Casino & Poker

Why Do We Use Casino Chips?

Casino chips meaning

We’re all familiar with casino chips – they’re an iconic part of any online or offline casino table game, and a mainstay of many pub backrooms and poker fans’ homes. Any card player, casual or pro, will know that irresistible clicking sound of raking a pile of chips towards you off by heart. Phrases like ‘the chips are down’ roll off the tongue, but just where does the idea of the casino chip come from?

As is so often the way, our familiarity with things means we rarely question their origins, so today we’re going to explore everything there is to know about casino chips, covering why we use them, a brief history of their invention, the reasons behind their values and colours, plus how successful counterfeit chips are.

Why Do We Use Casino Chips?

When you enter any land-based casino (and also when you play table games at any online casino) you’ll have to first exchange your cash for tokens which can be used only in that casino. On the whole, these tokens do not retain their value outside the casino walls, although some gambling destinations honour them as currency for use elsewhere, which helps to boost neighbouring businesses and draw more custom to the area.

There are a number of reasons why casino chips are used:

  • Regular size and shape makes them easier to stack than ordinary currency.
  • The regulated weight of each chip which correlates with its value means they can be weighed instead of counted out, saving the casino a lot of time and effort.
  • Speeds up gameplay as it’s much quicker for the croupier to assess how much is being bet.
  • Casinos quickly realised that customers were more relaxed with their spending habits when using casino chips versus real cash.
  • Casino chips need to be cashed in at the cashier’s desk before they’re worth anything, which prevents chancers from running away with their cash should they lose a bet.

Many casino slot machines also favour tokens of one kind of another over coins, as this means there’s no need for cash handling and security services.


Casino chips

A Brief History of Casino Chips

Casino chips, also known as gaming chips or casino tokens, have been around since the 18th Century. Most casino historians cite the counters used in two popular card games at the time as the original chips; these games were Ombre, a four-person Spanish game, and Quadrille, the French variant of Ombre. These original ‘chips’ were allocated by colour to different players so that payments could be settled upon conclusion, while the shape of each piece tended to denote its value.

The game we would now recognise as poker became increasingly popular in the 19th Century, when players used whatever they could get their hands on in the place of chips, such as pieces of gold, ivory, wood, bone, clay and (unsurprisingly) coins. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th Century that uniform clay poker chips began to take off in casinos, and the popular colours began to be established.

Colours & Values

In any casino, the colours of casino chips denote value. This, of course, makes it easier for croupiers and players to quantify a bet – so how are the colours chosen?

Well, it really depends on which casino you’re in! There is no standardised system when it comes to casino token colour, although the classic colours (the ones you would expect to find in most casinos and home poker sets) are red, blue and white. Sometimes green and black chips are used too, and more contemporary chips feature a tricolour design. For large value amounts (over £500) custom colours are often used, such as purple, silver or gold.

The value of casino chips varies from one game to another; for instance, in Blackjack, £2.50 chips tend to be used most frequently, whereas in Baccarat, £20 chips are common.


why we do we use casino chips

Are Fake Chips Possible?

Of course, there are always those sneaky individuals who want to trick the system, and what better way to do so than by attempting to smuggle in your own imitation casino chips and skip the cashier’s desk?

But just how easy is it to get away with forged chips? The answer is not at all. Every land-based casino has its own security system and way of identifying their bespoke chips to ensure players can’t bring tokens from other casinos. It is very rare that a counterfeit chip would make its way into a casino without being noticed. Not only are there high levels of surveillance, but every member of staff is given extensive training on identifying fake chips.

The Most Expensive Casino Chip Ever

Geoffrey Parker, a London-based casino product company, made the most expensive poker set of all time. This one-off set was housed in a genuine alligator skin and 18 carat gold-framed case, and each chip was made of 18 carat gold and set with black diamonds. The price of the set came to more than £5 million – a novelty that you’d probably keep locked in safe rather than play cards with!

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