A player entering a Holdem Poker tournament or playing in a cash game will begin with a certain number of chips, either real money or "playing chips" Playing chips are the ones issued at the start of a tournament. As the tournament progresses and players fail to make the bubble, their chips remain in the game.
Players who are making progress through the tournament are constantly accumulating playing chips and with each chip that they add to their stack their position improves. That's why if you ever watch a televised tournament you will see players arrive at the final table with millions of dollars in chips. Just remember that this is not real money, just playing chips. Experienced online tournament players will tell you that these chips hold no value, and they assess their position at the table by how many antes and especially blinds these playing chips will allow them to buy.