Bright, colorful, and worth anything between $1.00 and over $100,000, casino chips are the prizes players love to collect and exchange for their cash winnings. For over a hundred years, these small tokens have been the main currency for a variety of gambling games all over the world and they are still as popular as ever.
Mainly used in brick and mortar casinos, the chips are made of either molded clay composite or a special plastic resin which is often referred to as ceramic. While the actual manufacturing of the chips is a trade secret, the process to create chips unique to each casino is complicated and sometimes include special RFID chips embedded inside to prevent forgeries and fraud.
Why Do Casinos Use Chips Instead of Cash?
It may seem overly complicated to use customized chips as the main game currency in a casino, after all, wouldn’t straight cash be easier to use for games?
It may seem like a hassle to exchange cash for chips and then cash out again, but there are several strategic reasons why casinos prefer chips to cash. Even online casinos will offer players tokens or credits in place of cash for their virtual games.
Playing with Chips is Quick and Easy
Instead of fumbling around for cash or paying for games in different dominations, casino chips are easy to use, quick to read denominations and keep games running smoothly. That is why casino chips have an array of bold colors and designs so that each denomination is easy to spot and use.
Unless players plan to have nice crisp bills ready in hand, nothing would be more frustrating than having to wait for players to count up their cash and place them on the table in a messy pile. Chips stack well and casinos offer chip holders to keep everything neatly organized for quick and easy access while in a game.
Payments and Losses Don’t Seem So Bad
Everyone knows the value of cash, and when each bill is physically in hand, it becomes much harder to part with it. A pile of cash looks far more intimidating than a set of colorful chips neatly stacked on a table. Seeing physical cash move around in games shows players exactly how much is being spent per play (and how much has been lost).
Even though casino chips have the same value as cash, they are simple brightly colored tokens that are easy to toss on a table to make a bet. Instead of counting out bills to add up to a high wager, a high-value chip can easily take its place without actually seeing the cash value.
Custom Chips Prevent Theft and Fraud
Every casino will have custom made chips and tokens that will include their name and logo design on it. This makes it easy to distinguish from other casinos but also help deter people from trying to forge the chips and bring them it to exchange for cash.
The chips are also a good deterrent for would-be thieves who think they can just run into a casino, steal a bunch of chips, sell them on to people or eventually bring them in to exchange for cash. Once a casino finds out a large number of chips have been stolen, they will immediately remove them from circulation and create a new batch that will look different. That way, if anyone wants to cash in the old chips, they will be worthless.
Security Features in Modern Casino Chips
Gambling chips look very simple in design but there is a lot of thought and processing involved to keep casinos and players safe from theft and fraud. Over the last 100 years, the humble chip has evolved in many ways and is currently becoming more technologically-based as well.
Each casino will have its own unique set of chips that are designed and manufactured to their specific requirements. No two casinos will have the same chips, not even casinos owned by the same parent company.
All of the casino staff are also very well trained to spot these security features, which is yet another level of security against forgeries.
Each chip denomination will have a specific set of color combinations for every casino. The colors will either be clay pressed or cast with resin. When two or more colors are used in a chip design, they will be pressed with individual clay colors arranged in the chosen design, rather than painted on. This method makes it very hard for fraudsters to replicate.
Every casino will have an intricate design that will include their name and logo. Not only does a personalized design give each casino a solid uniform look (like every country’s currency), but it also helps to promote their brand. The more people see the name and logo, the more players trust and love the brand.
Also, casinos choose very intricate and complicated designs for their chips and tokens because they are easy to highlight anything that looks different. Anyone wanting to pass fakes on the floor, no matter how well they try to replicate them, will easily be found out as the fakes will often stand out like a sore thumb.
Many chips will have a smooth finish, while others will have a slight cross-hatched texture. Other details that may be included are etched patterns and designs on the top or sides of the chip. These details are much more difficult to forge than simple smooth finishes.
Most paper currency around the world will include UV threads to help prevent counterfeiting and the same is done with many casino chips. Injected with a UV inlay or die, many chips will have a logo, word or design that will only be visible under a UV light.
If a chip does not look or feel right to casino staff, they can instantly check them under UV light on top of the other security checks they have been trained to use.
Many casinos are quickly turning to RFID-embedded microchips to help them keep track of their circulation. Mainly used for high-value chips, the RFID tags can be easily scanned and monitored anywhere within the casino floor.
This type of technology not only helps monitor where all of the chips are at any given time or where they are being used, but it can also monitor anyone who may be trying to steal other player’s chips or pass fakes around in games.
Casino Chip Values
A common question that pops up is about the value of casino chips. While there are some general colors that are known to represent certain values, each casino will have different colors, color combinations, and designs to make their chips stand out from the rest.
Standard Chip Colors and Values
- $1.00 – White
- $2.50 – Pink
- $5.00 – Red
- $10.00 – Blue (uncommon)
- $20.00 – Gray (uncommon)
- $25.00 – Green
- $50.00 – Orange
- $100.00 – Black
- $500.00 – Purple
- $1,000 – Yellow or Orange
- $5,000 – Brown
For large denominations that are valued in the $10,000+ range will often be in the form of plaques rather than chips. These plaques are large, rectangular in shape and will have specific serial numbers attached to them to prevent counterfeits.
Casino plaques are reserved for special VIP players and generally for high stakes games of baccarat and poker. The plaque values are often found in $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000.
Games that Use Casino Chips
In most casinos, there will be two main currency types used for each game. The slot machines will generally stick to cash coins and custom-designed metal tokens, the colorful casino chips are mainly reserved for the ever-popular table games.
Although most people will recognize chips being used for games of poker, all table games will use them as the only currency to play. The only difference between each table game is the wager amounts.
Popular Table Games that Use Casino Chips
- Texas Hold’Em
- Pai Gow
- Sic Bo
Although all of the above-mentioned games use chips as the play currency, each one will have a different set of rules, which include minimum table bets for each round. Pay attention to the signs at the table or feel free to ask the dealers about minimum bets.
When playing a game that uses chips, there are a few unspoken rules that seasoned players follow and new players should adopt to help them blend in rather than stick out like a novice player.
Unlike characters who gamble in major Hollywood movies, players do not toss or drop their chips in a wild manner. This will spill the chips in every direction and make it tough for the dealer to determine exactly what was wagered, which could lead to complications in the game (and have very upset players).
Players should also neatly stack chips in their respective denominations. This will make it easy for the dealer to see how much is being wagered each round and give players a quick wager instead of fumbling through a pile of mixed chips.
Finally, players should always be aware of the betting line or the line where their cards are presented. Many casinos consider the space past the line (or player cards) as the betting space, so anything that crosses these lines will be considered a bet.
To avoid any accidental bets or issues with game rules, always keep chips organized, neatly stacked, and only place the number of chips that are intended for the wager. Following these simple rules will have the game moving smoothly and keep the dealer (and monitoring security) happy as well.