In recent debates about gambling and some of the ways in which casinos have historically locked players into a timeless wonderland, such as not having clocks or windows, even the use of casino and poker chips has come under some scrutiny.
Not from the land-based gambling sector but rather it has erroneously connected to the use of in-game currencies employed in modern video games. The argument was made that video games employ many gambling mechanics to monetise their products and that like casino chips, virtual coins are used to distract the player from the amount of money being spent.
✓Value Focus Not Distraction
This argument could only come from someone who does not gamble as casino chips serve the opposite purpose to in-game currencies. From the outset, chips are exchanged at a 1-to-1 value. When you deposit €10 at a casino you will receive a chip or chips valued at 10 credits.
However, when you spend €10 on a virtual in-game currency you receive a far larger token value, usually around 1000 to 1499 tokens. This disparity is the beginning of the confusion for video gamers, something not seen when depositing at a casino.
Gambling with casino and poker chips also uses this base of €1 as the central value for any bet placed. Bets at table games are placed in single units, for example, placing a 5 chip bet is a €5 bet, the math is simple.
However, when spending in-game currency in video gaming the items being bought come with no clear value chain and are often bundled or discounted which makes it difficult to keep track of the Euro value of the item.
✓Origin of the Humble Gambling Chip
While it is theorised that our ancient ancestors used bones and stone chips as a way to keep track of who won various games of chance or skill the earliest recorded use of a token which we can parallel with modern casino chips is that of 1752 counters known as jetons, fiches and mils.
These counters were popularised by the card-based game French Quadrille. Historically more popular with female players, the game was a form of poker where each of the four players would stake a wager prior to each of the 40 hands that made up a full round of play.
Players would then look to make the best hand but doing so while making temporary Alliances with other players or choosing to play Solo, testing their skills against the other three players without support. To claim the title of Vole one would play as a Solo and attempt to win 10 tricks or hands.
With the growing popularity and increasingly high stakes of poker games by the 19th Century the use of gold chips and coins soon fell away to be replaced by clay composite chips. Having custom chips of regular weight and size soon became a status symbol for gaming halls and this allowed several companies to specialise in their manufacture, offering more than 1000 design choices in an array of colours including the very patriotic red, white, and blue. A popular choice with American gamblers.
✓8 Interesting Fact About Casino Chips
The world of casinos and poker chips is filled with facts, fiction, and interesting anecdotes. Here are eight of the most interesting factoids about gambling tokens that we were able to gather from across the internet:
- The highest value poker chip ever minted are the $100,000 casino chips used by the likes of Paris Las Vegas casino. However, some high roller casinos are rumoured to offer VIP players access to casino plaques which are valued at between $1 million and $5 million.
- Casino chips are not simple clay discs, modern chips are an intricate blend of weighting, texture, microchips, and hidden serial numbers which make them harder to forge than most countries fiat currencies.
- Picking up a poker or casino chip off the ground and cashing it in is a crime in most American cities, however, that is not the case in Las Vegas. If you find a chip on the floor, and no clear owner is present, it is yours to cash in, no matter how large a denomination is might be.
- Casino dealers do not actually count the chips they take in. Part of their training is to create stacks of twenty chips, this way they count the number of stacks and not the individual number of chips.
- The rule of thumb when it comes to any casino that closes is that all errant chips will be honoured for 120 days post the closure of the casino. Once 120 days have passed you will have all those lovely checks as a keepsake, but they won’t be redeemable at any casino.
- The Saratoga Clubhouse casino was erroneously hailed as the origin of the modern casino chip by the New York Times. While casino owner Richard Canfield did use regular chips in 1894, long before Las Vegas was established in 1905, the chips he used were ivory and had been in production from the early 1840s.
- Every Vegas casino has its own distinct look, feel and colour palette for its casino chips. While these began as marketing ploys, with casinos looking to outdo one another in terms of the quality of their offering it also played a vital role in player loyalty bringing them back to the casino to spend those chips and in fraud prevention.
- History has it that early patriotic American casinos would often make the blue-chip the highest value chip they offered. Over time this idea of high-value blue chips crossed over into the business world to give us the term ‘Blue Chip Stocks’.
✓When Is a Chip Worthless?
Like all things in life, even the value of a collectable piece of memorabilia like a poker chip once had to play by rules which could make even a €100,000 token completely worthless to the person holding it.
Not many people know this but depending on the type of token being used and the type of game it is being used in the value of the chip is either its full face value or zero. When a set of chips has been designated for use in a cash game the players buy in for a specific amount and receive 100% of that value back in chips. In this case, each chip staked during the game is worth that amount to the player who wins is.
However, in the case of a tournament where the players are playing to win a prize pool the values present on the chips are there for managing the flow of the game and for ultimately determining the players ranking amongst one another. In this example, a €100 buy-in could give you 1500 in chips. Losing all your chips only counts as a loss of €100, not €1500. By the same token winning all the chips does not make you €1500 richer but will net you the lion’s share of the pot.
These tournament or prize pool chips will be different from cash table chips and will not be accepted by the cashier should you try to cash them out either during or after the tournament.
✓Value Is in the Eye of the Collector
A modern affectation that flips the entire value conversation on its head is the rare memorabilia and collectables market. Here are some of the most valuable casino chips and gambling sets that a collector can add to their collection:
- Golden Goose $5 chip (1975) - $75,000
- Lucky Casino $5 chip (1967) - $52,500
- Caesars Palace $25 chip (1969) - $4000
- Silver Slipper $5 chip (unknown) - $1390
- Silver Nugget $5 chip (unknown) - $1250
- Mansion mother of pearl casino chip set (1870) - $1200
- Normandie Club $1 chip (1940s) - $950
- German Royal Flush gaming set (19th Century) - $700
- Wagon Wheel $5 chip (1955) - $500
- Royal Poker Set (1900) - $500
With each casino around the world creating their own decks of cards, casino chips, poker chips and portable gambling sets there are some incredibly rare and now valuable items out there for savvy collectors to gamble on.