How to Play Poker with Chips at Home?

Poker can be an intriguing game with plenty of chit chat, gambling, and chips moving around the table. Understanding what’s happening and why chips are sliding around can be a bit of a mystery for new players.

Are you looking to get in the game, but not quite sure how? 

Are the mechanics of the game and how it’s played a bit overwhelming? 

Never fear, here’s a complete guide to getting in on the action.


How to Play and the Rankings of Hands

Pile of cards face up with a magnifying glass over them

Knowing the rankings of hands is a critical part of playing poker. Poker is considered a class of games, such as Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud, and Omaha. Each has different rules and game mechanics, but hands are generally based on the best five cards a player holds.

Here’s an explanation of the rankings with examples:

  1. Royal Flush – Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 – all the same suit. This hand is the best in poker and exceedingly rare.A♥K♥Q♥J♥10♥
  2. Straight Flush – Five cards in a sequence, but all in the same suit. This hand is pretty rare also. 7♦8♦9♦10♦J♦
  3. Four of a Kind – All four cards of the same rank. Again, this is another hand you may not see often. Q♠Q♣Q♦Q♥
  4. Full House – Three of a kind with an additional pair. This hand is dominant and can win many pots. 3♠3♣3♦2♠2♦
  5. Flush – Any five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence. In the event two players have a flush, the player with the higher flush wins as in the case of this Ace-high flush: A♣J♣10♣6♣2♣
  6. Straight – Five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suit. Ties are broken by the highest card(s). 4♦5♠6♦7♠8♥
  7. Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank. Q♣Q♦Q♥
  8. Two Pair – Two different pairs of cards. 10♠10♣4♦4♠
  9. Pair – Two cards of the same rank. A♣A♦
  10. High Card – When you haven't made any of the hands above, the highest card plays. This hand is weak and doesn't win often.  K♠J♣10♥9♣6♦

A reminder: in the event of two (or more) players have the same hand, such as a flush, the hand with the highest card will win. Also, there are nuances to each game. A game like Omaha may often see higher hands because of more cards in play.

Knowing how to play those cards, and fold them, of course, makes all the difference.


What are Poker Chips for in the Game?

Poker chips with a pile of cash on top

So now that you know the rank of hands, it’s essential to understand what poker chips represent. Playing for cash on the table would be much too cumbersome, and chips allow casinos to easily offer change and monetary values that work at a table.

There are two types of format to look at when considering what poker chips are used, but in essence, they represent some amount of cash.

  • Cash Games – In these games, chips represent the actual money of a player’s buy-in. For example, a player may receive $200 worth of chips in a $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em game. Players usually try to buy into a cash game for at least 50 times the big blind. After a nice run that $200 may have grown to $500. In a cash game, a player can get up and leave at any time cash in those chips. In this case, that would mean a nice profit of $300.
  • Tournaments – A poker tournament, like the World Series of Poker, involves playing until there is only one remaining. Players are eliminated along the way. In this format, chips have differing values as well but don’t necessarily match the buy-in for the tournament. A player may buy in for a $1,000 tournament and start with 20,000 chips. This setup allows for longer play and a deeper chip stack throughout the event.


Using Chips During Play

Now that you know the ranks of hands and what poker chips are for, here’s how they are used in play.

Knowing some terminology of the gameplay will help in learning how to play more quickly.

Poker player about to bet with poker chips in hand

  • Button – In a home game, each person at the table usually deals, and the button moves around the table. At a casino, the button represents where the dealer would usually be, but a professional dealer distributes cards from the button’s location. The button rotates around the table after each hand. This position can be an advantageous location as this player acts last after the flop has been dealt.
  • Flop – This action occurs with is the placement of three community cards by the dealer after the pre-flop action. Players can use any of the community cards to make their best five-card hand.
  • Turn (aka Fourth Street) – This action represents the fourth community card dealt after betting on the flop is completed.
  • River (aka Fifth Street) – This street is the final card dealt after the flop and turn cards have been dealt on the board. Players in Texas Hold’em and Omaha form their best five-card hands using these community cards. (Although there are some different rules between the two games.)
  • Hole Cards – These are your cards that other players can’t see. Hole cards are used in conjunction with community cards in games like Texas Hold’em.
  • Big Blind – This is a forced bet that rotates around the table. The player two seats to the left of the dealer button posts this so players at the table must call, raise, or fold – not just check. The bet forces action to build the pot. If no one raises ahead of this player, he may simply check when it gets around to him because he already has placed his blind bet.
  • Small Blind – This player is one spot to the left of the dealer button and posts half the big blind. If no one raises, this player can complete his blind to play unless there is a raise from the big blind.

This outline gives beginners a general idea of how to play the game.

Other things to note:

  • In a cash game, players can buy more chips as needed. 
  • In a tournament, players are eliminated when they lose all their chips. This format is a freezeout tournament. 
  • In a rebuy or re-entry tournament, players may have a certain amount of time to buy back into the event.


How are Poker Chips Used in Texas Hold’em?

Texas Hold’em is the most popular game in poker and featured in major events like the World Series of Poker. It is also extremely popular online, like at the 888poker cash games and tournaments.


Here’s a bit on how the game would be played to give you an idea of what to expect.

  1. Each player is dealt two cards to start the game with the big and small blinds posted. 
  2. Before the flop is dealt, a player must call the blind, fold, or raise. 
  3. Pre-flop, the player to the left of the big blind acts first, and then the action moves to the person to the left of the dealer button after the flop.

As outlined above, the dealer button rotates around the table. Once the button is in place, the casino’s dealer starts dealing cards. After the flop, players can bet or check to another player. 

Other items to bear in mind:

  • Players can also raise once a bet has been made, meaning placing even more chips in the pot than what an opponent has bet. In No Limit Hold’em that situation includes all of a player’s chips.
  • Cash games are also generally played for table stakes, meaning a player can only win or lose what he has in front. Betting of chips continues on the Turn card and then on the River.
  • If a player is called on the river, those still in the hand turn their cards up to see who the winner is – also known as the Showdown. 

One thing to remember – a player in Texas Hold’em can use both, one or none of his cards to make a hand. Sometimes the entire board has the best hand.

Players looking to host games or tournaments at home have numerous options when it comes to poker chips.

888poker magazine has you covered, and here are some other helpful guides:

Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast