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Someone once said, “The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the poker chip was a genius.” In Ultimate Guide to Casino Chips, we ask questions to investigate this universal currency a little deeper. We will look at real casino “poker” chips in this, not those you use for your home games.
7 Questions About Casino Chips
1) When Were Chips First Used?
When gambling became widespread in the 18th century, one difficulty was that people who gambled had different types of coins or valuables for wagering. Some gambling venues offered gamblers substitutes like pieces of ivory, bones, or clay to solve this problem. In the USA, the humble origins of the modern-day familiar casino chips were born out of necessity. The poker game first developed in the mid-1800s along the Mississippi and other western saloons and bars.
2) Were fake or forged casino chips found in the early days?
Yes. Gamblers began to forge substitutes. As a result, gambling establishments began to brand their chips. The only surviving relic of casino plates is the large plate (check) with a printed value. The problem continued, so casinos responded the same way – each Casino created specially designed, hard-to-replicate chips unique to their venue. Chips became standardized in size, but their materials, such as clay or expensive ivory, still varied widely.
3) What Are Casino Chips Made Of?
In the early 1800s, Poker players would use any small valuable object imaginable. Jagged gold pieces, nuggets, dust, or coins were typical. However, players also used “chips,” primarily made of ivory, bone, wood, paper, and a composition made from clay and shellac.
Several companies made clay-composition poker chips between the 1880s and the late 1930s. As forgery became a threat to the gaming industry, casinos used a combination of ABS plastic and clay. As a result, a casino’s “chips” would have variations in sizes, colors, designs, and textural imprints for poker chip denominations.
For the most part, clay is no longer used. This is because clay chips would fade with time. Instead, ceramic chips are now used to prevent the inevitable deterioration seen with clay chips. Casino chips today are made via compression molding. Earthen materials today include sand, chalk, and even the clay used for cat litter (bentonite – the ingredient that allows the “stuff” to clump). Although it varies by manufacturer, the engineering process used in making real casino poker chips remains a trade secret.
4) What Means of Security Are Used? – The Ultimate Guide to Casino Chips
To hinder forgery, the casinos even include a microchip in their chips. The trade secret of production is relatively expensive and time-consuming. It includes indenting the chips individually and printing graphics using inlays with plastic films. A casino poker chip’s indents or edge spots are never painted on. Instead, a clay removal process removes and replaces specific areas with a different clay color (or ceramic).
Another means of security is the color hue. Even though all casinos might use green $25 chips, the exact shade is distinct and challenging for counterfeit casino chip makers to match.
Certain casinos construct their chips with RFID tags embedded in them to prevent counterfeit or stolen poker chips from being used. Additionally, RFID tags are used by some casinos to monitor betting size patterns from guests as a means to profit. Casinos typically use tracking devices such as RFID tags embedded in the chips themselves for the higher-value chips.
5) Can I use one Casino’s chips at Another Casino, AND Do Casino Chips Ever Go Out Of Circulation?
In Las Vegas, it’s common to see casino chips with the name of two different casinos printed on them – one on either side is the standard. This is because, for most casinos, chips are only for use in that particular property.
Yes, Casinos occasionally cancel their chips (take them out of circulation). The reasons for this include:
- (1) the Casino goes out of business,
- (2) the Casino changes its name
- (3) the Casino changes its chip design.
Also, the law requires casinos to give advanced notice when changing their chip design to allow people a chance to cash in chips. Casinos cancel chips in one of three ways:
- a drill hole
- notching or clipping the edges off
For the most part, chips are similar from Casino to Casino. However, certain things like weight differ from one Casino to the next. All casino chips do not weigh the same. Instead, they vary in weight, starting at 8.5 grams to 10.6 grams. Usually, a dealer can tell a different weight from the house chips, in addition to color and design.
6) What Do The Different Chip Colors Mean? Ultimate Guide to Casino Chips.
Colors for most table games include:
- White or Blue chips are one dollar.
- Red chips are five dollars and are called nickels.
- Green chips are twenty-five dollars and are called quarters.
- Black chips are one hundred dollars.
- Purple Chips are five hundred dollars and are called Barneys.
- Orange chips are one thousand dollars and are called pumpkins.
In addition, yellow chips are used in some casinos, such as Borgata, as a $20 chip for games such as Pai Gow Poker.
Roulette is the exception. The standard chips can be used on all tables throughout the Casino. However, the “color” chips at the roulette table can only be used on the specific table they were purchased. “Colour” chips are used, one color for each player. Then the player and dealer can quickly identify which bet belongs to whom.
7) Why Do Casinos Use Chips In The First Place?
Casinos prefer chips over cash because they add a slight mental separation between the gambler and their valuable money. Remember, chips are real currency IN THE CASINO. But unfortunately, chips tend to make gamblers forget the cash they represent.
The other two reasons are:
- It is easier for surveillance to tell what is going on with chips. On camera, from a distance, a $20 bill and a $5 bill look very similar, but a red chip and a green chip look nothing alike. In a game like roulette, where many people are betting on a single layout, the different colors allow the dealer, surveillance, and security to know to who each bet belongs.
- Since chips equal cash for many people, sometimes people will take home the casino chips and never cash them in. Therefore, less money paid out by the Casino = more revenue for the Casino.
5 Quick Facts About Casino Chips – According to John Marchel of Casino Times
- Because eight (versus 7) is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture, chips denominated with 8, 88, and 888 are standard in casinos catering to Chinese clientele.
- Several casinos have issued “limited edition” designed chips commemorating various events. While players keep them as souvenirs, it’s also a nice profit for the Casino.
- The Wynn and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas have $100,000 denomination chips.
- Golden Goose casino in Downtown Las Vegas opened in 1975 and closed in 1980 when one of its $5 chips showed up in the mid-1990s; it was valued at over $3,000 at auction.
- A dealer’s chip tray in a high-limit table in Las Vegas will include as much as $1.5 million chips on weekends and a little less on weekdays.
Casino Chips Collecting
Casino chip collecting became increasingly popular during the 1980s, as evidenced by the sale of chips through several casinos and collecting newsletters. For example, Bill Borland’s Worldwide Casino Exchange (the early 1980s) had a casino story in each issue and dozens of old chips for sale. There are many different ways to collect casino chips. Because of the number of chips available and the increasing price of some, collectors have begun to specialize. For example, a collector might choose to collect every chip from a particular casino or one from every Las Vegas casino.
That should do it. The Ultimate Guide to Casino Chips.
As for me, I like to collect casino pens.