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Poker Chips - Lesser Known Facts You Should Know

Poker, a game steeped in tradition and strategy, revolves around more than just cards and bets. One of its most iconic components that has become almost synonymous with the game, especially in land-based casinos, is the poker chips. Even people who are not poker players or enthusiasts know what poker chips are when they see them.

These unassuming discs of various materials, colours, and values have a fascinating history and offer intriguing aspects that enrich the game. They replace cash in casino games and make the wagering process easier for everyone. Let's dive into some lesser-known facts about poker chips that every enthusiast should be aware of when playing a game of poker.

A Brief History of Poker Chips

Poker chips have come a long way since their inception. There are some indications that they were used in 9th-century China for some type of games that were played there at the time. Poker chips that we know today originated in the early 19th century in Europe and the US as substitutes for currency, preventing the constant need to exchange money during the game. 

Back then, they were made from various materials, including bone, ivory, and clay, and unfortunately, they were quite easy to counterfeit. That’s why those early-day casinos started making custom chips for their games and even for the tournaments they organised.

Over time, the design and composition evolved to provide a standardised and user-friendly experience for players. Casinos design their chips, engrave the name of the casino, and implement various techniques to make their chips unique and difficult to forge.

The name poker chips became commonplace for casino chips even though these chips are used for all casino games. They are also known as casino tokens, but so few people call them tokens that if you were ever asked: What are poker chips called? we bet you answered “poker chips” and not casino tokens or chips.

Types of Poker Chips

Poker chips are usually round, with different colours, patterns and sizes, but can be rectangular in some high-stakes games, as high-rollers enjoy playing with special chips. Modern poker chips are crafted from different materials, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

These are the most common types of poker chips:

  • Plastic chips are lightweight and inexpensive, making them ideal for casual games. 
  • Composite chips blend materials for a durable yet budget-friendly option. Composite clay chips are also a popular and convenient option for poker enthusiasts.
  • Ceramic chips, while pricier, offer a casino-like feel and intricate designs. They are smooth and easily customisable.
  • Metal chips can be used for high-stakes games, as they exude luxury and tradition but can be heavy and noisy.

Some poker terms are named after poker chips, so, for example, the term “when the chips are down” means that the player doesn’t have many chips left and is unlikely to recover.

Poker Chips Colours

Poker chips colors

Poker chips are available in a myriad of colours, each representing a specific denomination. The standard colour scheme includes white (or grey) for the lowest denomination, red for medium values, blue for higher values, green for even higher values, and black for the highest. 

Using the standard colour scheme makes it easier for players and the house to recognise the value of the chips used in the game.

Additional poker chips colours, outside the regular colour and value scheme, can be introduced for larger stakes games, and they can vary depending on the casino, city, state, or country.

Casinos and poker venues sometimes use different sets of chips for tournaments to make it more difficult for players to cheat. 

Poker Chips Value

As we mentioned, poker chips come in various colours that can vary from one establishment to another. But how much are poker chips worth? Do their assigned values differ across poker rooms?

Understanding poker chips' value is crucial, especially in the context of cash games and tournaments. The poker chips values should be pretty much consistent in most casinos, especially when it comes to values from $1 to $1,000, and they include 1$, $5, $10, $20 or $25, $100, $500, and $1,000. You memorise this easily when you learn how to play poker.

The chip values are also pretty consistent when looking at higher stakes, but colours don’t necessarily have to be. Some venues use different shades or colours for their chips, so you might also encounter pink or violet chips, for example. Their values are typically $5,000 or $10,000, or even $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 for extremely high-stake games.

There are two types of poker chips that we will be discussing here: chips for cash games and chips for tournaments.

Cash Games

In cash games, chips directly represent real money, with their value written on the chip itself. They are common in all casino poker games, not just poker if the casino offers other types of games. When you want to withdraw money, you will get the equivalent of your chip values converted back to the currency used in the country where the casino is located.

To provide clarity, here's a breakdown of typical poker chip colours and values:

  • White: $1
  • Red: $5
  • Blue: $10
  • Green: $25
  • Black: $100
  • Purple: $500
  • Yellow: $1,000
  • Orange: $5,000
  • Dark blue or dark green: $25,000
  • Light blue or grey: $100,000

Poker Tournaments

Tournaments use a different structure for chip values, and those chips are typically valid only for the specific tournament. The tournament chip value usually doesn’t equal the chip’s financial value, and they can have the tournament name on them, making them valuable memorabilia.

Chip denominations are usually set differently for each tournament, so you won’t see the same chip colour or value at World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour tournaments, especially in the finals.

All players start with the same number of chips, and as blinds increase, chips become more valuable. The focus shifts from the individual value of each chip to their collective importance in accumulating more chips than opponents.

Catchy Poker Chips

Poker chips are not just tools but also works of art. Some chips stand out with unconventional designs, unique shapes, and vibrant colours, making them collector's items. Those are typically the chips designed for special events, like the World Series final, that later become popular memorabilia.

These chips are tailor-made and add an extra layer of excitement to the game, reflecting players' diverse tastes and styles.

If you are looking to organise a game of poker for your friends, you can order custom poker chips with a design you choose. If you are an artistic type, some companies even allow you to design your own chips and get a unique set of poker chips.

Which Poker Chip Trick Can You Do?

As the game's heartbeat, poker chips have inspired a host of tricks that players can perform. Of course, this is the case with more seasoned poker players or the ones who are true poker chip tricks enthusiasts. Not all players appreciate the art of performing tricks with poker chips, but they do make the game more interesting when playing with your friends.

The "spin and bounce" mesmerises with its spinning chip and gravity-defying bounce that is supposed to launch the chip right back into your hand. The "vanishing chip" showcases a sleight of hand mastery equal to that of the world’s greatest magicians. 

The "chip roll" adds flair to chip movement, making them look like waves on the table, and the "shuffle stack" requires precision and patience to shuffle the chips and have them fall into their new place smoothly. Learning and performing these tricks entertains and enhances a player's skill and dexterity.

Poker chips are not mere currency replacements; they are integral to the game's history, strategy, and entertainment. By delving into their types, colours, values, and tricks, players can elevate their poker experience beyond the cards and bets. Poker chips can even exist when you play online poker in the shape of virtual poker chips.

So, next time you gather around the poker table, take a moment to appreciate the intricate world encapsulated within those unassuming discs we call poker chips.