One item people often wonder about when traveling by plane is whether they can bring poker chips along for the ride. No one likes arriving at their destination and finding that something has been taken out of their suitcase by the TSA or that items have been thrown away when passing through the security checkpoint. Knowing what you can take on a plane can help prevent this. So, I placed a call to the TSA to get a definitive answer for you and this is what I learned.
Poker chips can legally be taken onto a plane either in checked baggage or carry-on and are not considered contraband in the United States or other countries. However, allow extra time for security as a TSA agent may ask questions about your poker chips if they are seen on an x-ray.
Ultimately, poker chips are entertainment items that have no monetary value. They are allowed on both domestic and international flights. In this article, you will learn how to travel by air with poker chips and some travel hacks that can help make flying with poker chips easier.
Poker Chips and Scanning
There are 3 main reasons you may be singled out for questioning if you choose to take casino poker chips home with you:
- The poker chips resemble other items on the x-ray, and your bag is selected to be searched by hand.
- The agents want to verify they are not casino tokens.
- The agents want to question you about traveling with poker chips.
A phone call to the TSA revealed that poker chips in carry-on bags could look like several other items, including food and casino tokens. Because of this, if the scanner technician cannot confirm what they are, your bag will be pulled off the belt for a hand search. Depending on how busy the security checkpoint is, this can add a few minutes up to several minutes to your time.
Bags are hand searched in the order they are pulled off the belt. If several bags are ahead of yours, this will add to your wait time. Telling the TSA that you have to catch a flight will not allow you to skip the line. Agitation in the TSA line can result in you being detained for further questioning. So, allow yourself extra time or place the poker chips in your checked luggage.
What many people call poker chips are casino tokens. Tokens differ from poker chips in that they are linked to a specific casino and do have a monetary value for as long as that casino is in business. Casino tokens vary based on the casino that issues them, but they are shaped similarly and look like poker chips. The main difference is that they will have something signifying the casino that produced them.
Whitaker Brother’s Blog discusses the history of casino tokens and security features that keep them from being stolen or counterfeit. Casino tokens are often kept as souvenirs from trips to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Traveling with casino chips is similar to traveling with money. Because of this, they will often come under extra scrutiny from the TSA.
Casino tokens have no real value outside of their casino as you cannot use them as money, even in Vegas. The TSA understands people wanting to bring home souvenirs, but they would question why someone would be traveling with large amounts of tokens since doing so eliminates their value.
Money and the TSA
You are not limited in the amount of cash or casino that you can carry through a TSA checkpoint. However, the TSA does have the right to stop and question you about large sums of money. When traveling with poker chips, they may check them to see if they are a casino token and, if so, they will check the total value. A quick visual inspection will be all that is required.
USA Today’s Travel Tips discusses traveling with money. When traveling with casino tokens, it is important to remember they will be treated as money by the TSA. Legally, you may travel with any amount of cash and casino tokens. However, the TSA may select you for an interview if you have a high dollar amount.
Therefore, if you are traveling with lots of money or casino tokens, be sure to leave yourself a bit of extra time to get through security at the airport. Also, remember that your answers or general mannerisms can result in them notifying law enforcement. So, make sure you have a legal reason to be traveling with a large number of casino tokens.
Just like many people confuse poker chips and casino chips, TSA agents may do the same. They may believe that the poker chips have value. When traveling with a large set, this would be enough “money” to cause concern. So, even after they verify that they are poker chips, the TSA may want to question you further.
If that happens, it is essential to:
- Stay calm
- Answer honestly
- Attempt to educate the agent that your chips have no value
- Allow them to confiscate them if they choose. Losing some poker chips is better than missing your flight and getting arrested for failure to comply with a TSA agent.
Remember, many people make the same mistake by calling casino tokens poker chips, and a TSA agent is not an expert in everything. It is probably an honest misunderstanding that can be cleared up with some patience and education.
Many forums have discussed the potential hazards of flying with poker chips, souvenir casino tokens, and collector’s tokens. By searching and reading these forums, you can get some ideas of what to expect from the TSA and possible solutions if you are flying with chips that you don’t want to lose.
If flying with a non-casino poker set, your poker chips should be lightweight and contained in a case for ease of access by the TSA. You don’t want to add extra weight to your bag, whether checked or carry-on. The Da Vinci Las Vegas Gift Set is an excellent choice because:
- The chips are not pre-marked with dollar amounts making them easily identifiable as poker chips and not casino tokens.
- Each poker chip weighs about 11 grams, for a total weight of 2.5 pounds.
- They come prepacked in a box that is a manageable size to slip into carry-on luggage and lighter weight than other metal style carrying cases.
- The box does say casino chips, but the packaging also makes it obvious that they are not “real” casino tokens.
- It wouldn’t be a big deal to slip in a handful of real casino chips in the mix to make them travel more easily with fewer questions.
Just remember this set does not come with playing cards, you will want to buy a high-quality deck to go with it.
When packing, try to have your poker chips near the top of your carry-on so that they are quickly accessible by the TSA if they want to inspect them. A side pocket or separate compartment is even better because the TSA will not have to disturb anything else if they choose to examine your poker chips.
Remember, you are not allowed to touch your bag while they are searching it, but you can tell them where items can be found. Your assistance will be appreciated and will speed up the process of extra screening.
The next time you are flying, take your poker chips if you think you might have time for a lively game of poker. Just remember to allow for extra time going through security if you put them in your carry-on bags so that the TSA can verify what they are and that they have no monetary value.
For those of you that carry casino tokens, remember that they are treated like money by the TSA. They are legal to fly with but can result in extra levels of security if you are traveling with a large amount of “money.” Many TSA agents will wonder why you didn’t “cash in” your winnings and are traveling with them. So, remember to stay calm if you are questioned about your chips, and you will be fine.
Jim is the author of the best-selling book called Automatic Poker. He has been playing professionally for over 15 years and has helped countless people become winning poker players. Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, Jim has helped demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em.