From the Game's Introduction:
In The Chips Are Down (TCAD), a group of everyday, normal player characters form a group of Survivors thrust into a deadly situation. They must band together and cooperate to survive, whether trapped in the belly of an overturned cruise liner, thrown into the heart of a mad wizard's maze, or crashed on the surface of an unexplored planet. As such, TCAD is primarily designed as a one-shot system, but may be adjusted to simulate a very unlucky but coherent unit of associates.
TCAD uses a simple system of mechanics designed to encourage cooperation, risk-taking, and tension. As an encounter unfolds, each player will ante up a number of their marked poker chips equal to the value of the trait they wish to use. These chips are accumulated, combined with threat and fate chips assigned by the Croupier, the game master who has designed the challenges the group is about to face, and randomly drawn from a bag to determine when and how successfully each person acts against the threat in the encounter. Players may interrupt as each chip is drawn, succeeding in their task, aiding others, or folding defensively before the threat strikes. Particularly good descriptions of actions are rewarded with a Joker Chip to be used in the next round.
As the adventure develops, Survivors learn about each other and gather tools to make their survival more likely, narrating a natural development of traits which they then can use to escape the dangers they find themselves in. Only by utilizing each Survivor's strengths and protecting their weak traits will they succeed.