What Happens When You Run Out Of Poker Chips?

min read
Black poker chips displayed in every angle.
BetMGM Dec 04, 2023, 6:46 AM

The shifting odds of poker can result in tremendous highs and crushing lows. Hot streaks and bad beats can happen to anyone, regardless of skill or strategy. It’s always a thrilling experience to earn the largest stacks at the table, but it’s quite the opposite when you’re faced with dwindling chips and the possibility of an early exit.

If you’re running out of blinds to spare, your choices are limited by game format and house rules. In live poker tournaments, for example, losing your last chips means you’re out of the competition with no rebuys. On the other hand, online cash games typically let you jump in and out with ease, with rebuys and late buy-ins for a variety of limit and no-limit poker variations.

So, what are the options when you play poker online or in person? How does the game play out if you’re about to run out of chips? To understand how the type of game affects the outcome, it’s worth brushing up on the fundamentals and familiarizing yourself with the flow of the game.

Going All In

When poker players don’t have enough chips to cover a bet or want to raise the pot with everything they have, they are considered “all in.” It’s one of the poker basics that teaches novices the dangers of playing too conservatively, triggering an all-or-nothing play to either double their money or lose everything.

In a tournament setting, having no rebuys or add-ins makes sense. Going all in is a tactical decision that can’t be taken lightly. Ideally, you want to reach a top spot before going bust, or you’ll walk away with zero earnings. The aim is to have everyone on a level playing field, with the chance of elimination driving players to perform at their best. 

One of the significant benefits of cash games is that you aren’t forced to go all in. You can fold, cash out, and return to the action with a topped-up account. You can also buy additional chips mid-game, the caveat being that they’re only given to you at the start of the next round.

It’s important to remember that most games have table maximums. If you win after going all in, and your add-in chips make your total more than what’s allowed, extra chips are removed from play, and the value is returned to your balance. If you’re worried about losing track of your chips, rest assured knowing that chips are tracked by the casino, whether you’re playing online or in person. 

The best online poker sites offer a variety of minimum and maximum bets, ensuring you can find a table that suits your bankroll and play style. That said, with tables of up to 10 players for popular variants like no-limit Texas Hold’em, the process of going all in has the potential to become a little more complicated.

The Side Pot

When you have at least three players at the poker table, it’s possible to have multiple pots for one round. The player who goes all in makes the main pot, where the bet limit is the total chip value for that player. If the all-in player can’t match the total bet for the round, or opponents want to continue betting after that player commits to the pot, a “side pot” is created for the rest of the table. 

Other players can continue betting as normal using the side pot. They can raise, call, or fold, with the bets only affecting the side pot. When several players go all in during the same hand, a side pot is created for each of them, ensuring that hand equity is reflected by the portions of the pot.

If the all-in player has the best hand at showdown, they win the main pot. The side pot goes to the player with the next best hand. If a player has a better hand than the one who goes all in, they win both the main and side pots.

Buying New Chips

Online poker games are highly convenient, with multiple buy-ins, electronic transactions, and various payment methods. Unlike land-based casinos, where you head to the cashier to exchange cash for chips, virtual casinos allow you to pay and play from home. 

It’s also a different story in home games, where the casual setting adds a few dynamics you won’t find on the casino floor. For instance, you get to decide the values for different chips. The best thing to do is to consider how many blinds each player receives, with 80-100 big blinds being the recommended amount. 

If the game takes too long, you can always up the blinds to increase the tempo. Do you want to allow rebuys? If so, it might be wise to set a cut-off limit during the later stages or increase the buy-in amount at specific points in the game. 

If you’re allowing buy-ins, there must be chips to spare for the rebuys. The alternative is to let the players with the highest stacks “sell” their chips, allowing them to cover their losses before the game continues. 

The amount of chips you need also depends on the number of players. While the recommended player count is six to eight players, poker can be played with up to 22 seats at the table. Chips are merely the tool representing player standing, meaning the values can be whatever you want them to be. You can make up your own system if you like, but it’s best to keep things simple with multiples of currency values (one, two, five, and 10) and straightforward house rules.

Play at the Best Poker Tables With BetMGM

Now that you’re familiar with the choices available to short-stack players, finding a format and variation that keeps you coming back for more should be easy. If you’re ready to explore the exciting world of online poker, register with BetMGM to discover the thrills of table games, the latest tournaments, first-class service, and exclusive membership rewards.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.