The History Of Poker Chips

History Of Poker Chips

Poker chips, also known as Casino tokens, are small disk-like objects that are used to represent regular currency. They are colored and can represent a wide variety of denominations. While they are most famously used by Casinos and other gaming establishments, they can also be found in private poker collections all over the world.

Games of chance throughout history have all used a counter or marker to represent a standard currency, everything from bones or bits of wood to valuable objects like gold nuggets, gold pieces and coins. The precursor for modern Poker chips were nothing like the sophisticated tokens of today. Saloons in the old American Wild West used clay and ivory chips, but they were easy to replicate, and it wasn't long until companies started manufacturing custom chips for gaming venues. They were carefully made to ensure they were hard to replicate by counterfeiters, and it's from these initial designs modern Casinos created their chips.

Poker Chip Use

All modern Casinos use poker chips instead of real money. Because of their size, and weight, Poker chips are significantly easier to carry around and tally compared to real currency. They generally have no value outside a Casino and require players to cash them back in at the same establishment.

Poker chips come in a variety of different colors, weights and materials. Most Casinos will have custom chips bearing their unique symbol and color scheme. They are considered an invaluable part of gaming because it decreases the problems that come along with using large amounts of cash, specifically theft and counterfeiting. Poker chips are not exclusively used and found in Casinos, there are many private sets around the world and plenty of collectors who take Casino chips home.

The Four Main Types Of Poker Chips

Poker chips are mostly all the same size and shape; the main differences between the varieties are how they are made, and the color schemes. There are four main types of Poker chips, and while there are variations available, these are the most widely used. If you’ve played Poker before, you will have used one of these four:

Plastic - Plastic Poker chips are not considered high quality and usually come in only a few colors; they are readily available from stores and online. They are the bare minimum for Poker chips and are popular for home games and casual players due to their low pricing.

Composite ​- One step up from plastic Poker chips, they are made from a combination of clay and plastic, with a metal insert added to give them a weighted feeling. Considered a mid-range poker chip, they are still on the cheap side but are made from better materials.

Ceramic - Considered high end, they are made from a high-density ceramic polymer material. Unlike composite and plastic poker chips, ceramic ones will come with standard denominations printed on them and have the option to have your custom values and images printed on them. They are generally smooth to the touch and light.

Clay - Clay Poker chips are said to be best on the market. While they are not 100% clay, they are still the most expensive Poker chip available and are regarded as the best quality. The vast majority of Casinos use clay Poker chips.

What Do The Different Colored Poker Chips Represent?

Poker chips are identified by their colors, which represent different numerical values. The artworks are usually high resolution, with some baring custom color combinations and UV markings. Some Casinos issue limited edition custom designed chips to commemorate special events. Every token has intricate security features to prevent counterfeiting, the higher the denomination, the better the security.

The custom designs allow Casinos to distinguish their chips from any potential fakes or foreign tokens since they are required to back up each one with the appropriate amount of cash. There is no universal standard for poker chip color schemes, and nearly every color is used, from standard colors like red, green, white and black to purple, maroon, and orange.

Poker Chips Weights

Lightweight chips are generally cheaper plastic, while the heavier more durable ones are made from higher quality materials like clay and ceramic or a mix of the two.

Common Poker Chip Weights:

  • 7.0 grams
  • 7.5 grams
  • 8.5 grams
  • 9.0 grams
  • 11.5 grams
  • 13.0 grams

Signs Of A Real Casino Poker Chip

Real Casino Poker chips can range in weight from 8 grams to 10 and are generally made from clay, and sometimes ceramic making them smooth to the touch and light. Most are custom made, with the weight texture and color carefully controlled to ensure they can't be counterfeited. Some will have microchips embedded deep inside to prevent copying.

Can I Take Casino Poker Chips Home?

The short answer is yes; there are no specific laws or regulations preventing players from taking Poker chips from the Casino. Whether it's in Las Vegas, or on a cruise ship, feel free to take home as many chips as you want. However, there is a catch, you are essentially forfeiting the money you exchanged for the token to the Casino.

Another consideration you should take into account before making off with poker chips is the weight limits if you are flying. A handful of chips by themselves shouldn't be an issue, but if you have a lot, it can throw you way over the weight limit for air travel. It also looks very suspicious to airport security, so be prepared to answer a few questions when they X-ray your bag.

Shuffling Poker Chips

Everyone who has either played poker or watched it on TV has seen someone shuffling their chips. Often done while thinking up the next move, or just as a way of gauging a response from opponents before a play, it's used in poker games worldwide. But how exactly do you perform the trick, the best way is to start slow and keep it simple.

The easiest way to replicate the act is to get two roughly even stacks of Poker chips side by side, put your thumb and index finger on the left pile, while your ring finger and pinkie goes on the right. Apply gentle pressure on both sides and bring the two collections together. When they are close, use your middle finger to guide them into place.

It's a subtle move, and there is a lot of room for error, too much pressure and the piles will fall apart, not enough and the chips won't interlock. If you can't do it, just keep practicing, it's not easy but persevere and before you know it your confidence and skill will increase and you'll be shuffling chips like a pro.

High Value Poker Chips

Your average person rarely sees chips to the value of $5000 or more in the Casinos, but they do exist for high stakes games. Usually private affairs for the rich and famous, the standard poker chips are traded in for rectangular plaques that are roughly the size of a playing card. They perform the same job as a normal poker chip, but the denominations go much higher. Common values are $5000, $10,000, $25,000 and sometimes a lot more. Las Vegas has chips that can start at $100,000 and reach well into the millions. If the gaming commission approves it, Casinos can create virtually any value they want, as long as they can back it up with cash.

What Does The Future Hold For Poker Chips?

The world is slowly moving towards a digital existence from documents to driver’s licenses, everything is going virtual and Poker chips night do the same. Online Casinos already have virtual chips, and there are apps out there that provide virtual tokens for home games. Traditional land Casinos are yet to make any significant moves towards using electronic technology in place of physical poker chips, still, given the way technology is evolving, it might only be a matter of time.