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 are the inexpensive plastic kind used by the general public and the professional versions in casinos. The latter are composed of a hard, injection molded resin that makes them look and weigh very much like the original type of clay composite chips. Those and the clay composites tend to be made of formulas that are closely guarded by individual casinos, and are often embedded with security measures like radio frequency ID tags or ultraviolet markings. You may buy a plastic set of chips to use at home, but the most durable, secure and detailed versions will always be the casino poker chips.

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