Taking a look at different buy-ins

Taking a look at different buy-ins

June 19, 2018 3:00 AM


Just before or upon being seated at the poker table, players must buy chips in order to participate in the game. How many chips should you start with? Usually, the minimum buy-in for limit games is 10 times the lower limit. So, for a $4-$8 limit hold’em game, the buy-in must be at least $40.

Many recreational players will buy-in for the minimum. They could lose that in a few hands if they get decent starting hands that fail to connect, or hands that improve to second-best during the play of the hand. They can then re-buy for fewer chips – a short-buy; but if they lose that the next buy-in is back to the $40 minimum. Many recreational hold’em players will do just that. Is that wise? Why do they do that?

Answer: Either that’s all they can afford or they want to limit their loss in any one hand.

My response: If they cannot afford to buy in for a greater amount, they should not be playing at those limits. Likewise, if they think only in terms of how to limit their losses (a negative mind-set) rather than how to win as many chips as possible (a positive mind-set), they ought not be playing at those limits, if at all.

I would recommend a starting buy-in of at least 20 times the lower limit; that’s $80 in the $4-$8 game. If you decide to play $8-$16 limit hold’em, then the buy-in should be at least $160. That gives you enough chips to sustain you until you catch a few winners. At a full table of nine players, you could be dealt many starting hands that fail to improve on the flop or end up second-best. It takes patience and poker chips while you wait for a winner.

Another way

But, there is another way to decide how many chips you should buy-in for. Think about this: When you come to a table, you often can observe one or two players with two or more racks full of chips. Taking note of this, other players are likely to conclude those “chip-rich” players must be big winners. The actual fact may well be those “lucky players” bought in for that amount or more. I have seen savvy players come to the table with as many as three racks of chips, a whopping $300 to start in a small $4-$8 limit game. And, I have seen such a player re-buy another rack when he loses a rack of chips, so he still has three racks-full in front of him.

Why do you suppose he does that? Why doesn’t he just start with a buy-in of, say, $100 in chips? That’s one full rack – more than enough to get a good start at those limits.

My hypothesis

In all my many years of playing poker, I have never read nor been told what I am about to tell you.

As the game progresses, players leave the table and are replaced by new ones who see all those chips in front of this “chip-rich” player – three full racks – maybe more. It’s only natural many of them, especially recreational players who often frequent the lower-limit games, will be very cautious when playing a hand against Mr. Chip-Rich. Their thoughts and emotions in this case, may range from utter respect to being plain scared. (Respect for your opponents is fine, but not fear.) As a result, they are more prone to muck their hands when he bets out or raises – perhaps while he is actually bluffing.

Mr. Chip-Rich is using his racks of chips to scare his opponents. It gives him an edge – an advantage – over them. More often than not, he is successful – winning yet more chips! Deception at its best!

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. There will be a special poker prize for the best one.