I’m sure you are aware of the fact that there are two kinds of poker and casino chips in the world (well, actually three types if we count the virtual ones you can use to play at an online casino). There are those you can buy online or in land based shops that look and feel real, which you can use to play casino games and poker at home, among friends, and there are the ones that are destined to be used in land-based casinos and poker rooms, the ones that you can exchange for real money. As you can imagine, these have loads of extra security features to make them safe to use – and to avoid fraud of any kinds. But to really see the difference between the two, let’s take a brief look on their history.
Poker chips don’t have a very long history. Until the 19th century money was used for gambling, or any small valuable object they had at hand. During the Gold Rush small pieces of gold, nuggets and gold dust were used along with cash. Slowly the chips themselves were adapted – round pieces of clay, wood, ivory and a composition made of shellac and clay. But the industry had to wait for the late 1880s for the real poker chips to appear.
Most casino chips today are molded, made out of a combination of a series of materials – clay, sand and other earthen materials, similar in nature to cat litter. The process through which the chips are manufactured, as well as their exact composition are trade secrets well kept by the manufacturers, adding an extra layer of security to the process. The inlays – the printed graphics on the chips – is usually made of printed paper, and covered in a thin plastic film to keep it from wearing off. The inlay is applied during the molding process, and cannot be removed without destroying the chip itself.
Each casino has its unique set of chips, even if the casino itself is part of a larger group of gambling establishments. No wonder – the chips have a cash value, and they can be exchanged into real money at the casino’s cashier. The chips have several security features added to them – RFID chips or audible tags that make a Beep! when read with a specific device, high resolution graphics and unique color combinations on the inlays, not to mention UV printings and hard to reproduce manufacturer marks. Casino chips are very hard to counterfeit, but this doesn’t stop crooks from trying – in 2005 two men were caught to attempt to alter the value of a series of $1 chips to turn them into higher denominations.