Poker is an incredibly fun game to play even if you are not too serious about it. There is no reason not to indulge in it purely as a hobby.
Whether you want to play with your family members or close friends, setting up a home game and playing some poker can be a great way to pass some time and compete.
The big problem is, of course, that not everyone has the necessary tools to set up a home game, and playing poker without chips can be difficult.
However, even if you don’t have a set of poker chips, there are ways for playing poker without chips that work just fine, especially if you are not too serious about the game.
In this guide, I am going to teach you how to play poker without chips and which alternatives are best for playing the game without having all the necessary props.
1. Play with Cash
Back in the day, poker used to be played with cash exclusively. Plastic chips only came into play many years after the game was invented.
In the old days, people would pony up the cash and keep it on the table while playing. This, of course, could lead to some tension in the places poker was played, but in your home game, there should be no problem with cash being on the table.
If you are playing with your friends for low stakes, I recommend finding a place that will give you a bunch of change after a long shift in exchange for big bills.
This way, you can have enough change to play your nickel and dime game all night.
On the other hand, if you want to play a bigger game, you could always keep actual bills on the table. That said, I do recommend purchasing a set of poker chips as playing poker without chips when serious money is on the line seems a bit unprofessional.
In either case, you should remember that poker chips are simply a substitute for real-world money, and you can always use actual money to play with.
2. Play with Monopoly Money
If you ever thought about how to play poker without chips, the idea of using monopoly money has probably occurred to you.
Whether you want players to exchange real cash for amounts of monopoly money or just hand out some monopoly bills without any real money in play, this strategy can work just fine.
In fact, monopoly money is one of the best props to use for playing poker without chips. The bills have actual denominations and values on them, and it is easy to keep track of what everyone has.
Playing with monopoly money, of course, means that players must be trustworthy and sure not to cheat by bringing their own bills from home. If this is a concern, though, you should really get some unique poker chips for your game.
3. Play with Game Props or Office Supplies
Of course, monopoly is not a game that everyone has at home. If you don’t have access to any monopoly money, you can use any other figures, pieces, or props from board games.
Many games, such as dominoes or scrabble, have many pieces that you can divide among the players and use as a substitute for poker chips.
Playing poker without chips with such props is not going to be ideal as you won’t have different denominations, but that may not matter too much for a relaxed home game.
In the absolute absence of any board game props, you can simply use office props such as paper clips to substitute poker chips.
Ideally, you will want to use something that is not too small and easy to lose, and that won’t cause any small injuries by being pokey or difficult to handle.
4. Write Down the Results
Playing poker without chips or a substitute for them is a bit difficult because of the very nature of the game, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done.
You can simply write down everyone’s imaginary chip tally and write all the bets and final results of the hands.
If you have someone tracking every hand and writing it all down, the results should be correct. Since you are playing a home game, it shouldn’t matter too much if some small mistakes do happen.
The problem with writing down the results of poker hands is that it can be a bit tedious. It also takes away from the enjoyment of the game, which is why I only recommend using this method if you are completely out of options and really want to play poker.
5. Play Strip Poker
If you are going to be playing with a group of friends, especially of mixed genders, you may want to spice things up and try strip poker instead of using poker chips.
Playing poker without chips could hardly be any more interesting than players having to remove their clothes when they lose hands.
There are no strict rules to strip poker out there, so you can set things up in any way you deem fit. You can use both chips and stripping, for instance, with a player who goes broke having to remove a piece of their clothes to get a new batch of chips.
However you set up your strip poker game, it is important that everyone involved understands and accepts the rules and that they can quit anytime they want to.
Strip poker is an incredibly fun and popular game when played with consenting adults. However, it can also be a recipe for disaster if anyone is forced into doing anything they don’t feel comfortable with.
6. Play Hand for Hand
If you play poker on a regular basis and are a stickler for rules, then you know you can’t really play poker without some type of currency.
However, this is definitely not true if you simply want to have fun with your friends, as the game can be played without anything on the line whatsoever.
Some poker formats and variants, such as Five Card Draw, are ideal for playing without any betting at all. Simply deal out the cards, let everyone pick their discards, and go to showdown.
This type of play eliminates the skill factor almost completely, but if you are simply trying to have fun, you should not care about who wins or loses.
In the end, the luckiest player will win the most hands, and you can even play so that the unluckiest in the group has to pay for everyone’s round of drinks.
When I was first introduced to poker, I used to play Five Card Draw with family members without any betting. The game was still quite fun for me as a complete novice.
7. Play Online Poker
If you and your friends are trying to play some poker and you don’t have any props to do so, you can use your mobile phones to get things going.
Assuming you have an internet connection, you can get everyone to sign up for a home game on an online poker site like PokerStars or one of the free online poker apps and join the action.
This way, you will get the absolute best that poker has to offer in terms of organization, whether you are trying to play a tournament, a virtual cash game, or any other format.
Online poker sites offer some great options for players trying to set up a home game. The big upside is that you can play poker with friends this way, even if you are not in the same place.
If you have a larger group of friends who all enjoy poker, you can set up weekly poker nights on your online home game.
That way, you can have fun playing without the stress of setting up a game, distributing poker chips, and everything else that comes with live poker.
What You Cannot Play Without
You now know how to play poker without chips, and I have given you a few creative ideas for good ways to substitute chips in a game.
However, if you are going to be hosting a poker home game, there are a few things you can’t really do without, regardless of what you are using as your poker chips.
The first of these things, of course, is poker cards, which are a necessity. While you could technically use some substitutes here as well, I highly recommend having at least one decent deck of cards.
Using big poker-sized cards is a big advantage, but any form of playing cards will do for a home game with friends who won’t care about cards getting marked or being difficult to read.
Next up, you will need a proper table to host the number of players you invited to your game. If you are playing on a kitchen table, you may want to consider covering it up with a fixed sheet that will act as felt.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for a home game, you will want to have some snacks, drinks, and probably music!
Your friends are coming over to have a good time and not to gamble like maniacs. Make sure there is plenty to eat and drink while the game is going on for everyone to enjoy their evening.
Consider Buying Real Poker Chips
These days, poker chips are not too hard to come by, and you can buy very cheap sets of playing chips for just a few dollars.
Even proper poker chips won’t cost you too much if you have poker games on a regular basis, and having a good set will make your poker nights incredibly more fun for everyone.
If you are regularly playing with the same group, you can pool some cash together to buy a set of chips and forget about playing poker without chips in the future.
After all, a poker game is not complete without a good set of cards and chips, and giving some cash to fund your favorite hobby should be acceptable in anyone’s book.