A Card Game of the Lifetime: Poker

The poker chips you use in a friendly game at home with family or friends are a far cry from the ones used in casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Among the different types of chips that are out there, those generally used at home games are plastic versions, which were mass produced to replicate the real clay, custom poker chips that were first used in casinos from the 1880s to the 1930s.

The clay chip sets that have been traditionally used, and which are still used in some places even now, weren’t made entirely of clay except at the very beginning. It was soon discovered that the clay-only chips broke too easily, so the makers began creating them from composites, of which the most common one now is a clay-ceramic mix. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find this type of chip in a home set, however; as these would most usually be casino poker chips.

A more recent version of poker chips might also be considered a composite, with a metal core called a “slug” that is covered with injection-molded plastic. Some all-metal chips have even been manufactured by using chemical or electronic methods, called “anodizing,” to create certain color effects. Between anodizing, stamping and the adding of patterns, many of these chips are hard to distinguish from a more traditional casino chip. And being more expensive than plastic chips, they’ll almost always be found in casinos rather than home games.

The two most common poker chips, though, of all the existing types, are the cheaper plastic ones used at home and the most widely used professional versions used in casinos. Those look a lot like the original clay composite types, but are now usually made with of hard, injection-molded resin. Both these and the clay composites, though, will frequently be made from secret formulas specific to an individual casino, and will have added security features like markings that show up in ultraviolet light or radio frequency ID tags. Only poker chips casino versions are the real thing.

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