# How do Hold "em tournament officials make chips disappear?

There’s no sleaziness implied here. It’s just a fact of life - seemingly. I don’t know how to state my puzzlement except by using an example, so here goes.

At the site where I play Hold 'em for – funny money – we’ll have daily tournaments limited to 1800 players. Each player starts with \$10,000 in chips. So, if we have all tables full, the total chips in pay amount to \$180 million.

Now.

I’ve been to the final table a number of times. And unless I’m badly mistaken, I brought all the money I won to that table. It could be \$900,000 or a couple of million. As far as I know, nothing disappeared along the way. I assume the same thing happens to all the other players

But at that final table the total amount of chips of the ten players never seems to add up to the original sum of the chips in play - \$180 million. Some of the chips go up in smoke.

This very same thing seems to happen at the World Series Of Poker tourneys. Where do those chips go?

I think it’s actually 18 million.

I should add that I’ve won a few of these tourneys and the “money” I raked in never even approached the \$180 million - or whatever the original chip amount was.

The rake perhaps? Even with play money they’re supposed to simulate the rake. You’re not expecting to play poker for free, are you? So a 0-rake game wouldn’t be as realistic, I suppose.

For those who don’t know, see rake

Tournament pots are not raked offline or on.

I don’t think there’s a rake in the tournaments I play. Xema very properly corrected my math to \$18 million, so let’s use that figure.

In the tourneys I’ve won, the top amount I pulled in would be \$6 million, and that’s being generous. This would mean the rake takes 2/3 of the total? Seems doubtful.

I thought as much, but wasn’t sure. Thanks, Otto.

In a real world tournament, chip totals may not add up precisely to the starting total because of “coloring up,” removing lower denomination chips from play when they are no longer useful. For example, when the blinds and antes are all above T500, the T100 chips may be “colored up” to make the chip stacks for each player more manageable. If there are an odd number of lower denomination chips at a particular table, the odd chips are awarded based on a formula which may be unique to the tournament (one method involves awarding the chips based on drawing cards with each player with odd chips getting one card per chip, winner takes all). Additionally there may simply be errors in chip counting. There was mention at the 2006 main event coverage on ESPN that there was an error in the chip count going to the final table which resulted in there being extra chips in play.

Sorry, I don’t know all the rules of Texas Hold 'em, but do all of the “non-winners” lose everything, or do some of the players realize along the way that they’re out of the running and cut their losses? If so, they would take their chips with them when they leave the game.

The only thing I can think is that your site reduced the overall chip stacks proportionally. Maybe they think it’s too difficult for people online to manage chips stacks reading amounts like 12,085,922 on the screen. On those rare occasions I play multi-table tournaments online and those even rarer occasions I get deep in them I sometimes have trouble processing 6-figure chip stacks.

In a tournament all players play until there is one person left with all the chips (unless the site allows deals, which is irrelevant to this discussion). Players may not take heir chips out of play in a tournament by leaving. The player may leave but the chips remain and are placed in the pot in the form of that player’s blinds (forced bets) and antes.

In the online tourneys I play, the non-winners lose all. They can’t squirrel away their chips.

And in big time tournaments, the casino uses special tournament chips that can’t (or shouldn’t) be used in other games. Some people steal them - even a name player, or two - but it’s not kosher.

Does everyone that starts continue to play until they are out of chips or they make the final table? Everyone that drops out before they are out of chips would reduce the final chip count.

Well pots aren’t raked, but tournaments also do not guarantee that the chip values correspond to \$ amount of winnings either. I don’t know how common this is but I’ve seen things like \$500 buy-in, everybody gets 10000 chips. Winner gets 120000 chips, which correspond to a prize of \$5k, house pockets \$1k.

They do use special chips that don’t look at all like regular chips. They are still sometimes stolen though. Why? In a tourney players will be given \$10k in fake chips to start. This is true for a \$200 or a \$5000 buy-in tourney. These chips have a lot more value in the \$5000 tourney. Cheaters will hold back some chips at a \$200 tournament (and lose early in the tournament) and at a later date sneak them back in their stack at a high stakes tourney.

In standard tournament play, all chips remain until the end. But most tournaments are not winner-take-all.

Let’s say you start out with 1000 people with 1000 chips each. There should still be 1,000,000 chips at the end. The winner of the tournament would end up with 1,000,000 chips, but not win the entire prize pool. More like 15-20% for a big tourney like this.

I see no reason why a play-money tourney should be run any differently. Perhaps the OP can tell us the site this happened on, as well as some specific numbers (and/or hand histories) to give us an idea what he’s talking about.

FTR, I have never experienced this phenomenon in any on-line tourney I’ve ever played in.

You say the tourney is limited to 1800 people, but do that many actually play? I have no idea how popular these things are and if reaching the player number limit is a given.

Nobody has answered the most important question, why would anyone play for fake money?

I asked The Man and below

BarnOwl: Not a complaint - just asking for understanding. Why is it that the total of chips won in a typical Hold 'Em tourney is not equal to the sum total of the chips - \$10,000 worth - given to each player?
Leo: Often times when the blinds go up, smaller denomination chips get taken out of play. As in live play the odd chips are removed from play and it’ll lower the total number of chips in play
BarnOwl: That’s the only way the amount is lowered?
Leo: Yes
BarnOwl: Okay, Thank you