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If you play poker in brick and mortar card rooms, you have probably heard of the mystical practice of “Chip Chi.” Much like the Chinese art of Feng Shui or the Greeks’ belief in the power of the Golden Ratio, Chip Chi is often criticized by those who claim it is simply superstition with no scientific basis. After countless hours of play at live tables and interviews with Chip Chi experts, I have completed my research on the subject and I am privileged today to present….

Fox’s Definitive Guide to Chip Chi

Chip Chi is a force that flows around the table, attracting and repelling chips like an invisible, scientifically undetectable magnet that cannot be measured or quantified in any way. That mystical quality, the fact that Chip Chi can’t be understood in terms of western science, is what makes it so fascinating, but don’t take that to mean that it doesn’t work. I’ve been watching Chip Chi in action for many years now, and I can assure you that it works.

No, I can’t prove it. Stop talking about science, science can’t explain everything. No, I didn’t keep track of my results with different stack shapes to see how well they worked. It only works if you believe in it, so you can’t really test it that way. Stop asking dumb questions, I’m trying to teach you something here.

The Brick

The simplest and most common of all stacking methods, the “Brick,” is simply a solid block of chips, stacked in a rectangle. The brick is strong and stable, and it’s effect on Chip Chi reflects that stability with low variance, good chip retention, and an above average win rate. This is a conservative stack, which is reflected in a lower win rate than some of the more aggressive stacks, but your ups and downs will be smaller too.

The brick is a great stack for you if you want to lock up some winnings or if you are easily tilted by big swings in your chip stack. If you see a player using the brick, they are often conservative in their play, not overly aggressive, and can be tough to bluff.

Chip Chi tends to flow evenly through a stack with even sides, and the standard method is to make your brick five stacks wide so that they fit in a chip rack. The Chi sits in chips while they are in racks, which cause it to congregate in rows of five stacks, adding to the chip retention and stability of the stack.

The Great Wall

If you are under attack from all angles, and the chips are coming fast and furious, the “Great Wall” might be the best stack for the next few hours. Having a wall between you and your opponents can be psychologically comforting, as well as reflecting bad vibes back at the tables. This can be an excellent stack for preventing bad runs before they start and defending against an impending bad beat. When you just know things are about to turn bad, build a wall.

The Mystic Pyramid

The “Mystic Pyramid” consists of chips stacked like an arrowhead in multiple layers that get smaller at the top, forming a pyramid shape. This stepped pyramid shape was used by many societies as a way to harness the power of the universe. The ancient Mayans were particularly adept at using this building style, and it is clear that they understood the flow of power within a structure.

Using the pyramid shape will help you play better, see more clearly, and get powerful reads on your opponents that seem almost magical. If you trust your intuition and want to increase it’s power, or simply want to start understanding the mystical power of the pyramid, the “Power Pyramid” might be right for you.

The Arrowhead

One of the most common formations in Chip Chi, the “Arrowhead,” is also one of the simplest to use. The front end of the arrowhead shows aggression, intimidating opponents, while the point and slanted sides serve to reflect the negative energy from your opponents. The arrowhead encourages growth in your stack while serving as an excellent defense as well. It’s simplicity and ease of use makes it an excellent choice for beginners who are not yet familiar with using different shapes in different situations.

The Power Tower

While the super tall stack can be tempting, this is not a stack for beginners. Not only can this stack be easily knocked over, disrupting the flow of Chip Chi, but it also requires great skill to use effectively. Knowing how tall to stack, when to break down your stack into a more defensive posture, and harnessing the power of the tower are all advanced skills and all can be disastrous when used incorrectly.

This does not mean that there is no use for the “Power Tower.” Some players have great success with this approach, but like the mystical Dim Mak death touch, it should not be used without years of training and great care.

Finding the Right Shape for You

After months of meditation and quiet study, I was able to determine that Arrowhead and Brick work well for me, and I switch between them comfortably depending on the situation. I have also become comfortable building the Great Wall, though I only use it when necessary to deflect the energy from a very negative table.

I suggest experimenting with some of the simpler shapes, becoming familiar with how different stacks work for you. If you are serious about Chip Chi, your best bet is to find an ancient master who can tutor you in the “Way of the Stack.” The years of study will pay off with higher win rates, lower variance, and a deeper understanding of the world around you.




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Chris Wallace

Chris "Fox" Wallace is a professional poker, author, and poker coach from St Paul, Minnesota. While he spent most of his career playing cash games,Fox recently started playing more tournaments and won a bracelet in the $10,000 HORSE World Championship in 2014. Follow him on twitter