If you want to play poker at home, then you'll need cards and chips. These are the staples found in every single poker chip case. Indeed, these are the must-have poker supplies. Anything else is somewhat of an accessory or convenience.
Granted, it can be confusing working out exactly what cards and chips you need to buy. This is where poker chip sets and kits come into play in order to make things a lot easier.
But are poker kits and cases actually worth it? Let's take a look.
Should You Buy Chips As a Set or Individually
Poker sets are great for anyone who just wants to play poker at home as quickly and easily as possible. Poker chip kits remove the hassle of figuring out what chips you need to buy, and in what quantity. Poker chip sets also offer value for money - a sort of bundle deal.
But there are downsides - the tradeoff for the speed and simplicity is often a lack of flexibility and customization.
And even though poker chip sets are usually less expensive than buying the contents separately, you tend to get what you pay for. Cheaping out can be a false economy. But it's hard to justify spending a lot of money if you've never handled the chips - how can you know if you'll like them?
Bear in mind that if you need more chips, then you have to hope you the chips in your set are still being produced - otherwise you'll have to mix and match, or just buy a whole new set.
Many of the biggest and most reputable poker chip suppliers offer poker chip sets - it's easy to get samples of their chips to make sure you like them, and getting replacements won't be a problem. If you stick with the established brands, then you can't really go wrong. It's the apparent bargains on Amazon you need to be wary of!
Of course, there is a wide range of poker chip sets out there, from $20 basic starter kits to vintage poker chip sets that cost thousands, and everything in between. If you just want a starter set for a friendly home game, you don't really need a professional poker chip set. You can just go for a basic, inexpensive poker kit that will get the job done - but you may end up having to replace it if you get more serious about poker.
What Is In a Poker Chip Set
Some poker chip sets are exactly that - just a set of poker chips of various denominations. But the term "poker chip set" is often used as a synonym for poker set or poker kit - and these include more items.
The most basic poker set should contain chips and cards because that's the minimum equipment for playing poker at home. But more expensive sets will include more - things like dealer buttons, playing felt, chip trays, and carrying cases. Some sets even contain dice - but why?
Even the most basic of poker sets should contain around 100 chips. The quality of the chips will depend on the cost of the set - you get what you pay for! The cheapest sets will use cheap plastic chips that are better than nothing - but not much better. The next level up is ABS plastic "dice" Chips.
The most common chips in poker sets are made from higher-grade plastic composite material, usually with metal inserts to make the chip feel weightier. These are often described as being "clay" because they have a small amount of clay in them.
If you don't mind paying a little bit more for quality, look for a clay composite poker chip sets and ceramic poker chip sets. Clay composite (aka China clay) chips look, feel and sound like casino-grade clay chips, but at a fraction of the price. Ceramic chips have a distinct slippery feel that some dislike though, so be warned.
You won't find a poker set with "true" clay chips, as these are casino-grade, and casinos don't buy poker sets! That doesn't stop retailers marketing clay composite chips (and even plastic) as "clay" though.
You can find suppliers who offer casino-grade clay chips in bulk - Apache Chips, for example. This is a poker chip set in the sense it is just the chips. You'll need your own cards and case.
Decks of Playing Cards
At a push, you can play poker without chips - but you can never play it without playing cards. If you want to buy all you need for a home game in one bundle, make sure you are buying a poker set (with cards) and not a poker chip set (which is just chips).
Bear in mind though that poker is a game where the cards get handled a lot. If the cards are paper - rather than plastic - they will not last too long before they get bent and marked and need replacing. However, plastic cards are much more expensive than paper cards, so this will push up the cost of the poker set.
There are three positions in the game of poker that are usually marked with large tokens known as buttons: the big blind, the small blind and the dealer button.
Strictly speaking you don't need buttons - but at a minimum having the dealer button will make things a lot easier.
Some poker sets will include a felt mat than can turn your kitchen table into a poker table for the night. These are usually in the cheaper sets, and are more of a novelty item than a something you'll want to use a lot.
Perhaps consider looking at stand-alone poker mats and table toppers if you do want the casino experience in your own home but don't want to buy a poker table.
You'll need to store your poker chips somewhere, so most poker sets will come with trays for this. These are often built into the carry case.
Trays are actually really important, because you don't want to store your chips loose. They're more likely to get damaged, and it's a massive time-waster sorting them into their respective colors every time you want to play!
It's not unusual for poker sets to contain dice. Often they are just regular dice, and not even specialized poker dice for the game of dice poker.
Regular poker doesn't need dice at all, so this can seem strange addition. Pai Gow poker does use dice to determine betting positions, but it's not so popular to justify including dice.
So why do poker sets include dice? The answer is nobody really knows. It's just a traditional item that adds value to the set.
Don't forget that dice are as associated with gambling as cards are. Indeed, dice are much older tools. You can play great dice games like Street Craps or Liar's Dice when you want a change from Texas Holdem.
Most poker sets will come in some sort of case - but there is a great variety in the quality. The more you spend, the sturdier the case will be, the higher quality lining, and the better lock. The most common are poker chip sets in metal cases, but more expensive poker kits will come in hardwood and cheaper sets in plastic or tins.
How Many Chips Are In Chip Sets?
Poker chip sets usually contain at least 200 chips, but can contain as many as 1000 or as few as 80. 300 and 500 are very common counts. The chips will usually be in different colors for use as different denominations - at least three, but as many as ten with the bigger sets.
As a very rough rule of thumb, you need about 40-50 chips per person. So 200 chips is enough for 4 players, but for a big poker night you're going to need a lot more. The more denominations you have though, the less chips each player will need as they can make change for their big value chips as they play.
About Custom Poker Chip Sets
Some chip manufacturers offer custom poker chip sets. They'll allow you to create your own personalized chip designs. This is great if you want to stop players from "introducing" chips - bringing their own and pretending they are part of the game.
You can expect to pay a bit more for custom chips, though.
Another form of customization is from suppliers like BR Pro Poker who will offer various chip sets with a fixed number of chips included (as well as cards and a dealer button) but also allow you to select which denominations you want. Great if you only want to play microstakes and have no need for $100 chips!
Poker Chip Sets - FAQ
Answers to some common questions about sets of poker chips.
Are poker chip sets worth it?
Poker chip sets can be worth it - but you get what you pay for. If you know what chips you want then it makes sense to buy them in bulk. But if you just want to play a home game, be careful about buying cheap poker kits, because they can be a false economy. But we all have to start somewhere, and a cheap set is better than nothing at all!
What's in a poker chip kit?
A poker chip set will contain a large number of chips of various denominations - but often they will also contain other items needed for a home game, such as cards and a dealer button. Poker sets should contain everything you need to play at home - but you will find the terms poker chip sets, poker kits and poker chip kits used interchangeably.
Are chips in kits and sets lower in quality?
Poker kits and sets can contain low quality chips and cards, so you need to be careful. It can be very hard to know what sort of chips you are buying if you haven't bought a sample first. Suppliers tend to label most chips as "clay" or "casino-grade" when they are nothing of the sort! If you don't know what you're looking for, stick to well-known brands.
Where can you buy a poker chip set?
Amazon is a good starting place, especially for budget kits. But if you want something a little higher quality, take a look at dedicated chip suppliers like Apache Chips, BR Pro Poker or Discount Poker Shop. The chip sets that toy stores and department stores sell tend to be bad value for money - although they are fine if you just want a cheap starter set, or something for your kids.
How many chips are in poker chip sets?
Poker chip sets vary from 80 to 1000 chips, but 300 is probably the most common count. You need around 40 chips per player for a cash game, so bear that it mind when you are choosing a set.
What is the maximum chip count in sets?
You won't really find poker chip sets with more than 1000 chips in them - simply because beyond that you're getting into wholesale numbers and you're better off dealing with the manufacturer directly.
Knowing what poker chips and cards to buy can be overwhelming for the beginner poker player. poker chip sets offer an easy way to get everything you need in one bundle. But if you are looking for something beyond a basic starter kit, it pays to do your research before you spend your money!