Whether you are visiting Vegas or another gambling mecca, you may notice that casino poker chips are often beautifully designed and would make a great souvenir. You may wonder if you need to cash out before you left or if you are able to keep a few chips to take home as mementos. So I did some research, made some calls, and this is what I found out.
Can you take casino poker ships home? You can take your regular casino or poker chips home with you. There are no rules to prevent you from taking them. However, they may eventually expire and become worthless on a future date.
While there are no rules that stop you from taking casino chips home with you, there’s a little more to consider before you pocket them and head out. There is a right and wrong way to go about taking them. After looking into why casinos let you keep their chips, it also became clear to me that taking home large stacks of chips might be a bad call.
Reasons You May Not Want to Take Casino Poker Chips Home
If you are planning to ever bring chips back and use them again, then there are a few things you might want to think twice about bringing them home.
Casino Chips Expire
Casino chips have an odd and undetermined lifespan, but they do expire. How and why they expire can vary depending on the casino. The most typical reasons why is because either the casino closes or the casino discontinues those chips.
When I learned how to play poker, we played for orange and white clay chips that my grandparents bought at the old Flamingo in Las Vegas. If I took those chips on my last trip and tried to cash them out, everyone on the strip would have laughed.
The Flamingo closed years ago. No casino accepts these chips anymore and the Flamingo probably stopped accepting them before they closed too. After a casino closes or is bought by a different brand, there isn’t much you can do to redeem any chips.
How Often Do Casinos Change Chips?
Far more often, chips you collect will expire because the casino discontinued the line. Fortunately, it is really easy to find out if chips have been or will be discontinued.
Under Nevada’s Regulation 12, any place that issues chips is obligated to inform the public of chip discontinuations at least 30 days in advance. They also have to publish this information in at least two news sources.
Casinos have to disclose when they are discontinuing a chip so that anyone who was carrying those chips has the opportunity to cash out. Amusingly so, this rule also applies if the casino is about to close.
If you have chips and aren’t sure whether or not they have been discontinued, check online. You should be able to find some of these announcements for discontinued chips.
RFID Tech and Chips
One reason that casino poker chips might be discontinued is that they are out of date. Modern chips have radio frequency identification that helps casinos detect if anyone brought in duds. These tech-chips emit special frequencies so the casinos can determine their source.
The Wall Street Journal and other publications have some interesting articles about the introduction of RFID chips to Vegas. There is even a story out there about a casino catching a 1.5 million dollar heist with RFID chips.
If you have ever wondered why dealers have those little scanner wands, wonder no more. This is because dealers have to check chips sometimes to ensure that they are legit and from the correct casino.
RFID chips outdated and thus discontinued a lot of chips. As technology becomes better, another change is bound to happen. Who knows what it will be, but it will make whatever chips you have now out of date and thus expired.
Can You Cash In Old Poker Chips?
Sometimes you can cash in old poker chips, but only for a set amount of time. While casino chips can be a fun souvenir, but they are not a good investment.
The issues around expirations are a big part of the problem. Casinos have to tell you when chips are discontinued, but they do not have to follow a set schedule. Casino chips change when the boss says so. There isn’t a season or predictable pattern, so you can’t hold on to them for a set time and trust that when you return, nothing will have changed.
Keeping a few casino chips isn’t a big deal but think about them as standing in for a loan to the casino. As long as you have the chips, the casino effectively still has your money. They get to keep that money without interest and regardless of fluctuations in currency.
Casinos actually love when you keep the chips. It’s free money for them! The longer and more you keep, the happier they are. Anything that a casino wants you to do probably isn’t the best call for your wallet.
Etiquette for Keeping Chips
Casinos do encourage you to keep their chips. There is, however, a right and wrong way to go about that. What you need to be careful of is “going South.” Going South means putting your chips out of sight for other players and the dealer while still playing in a live game.
Going South, and pocketing chips during a game, is not a good practice and won’t make you any friends. If you are playing low-stakes games, people might not notice or care, but it is still rude and could even get you banned from the poker room.
This is because pocketing chips during a game means that the other players no longer can win as much as they might have lost to you. If, for example, you won a pot for $50 and pocket half your stack, now anyone who wins that money back from you in an all-in situation can only profit by half.
There is a simple and easy way to take your poker chips home. When a game ends, take them then. Wait until the chips are out of play.
If you play craps or something else other than poker, this will likely not be much of a problem for you, but still, it is best to pocket your chips away from a game.
Collecting Casino Chips
Casinos want you to keep chips, so they make them enticing. It sometimes works too. Casino chips can be a fun way to remember a trip and make for a unique display. Before I started to look up whether or not you could keep them, I had no idea that people had such collections. Turns out, a lot of people actually keep and display chips as a hobby. This makes me think of my Aunt’s collection of spoons from around the world.
From my experience, I will say that comparing the older models of chips to newer ones is quite striking. The older ones are clay and garnished with gold leafing on orange or cream backgrounds. Compared to the sleek and high-tech chips of today (typically ceramic), they aren’t that attractive!
Care for Your Chips
If you decide to take your chips home, you should take care of them.
- Clean your chips- They are probably sticky from the casino floor. If they aren’t, clean them anyway. They have traded through a lot of hands and been everywhere. Don’t risk it. Hot soapy water will do the trick.
- Keep them somewhere safe– I thought it might be fun to try to set up some sort of display in a game room. You might have your own ideas for how and where to store them. Whatever you do, keep your chips somewhere you’ll remember. If you do find out that you can return them, you won’t want to go digging around your house for five bucks. Of course, since chips can be hard to return, finding a way to see them and decorate with them might ultimately be more useful than holding on to them for a later day.
Can you fake casino chips? Due to RFID technology it would be virtually impossible to fake a casino chip. Even if you could, it is a really bad idea. Casinos take counterfeiting their chips seriously and you would likely end up with a felony on your record.
What to do if you find a casino chip? Cities with casinos are big places with tons of traffic. If you are lucky enough to find a lost casino chip, unless you see someone searching the floor near you, it’s fine to just keep it. However, you may want to take it to the cage and make sure it’s no counterfeit before you use it at the tables.
Can you exchange chips at other casinos? No, you cannot typically exchange chips from one casino at another. The exception is that if two casinos are owned by the same company. In that case, they may do an exchange for you at the cage.
Jim James has over 15 years of experience playing professionally and is the author of the best-selling book called Automatic Poker. Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, he has won 7 figures at the poker table. Jim is well-known as the world’s leading expert on playing short or mid-stacked poker.
Today, he helps other players demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em and has helped countless people become winning poker players through his Online Poker Academy.