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Poker Chip Keep Away

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Here’s a good basketball lead-up game for grades 5-12.  
Submitted by Sue Hartzell, Duluth, Minnesota.



  • Two 8-inch Gatorskin foam balls
  • Box of poker chips
  • Four sets of colored pinnies
  • Five 4-quart ice cream buckets

Background: This is a great basketball lead up game that has a lot of action! Before we play, we spend time reviewing and practicing the different types of basketball passes, strategies and skill cues of a successful person-to-person defense, and practice using a 2-foot space guarding zone.

How We Play It: In this activity, teams score points by successfully passing the basketball five consecutive times. When this happens, the team gets to collect a poker chip and place it in their team’s ice cream bucket. Divide the class into four teams of 6-8 players. Each team is wearing a set of pinnies and they have a matching-color ice cream bucket on the floor at the end of their court.

The bucket containing the poker chips is in the center of the gym floor, sitting on a stool. Two teams are playing each other on each end of the gym. For example, Team A plays Team B on the left court and Team C plays Team D on the right court. Players may not cross the center line or go out of bounds. When this happens, the opposing team automatically gets the ball. Teams A and C are given the Gatorskin foam ball to start the game. The teams have to pass the ball to other team members while calling out the number of pass they are on. If they forget to call out the number or the number is not heard, they must start with “1″ again. The ball must be passed to at least three different players before the same player can touch it again.

Scoring: The object is to get five consecutive passes without dropping the ball or having the ball intercepted. The person who catches the fifth pass yells out “poker chip!,” hands the ball to a member of the opposing team, runs to the bucket of poker chips, grabs one, and quickly goes and puts it in their team’s bucket. Other rules:

  • You are not allowed to move while you have the ball.
  • If you don’t have the ball in your hands, you can run anywhere.
  • If the opposite team intercepts the ball, they start counting passes.
  • If a team drops the ball but regains possession, they begin the count over.

Other: We play 5-minute rounds. When your team rotates to a different court, you take your ice cream bucket of chips to your next court. You then play a different team for 5 minutes. All teams play every other team in a class period. Sometimes between rounds, I have a quick check on the number of poker chips a team has earned. Otherwise, I usually have the team leader for that day count the poker chips, return them to the poker chip bucket, and whisper to me how many poker chips they earned. I sometimes announce the winner and other times I just have them congratulate each other on a “great job!”

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