to figure out how many chips each player will get at the start. 

This number willy depends on the blinds you choose to have in the game.

For example, if you’re going to simulate a 1/2 game (with a small blind of “$1” and big blind of “$2), then you don’t need to give everyone 1,000 chips (500 big blinds). 

  • That’s overkill, especially in a recreational game. It might make better sense to give everyone anywhere between 20 and 100 big blinds to start.

For beginning players, begin playing with a fewer number of big blinds, as these games will play more passive and non-aggressive 

So, the pots and stack fluctuations will usually be relatively small, eliminating the need for having a large number of chips/ big blinds at the start.

What Denominations of “Chips” Will You Have?

It’s usually ideal to have two or three denominations of chips in a poker game. This amount will streamline and accommodate the increased betting that can happen from one round to the next.

If you’re having a poker game with 1/2 blinds, you’d need to represent $1 chips and $5 chips (and perhaps $25 chips). 

  • Players in this game might start with $40 to $200 worth of “chips” in front of them.

If you’re having a poker game with 5/10 blinds, ideally you could have chips representing $5, $25, and perhaps $100, as well. 

  • Each player could be dealt in with $200 to $1,000 worth of initial chips in front of them.

What Denominations of “Chips” Will You Have?What Denominations of “Chips” Will You Have?

How Will You Assign the Different Denominations of “Chips”?

Once you’ve determined the different denominations of chips in your game, you must figure out how to represent them.

  • If you’re using an option like coins, monopoly money, or a deck of cards, it’ll be somewhat straightforward as the value appears on each.
     
  • If you’re using the nuts and bolts “toolbox” option, perhaps you’ll have the nuts = 1 and the bolts = 5 and washers = 25. 

Perhaps, though, all these items will equal the same unit. And you’ll combine them with another makeshift chip option from the list (i.e., Scrabble tiles).

How Many Players Will Play the Game?

Depending on the number of items s in your “homemade chip set” available, there might be a limit on how many players you can accommodate. 

As such, it’s essential to plan how many chips each player will get. And how you’ll be able to accommodate everyone’s buy-in and initial starting stack.

How Will You Deal with Add-ons and Rebuys?

  • Is your game going to be like a freezeout tournament, and players can’t rebuy once they’re knocked out? 
  • Or will they be able to “rebuy” for an arbitrary amount of chips to stay in the game? 

If there are rebuys or add-ons, be sure to set aside a reserve amount of “chips” left off the table at the start of the game.

The Bottom Line

We hope this has provided you with a comprehensive list of ideas for poker chip substitutions in your next home game.

Be sure to consider the additional factors when using alternative chip solutions, and you’ll be good to go!

Good luck!

About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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