A set of poker chips with denominations 100, 50, 25 & 10
Casino poker chips are special tokens representing a fixed amount of money. Especially in cardrooms and casinos, poker chips are also known as checks.
Construction and design
Poker chips are fabricated with complicated graphics and edge spot patterns intending to make them difficult to counterfeit. The process used to make these chips is a trade secret and expensive - typically done on high pressure compression molding machines.
The typical material of construction is not clay as is sometimes believed, but a ceramic material with clay added for texture and weight. The breakable, clay chips of the 1960s and 1970s are no longer manufactured. The clay composition of modern chips varies by manufacturer, and is typically very slight (1-10%).
The chips used in American Casinos generally weigh between 9.5 grams and 10 grams each. The chips sold for home use vary much more, depending on manufacturer and construction.
Common designs for home use depict the six faces of a dice or the suit symbols around the edge of the chip. They are typically manufactured with injection molding technology using ABS plastic. Some chips are molded around a small metal disc, called a slug, for weight.
Cigar Aficionado article on Collecting Chips includes more on their manufacture;
The most common colors used at United States casinos to differentiate between chip denominations are:
- White or blue, $1
- Pink, $2.50
- Red, $5
- Blue, $10
- Green, $25
- Black, $100
- Purple, $500
$2.50 chips are almost exclusively used for blackjack tables, since a natural typically pays 3:2 and most wagers are in increments of $5. However, the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey has used pink chips in $7.50-$15 and $10-$20 poker games. Low-denomination yellow chips can vary in value: $20 by statute in Atlantic City and Illinois (which, oddly, also uses "mustard yellow" $0.50 chips ); $5 at most Southern California poker rooms; $2 at Foxwoods' poker room in Ledyard, Connecticut and at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona; and $0.50 at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blue chips are occasionally used for $10, most notably by statute in Atlantic City. In Las Vegas and California, most casinos use blue or gray for $1 chips.
Chips are commonly available in $1000 denominations, depending on the wagering limits of the casino in question. Such chips are often yellow or orange and of a large size. Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and other areas which permit high wagers typically have chips available in $5000, $10000, $25000, and higher denominations; the colors for these vary wildly.
European casinos use a similar scheme, though certain venues (such as Aviation Club de France) use pink for €2 and blue for €10. European casinos also use plaques rather than chips for high denominations (usually in the €1000 and higher range).
Casino-style chips can be bought for home games, but the price is approximately $1 per chip.
Generic poker chip sets can be bought at a much lower price, less than $0.20 per chip. These simulate the weight and feel of casino chips, but are of a very inferior quality.
Each casino has a unique set of chips, even if the casino is part of a larger company. This distinguishes a casino's chips from others, since each chip and token on the gaming floor has to be backed up with the appropriate amount of cash. In addition, with the exception of Nevada, casinos are not permitted to honor another casino's chips.
The security features of casino chips are numerous. Artwork is of a very high resolution or of photographic quality. Custom color combinations on the chip edge (edge spots) are usually distinctive to a particular casino. Certain chips incorporate RFID technology, such as those at the new Wynn Casino in Las Vegas.
Counterfeit chips are rare. High levels of surveillance, along with staff familiarity with chip design and coloring, make passing fake chips difficult. Casinos, though, are prepared for this situation. According to wizardofodds.com, on one such occasion, the casino removed all chips from the gaming floor and replaced them with new sets with alternative markings, which resulted in the arrest of the attempted counterfeiters.
Casino chips used in tournaments are usually much cheaper and much simpler in design. Because the chips have no cash value, usually chips are designed with a single color (usually differing in shade or tone from the version on the casino floor), a smaller diameter, and a basic mark on the interior to distinguish denominations; however, at certain events (such as the World Series of Poker or other televised poker), chips approach quality levels of chips on the floor.