If you’ve ever seen or played a casino game then there’s a chance you inquired about how real casino poker chips are made. Anyone who’s ever been in a casino or played a game of cards at home using commercial poker chips has likely noticed the variations in sizes, colors, designs and textural imprints for each poker chip. I decided to “slice” into the issue and let you know exactly what materials are used.
How are real casino and commercial poker chips made? There are two primary methods used to manufacture casino and commercial poker chips. The most common method used is a process called injection molding, which utilizes ABS plastic as the primary material. The second method used is the compression and molding of clay.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how poker chips are made and cover any other questions you might have.
The Production Process of Real Casino and Commercial Poker Chips
One thing that I find interesting is that the poker chips that you buy at the store are online are not the same as those found in casinos.
Why are Casino Chips Different From Those Commercially Available?
Real casino poker chips are made uniquely as opposed to commercial chips that are available to the public for purchase. Formerly, casinos primarily used the clay compression method in the development of their poker chips, however, as forgery became a threat to the gaming industry a combination of ABS plastic and clay were used in an effort to protect themselves from crooks with a background in engineering.
Today, the majority of casinos around the world use rectangular-shaped plaques for monetary denominations of $25,000 and above. Plaques are made using a combination of the two methods mentioned earlier; however, they’re also larger in size in comparison to a standard poker chip and include serial numbers as well.
Earlier on, ABS plastic was mentioned as a key component in the production process of how real casino and commercial poker chips are made using the injection molding method. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a common thermoplastic polymer that is also amorphous – meaning it is without a clearly defined shape or form and therefore has no true melting point.
Different Types of Poker Chips
Striped dice and suited poker chips are the two most common forms of chips made using the injection molding process. You’ll see both of these variations in casinos and in home market sets.
For the most part, clay is no longer used in the development of real casino poker chips anymore. As time went on it became a revelation to casino owners that the quality of their chips was fading with time. Ceramic chips would later be introduced as an alternative to clay in an effort to prevent the inevitable deterioration of clay chips, and to provide a more durable solution for the millions of players that would hold, pocket, flip or even pot splash that poker chip.
The ceramic version of poker chips is often referred to today by many people as a “Clay Composite”, but in fact are not made from clay at all.
Security and Durability of The Modern Poker Chip
Modern technology has improved the development of poker chips in and out of casinos. Today, it remains unknown to the public about what materials exactly are used in the compression molding and injection process used by casinos. However, it is known that clay alongside a ratio of other elements is used throughout the compression molding process.
Not only does this provide gaming establishments with an added layer of security in terms of duplicate fraud, but it also acts as a solution to avoid having to spend more money on the production of new chips considering they are now made with a formula designed specifically for improved durability.
Real casino poker chips are made to withstand pressures up to 10,000 psi. Additionally, it is heat resistant without effects when exposed to Fahrenheit temperatures of up to 300 degrees. A high-quality chip is manufactured with an inlay of paper and heat resistant film that cannot be detached. This creates a measure of security against duplicates and also acts as a form of added durability.
The Casino Poker Chip Trade Secret
A more accurate description of how casino chips are made is via compression molding. Dating as far back as 70 years ago not a single poker chip manufactured was made up of entirely clay. A very specific percentage of the properties involved in the production process consists of earthen materials like sand, chalk, and even the kind of clay that is used in the production of cat litter, which is called bentonite and is the ingredient that allows the material to clump together.
Although it varies by manufacturer, the engineering process used in the making of real casino poker chips remains a trade secret. The indents or edge spots of a casino poker chip are never painted on like you would see on a typical commercial or home market poker set. Particular areas of the chip go through a clay removal process in which specific areas of the disc-shaped currency are removed and replaced with a different color of clay. This process can be completed one chip at a time or through an entire strip while the composite material is still in a cylindrical block before it’s cut into chips.
Between the process of indenting the chips individually and printing graphics using inlays clad with plastic films, the trade secret of production is easily identified as relatively expensive and time-consuming.
More About Casino Poker Chips
There are many aspects regarding poker chips post-construction such as color, security, and variations. There are no universal or standardized presets of poker chips; however, there are a few common differentiating factors that separate casino chips from commercialized chips.
Red, white, blue, and often black and green colors are commonly seen in commercial poker chips or home sets. Over the last two decades, casino games have seen tremendous growth in popularity, and because of this fact, a wider collection of colors have been made recently available for purchase.
Along with additional colors being made readily available, newer designs including a three-step molding process have also been introduced to provide consumers with more a unique flare. These newer chips are still made with low-cost ABS plastic.
Many casinos, including the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and also the Rio Hotel and Casino in Vegas, have at some point designed and issued “limited edition” poker chips. These casino chips are usually produced for specific events such as the WSOP (World Series of Poker). Casinos do this partly with hopes that guests will keep them as souvenirs while the casinos procure a profit.
Certain casinos construct their chips with RFID tags embedded in them in order to prevent counterfeit poker chips from being made and used within their establishment. Additionally, RFID tags are used by some casinos to monitor betting size patterns from guests, as a means to profit.
Signs of a Real Casino Poker Chip
It’s a common misconception that every casino’s poker chip is equally standardized, and although they are in most ways concerning manufactured processing they differ from one casino to the next. For instance, many people believed that a casino chip had to weigh exactly 11.5 grams – that is a myth.
Throughout the entire city of Las Vegas, poker chips used by casinos vary in weight starting at 8.5 grams all the way up to 10.6 grams. This is typically what the chips in high-quality commercial sets weigh as well.
Some of the larger gaming corporations on the Las Vegas strip have been known to cash out players in possession of foreign poker chips from other parts of the country and even internationally. As long as the two casinos are owned by the same company it’s pretty much a safe bet that you’ll get to spend the same chip in two places.
I hope you enjoyed learning about how poker chips are made as much as I enjoyed doing the research. Be sure to comment below if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
If you are in the market for a poker chipset, here are my two favorite brands currently available.
DaVinci Monte Carlo Set
This is my favorite budget chipset. Inexpensive, versatile, and beautiful.
Nile Club Ceramic Chipset
My all-time favorite set of poker chips. They have a unique design and numerous denominations available.
Are poker chips worth money? No, poker chips are actually not worth money unless they are deemed a collector’s item. Otherwise, the only place you can monetize them is in the original casino they were “purchased”. However, do not hold on to them too long because poker chips can actually expire.
What is the highest value casino chip? $100,000 is the highest value casino chip. It can be found at the Paris Las Vegas casino and is reserved for use in baccarat and only by high rollers who have a credit limit of one million dollars or higher.
Where can I exchange casino chips? The only place that you can exchange casino chips is at the casino that you originally “purchased” them at. Inside the casino, you can usually only exchange them at the cashier window and occasionally at the table itself.
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.