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How Are Poker Chips Made?

Home » How Are Poker Chips Made?

How Are Poker Chips Made?

Stacks of various colored poker chips on a green felt casino table.

Whether you’re a novice or experienced poker player – or if you just have an inquisitive mind – then you’ve probably had a careful look at poker chips and asked yourself, “How are these made?” 

Although there is the option to play poker online, purists generally enjoy the thrill and suspense of live poker and the opportunity to socialize with like-minded people. Whether you prefer online poker or live poker, you’re bound to have questions about poker chip values, how poker chips are made, the materials used as well as the variations and colors. Perhaps you’re also wondering why casinos use chips in the first place or how they prevent counterfeit chips from making their way onto the floor?

Let’s explore some of these questions in detail below.

Materials used to make poker chips

Old casino chips from back in the day (we’re talking as far back as the late 1800s) were made of bone, wood, ivory and even paper. Modern-day casino chips are a little less exciting and a little more uniform. Fortunately, the various materials used to make poker chips nowadays mean that they can be budget-friendly to produce and acquire. Three of the most common materials used are clay, ceramic and plastic, each of which has its own variations. With clay and ceramic chips being widely known as more expensive, they’re generally preferred by casinos for poker tournaments. Naturally, this doesn’t apply to online poker tournaments.

Known to be less common than those mentioned above, metal chips are the go-to material for those who are looking for unique and one-of-a-kind poker chips sets. Gamblers who play poker on a smaller scale may also opt for poker chips made from plastic, which are cheaper. 

How poker chips are made

A point of interest when it comes to the making of poker chips is that store-bought, or commercially-manufactured, chips are different from those found at casinos. Why, you may ask? To avoid forgery – but more on that later. 

Even though the way in which these chips are manufactured may differ, there are two primary methods used: injection molding and compression molding, which are used for clay and clay composite chips, such as those found at MGM casinos.

Closeup vector of a black poker chip with red and white playing card details isolated against black background.

Compression molding

If you happen to be someone who enjoys playing casino games that involve chips as a currency, such as Texas Hold’em poker, then you may be interested to learn about the compression molding process of making clay Texas Hold’em poker chips. This process involves high pressure and heat, which ultimately allow for the design and shape to be created.

A simplified explanation of this is that the bottom part of the mold cavity needs to be heated, where the base-colored disc is then placed. The top part of the mold cavity is then placed on top of it, with pressure being applied to ensure that the clay mix fits into all crooks and crevices of the mold to take on its pattern. Before the compression, the inlay, which is for the center of the chip, is inserted to form part of the chip.

The middle part of the chip often has some sort of distinct branding or design or, in some cases, the chip’s denomination – which indicates the poker chip values. The edge spots are created when the manufacturer cuts out certain parts of the clay around the disc and then inserts the desired color of clay for completion. 

Injection molding

Known as the relatively easier way of making poker chips, the injection molding process for ceramic chips is less complicated because ceramic chips, unlike clay chips, have a single base color. 

The design of a ceramic chip is transferred – through digital printing – directly onto the single-colored chip. This means that the inlays that form part of the compression molding process aren’t required. The digital printing element of this process also allows for unique and customized chips to be created because there are no limitations to the designs that can be produced through dye sublimation.  

Colors and chip values

Different angles of a black poker chip featured against a white background.

Poker tournaments and cash games differ slightly in the poker chip values and colors that are assigned (with dark green poker chips usually being the most valuable casino chips.) This is due to the fact that there are no set rules in this regard. Players must be mindful of this when playing a game, so as to avoid potentially confusing the chip values and colors. If you’re playing online poker, though, this may be less of a concern because of the nature of online poker tournaments. Below are some of the most common colors and the poker chip values for poker tournaments:

  • Green – 25 chips
  • Black – 100 chips
  • Purple (sometimes substituted by Pink or Blue) – 500 chips
  • Yellow – 1,000 chips
  • Orange – 5,000 chips
  • Dark Green – 25,000 chips

For cash games, the common colors and values are:

  • White or Blue – $1
  • Red – $5
  • Green – $25
  • Black – $100

Another aspect to consider when taking part in poker tournaments is that the denominations can be much higher than in a cash game. This means that the stakes are even higher and you can’t afford to be dismissive of the chip values. Generally, the denominations need to be clarified and emphasized to all players beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings and in some cases, clearly stipulating the denominations on the actual chip is preferred.

Why do casinos use chips?

There are a few reasons why casinos insist that their players use chips instead of money or virtual currency: security, branding and convenience:

  • Security: If an opportunistic criminal was to sit down at a casino poker table where cash was being used in place of chips, it would be easy for them to reach out, grab a wad of cash and bolt for the door. Since you have to convert your chips back into cash when leaving the casino floor, it’s a lot less likely for a thief to get away with another player’s hard-earned money. 
  • Branding: Branding on casino chips gives the casino a leg up on the marketing front. After all, the more a player sees the casino’s name and logo, the higher the chance the particular casino will remain top of mind the next time the player is in the mood to gamble. 
  • Convenience: A poker game would be slowed down significantly if every player had to dig in their wallet and count their cash before placing their bets. Poker chip values are usually clearly marked, making it quick and easy for a player to make decisions at the table. 

How do casinos prevent counterfeit chips?

There are various preventative measures in place, especially concerning high-value chips, which are practically impossible to reproduce. Firstly, real casino chips usually have their own unique weight, UV markings, serial numbers, holographic images and colors, meaning a counterfeiter would have to pay exceptional attention to detail to be able to successfully replicate these distinctive characteristics. On top of that, most casinos fit their chips with embedded RFID tags, allowing them to track each chip’s every move. Any chip without a tag is easy to identify as an “imposter” chip. 

In short, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be able to pull off exchanging a counterfeit chip for real money at a reputable casino. It’s definitely not worth the risk, particularly when you consider the felony charges that come as part and parcel of attempting to replicate casino paraphernalia.  

Always play responsibly and fairly. Don’t forget to brush up on your casino etiquette! It’s important for both in-person and online poker players. 

Play poker online at BetMGM

Whether you’re planning on buying your very own poker chips for home use or if you prefer  playing Texas Hold’em poker online with friends, now you can participate with a slightly more informed view regarding the chips at your disposal! 

On the flip side, if you’re familiar with MGM casinos, then you probably know that playing online poker is fast gaining traction in various parts of the world. Experience the thrill and excitement when you register with BetMGM and enjoy the best of poker and other online casino games, wherever you are. Rest assured that our casino table games, online slots and live dealer games are guaranteed to be just as exciting as playing in person at one of our legendary casinos.

Poker chips are a crucial part of any poker game, whether you’re playing at a casino or at home. Discover how they’re made and what their colors mean.