Rant: Stack Your Tournament Chips in Towers of 20. Please.

It’s not often that I want to carry out vivisection on a human being but that’s exactly how I felt working at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Venice final table back in Season IX.

The tournament had reached its heads-up phase and the local boy Alessio Isaia faced off against Hungarian Szabolcs Mayer in what evolved into the longest ever heads-up match in WPT history, clocking in at an impressive 8hrs 20mins.

The reason the match lasted so long was the bizarre way in which Mayer was handling his chips. Mayer chose to stack a large portion of his stack in neat piles but then had another ‘mess’ of a pile of unsorted chips covering a huge space in front of him.

When it was the Hungarian’s turn to bet, instead of just sliding a neat pile of 20 chips across the line he would spend an eternity counting out his bet from the unstacked chips that lay scattered out in front of him. After taking a further five minutes per hand to figure out his next move we would get to see a hand played out.

This wasn’t a ploy. He wasn’t trying to get underneath the skin of the Italian. It was just plain dumb and I just desperately wanted to walk over to the table and stack them neatly for him so he knew what the hell he was doing.

How to Properly Stack Poker Chips

Bryan Devonshire

Looks cool. Not so useful.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in tournament poker when it comes to stacking chips.

1. Stacking in Denominations of 10

These players are either fish or were too busy sniffing glue when they should have been doing basic arithmetic in school.

2. Stacking in Denominations of 20

These are the regs who understand the need the quickly count their stack and selflessly understand that live reporters also need the count for coverage purposes.

3. Stacking in Denominations of 30

These are the sadists amongst us. They know that counting chips in stacks of 30 causes problems to the more mathematically challenged but they love it in the same way that they love pulling the wings off flies and then burning their bodies through a magnifying glass.

4. Stacking in Denominations of 40

These are the wizards, the high flyers, and the boys who win all the money. These geezers have so many chips they have to count them in 40s because there is no room on their table. These types of players also love the big, erect towers of 50+, which I'm sure is a phallic symbol of something missing from their trousers.

5. Stacking in Denominations of Mayhem

The caterers, the chip sandcastle builders and lazy bastards. Complete and utter morons.

A Rule for Stacking Chips


If you see this, start shaking.

It’s about time we create a rule that every player has to stack his or her chips in towers of 20. There are a variety of reasons for this.

  • Players can count an opponent’s chip stack easier and are less likely to keep asking for a count
  • Players can count their own stacks easier and therefore can make more informed decisions
  • Racks are built to contain stacks of 20 making it quicker to rack and move
  • Live tournament reporters can count them easier and don’t have to pester you for a count for the live blog

All of these transpire to produce a much easier, quicker and efficient tournament for everyone.

To help me in my pursuit for a much more straightforward tournament can I ask all players who find themselves seated at a table with an idiot trying to defy the law of gravity by stacking his chips to the point of imbecilic tower-like proportions to please shake the table.

I want to introduce the new concept of chip-stacking erectile dysfunction and maybe then people will stack their chips properly and sensibly.

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