The introduction of poker chips to the gambling scene did not take place until the 1880s. Poker players would routinely wager all sorts of valuable items such as nuggets of gold, jewellery, gold and silver coins, promissory notes, and the like. Saloons hosting Texas Hold'em games in the old country attempted to standardize betting tokens used in poker games with their own substitutes. Unfortunately, forgers never missed a trick and that's when branding of valuable poker chips started taking place at various poker rooms and bars. Around the time of the Second Industrial Revolution, American industries went into overdrive, and it is at this juncture that poker chips started rolling out, en masse. 

cave men playing

Many different types of poker chips were created over the years, including clay poker chips, ceramic poker chips, and composite poker chips. These transformative changes revolutionized poker forever, setting benchmarks of excellence for the poker industry which remain to this day. In the days of yore, poker chips were constructed from different substances, including ivory poker chips (1870 – 1910). Many of the gambling supply establishments of the time preferred ivory chips of all sorts, including intricately-carved designs, and plain ivory chips. The more elaborate the design, lettering, and artwork, the higher the value of the poker chip. Nowadays, ivory is persona non grata, but these chipsets can sell for thousands of dollars.

Technical Aspects of Poker Chips

Poker chips are often mischaracterized as synonymous with casino grade chips. One should pay careful attention to the practical applications of these chips, to ascertain their class ranking. For the most part, Poker Chips are widely regarded as the lower-cost option, intended for home games. Casino grade chips by contrast are regarded as the benchmark of excellence, for use in commercial casinos. As a rule, casino grade chips slot into two distinct categories – clay chips or clay composite chips. These chips typically weigh 9 g – 10.5 g. Of all the different types of chips available to players nowadays – ivory poker chips, plastic poker chips, ceramic poker chips, and clay poker chips – it is clay poker chips that are highly regarded among poker players.

The world's premier casinos and poker rooms utilize compression-molded clay chips as the standard. It takes tremendous time, effort, and resources to construct these poker chips, adding significantly to their costs of production. The technical specs of poker chips depend upon the specific substance used to construct these chips. 13 g Casino Chips, 11.5 g Dice Chips, Clay Composite Chips, and Full Clay Poker chips are readily available in the marketplace. The world's premier manufacturers of clay composite chips are Kardwell and Chipco, based in the United States. Kardwell poker chips are clay-like, while the Chipco poker chips are ceramic in nature, with the option of printing high quality graphics on the face of the chips.

Poker Chips for Home Games 

In New Jersey, and other US states, production-line poker chips are readily available to players at home. These are an affordable alternative to the Casino Grade Chips used at Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos. Customized composite poker chips are also available to players, and most of these are mass produced in China. As a low-cost alternative to ceramic and clay poker chips, these custom poker chips certainly resonate with home-based players and venues hosting charity or celebrity poker tournaments. These poker chips come in a variety of colors, and feature a metal slug (core) covered with a PVC-injected plastic mold. These poker chips are the heaviest of all, weighing in at 11.5 g-13 g per unit. Players incorrectly attribute the heavier weighs to a better-quality poker chip, but the mass-produced nature of these chips makes them easy to replicate.

Poker players at home invariably purchase the composite chip made in China. It is much more accessible online, cost-effective, and readily available to casual poker players. It is entirely possible to purchase an inexpensive poker set online, or from a land-based retailer. The casino grade chips are typically limited in avalability, but the composite chips made in China can be purchased on Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and scores of game retailers online and at bricks and mortar locations everywhere. Casual poker players by default pick the PVC composite poker chips. Clay composite chips and clay chips are typically 300% – 400% more expensive than the chips made in China, but they have much greater longevity and they are perceived as an investment, or at the very least a valuable poker keepsake.

What Denominations are Poker Chips Available in?

As a rule, home-based poker games typically feature lower denomination poker chips than the high-roller suites of land-based poker rooms. In Las Vegas, the high-end poker chip denominations can be as high as $100,000, at Paris Las Vegas. However, the NGC (Nevada Gaming Commission) has ruled that land-based casinos in the Silver State can produce any denomination (value) poker chip they desire. That means it is not inconceivable to have casino plaques valued at $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $4 million, or even $5 million +. This, on the proviso that the land-based casino has the funds to back up these markers. Several years ago, a luxury cruise liner introduced a casino chip set valued at $7.5 million. This particular chipset featured individually customized chips with jewel-encrusted designs, replete with an alligator-skin casing. There were some 22,000+ gemstones in jewels encrusted in this poker chip set, totaling 1000 carats. For all intents and purposes, most poker sets will vary widely in price, including the following options:

•    Da Vinci 50 Clay Composite Dice Striped Poker Set (11.5 g poker chips in 11 colors) – $9.99
•    Gift Express Lot up 300, plastic poker chip set – $12.49
•    Fat Cat 11.5 g Texas Hold'em Clay Poker Set with Aluminum Case, 500 Striped Dice Chips – $39.99
•    MRC 1000 piece Laurel Crown Ceramic Poker Set with Aluminum case custom-built – $429.99
•    Nile Club Ceramic Clay 10 g 1000 Chip Poker Set with Aluminum Case – $479.99
•    Nevada Jacks Ceramic 10 g Bulk Poker Chip Set – $869.99
•    LLSZ 500 poker chip set 11.5 g Diced Style Clay Casino Poker Chips with Aluminum Case – $905.05

Custom Poker Chips

Many poker chip set manufacturers allow clients to customize their own poker chips. Personalization of poker chips includes a unique combination of colors, designs, and logos. A wide variety of options is available to poker players who prefer custom poker chips. Poker games and tournaments typically cater to a specific niche group of players. Custom poker chips are designed to reflect this by way of unique chips for specific events. The traditional poker chip colors are black, white, red, green, and blue. However, custom poker chips come in all sorts of colors, with many that most people have never heard of before, including: mauve, cyan, vermillion, fallow, gamboge, sarcoline, Mikado, fulvous, and wenge too. 

Custom poker chips also come in specified denominations. Not every poker game host wants $1, $5, $10, $50, or $100 poker chips. Chips can be arranged according to different denominations, each of which has a specific color, design, or insignia. Once you delve into the realm of personalized poker chips, there are no limits, excuse the pun. Custom poker chips routinely come in poker sets of 300 – 500 chips for small cash games. Naturally, the largest number of chips will be the low-denomination chips, and the smallest number of poker chips in each poker set will be the higher-denomination poker chips. 


Most of the time, low-value poker chips are white, and high-value poker chips are the limited colors such as gold, platinum, black, et cetera. All across Europe and the United States, different colored plaques represent the different stratums in poker gaming circles. The higher the value, the fewer the number of poker chips in play. It easy to spot these high-value custom poker chips, since there are very few of them on the table. Customization can be tailored to the specific poker event, in many different ways including: the name of the poker tournament (WSOP Main Event), the value of the poker tournament ($100K Challenge), or as dedication to a legendary player (Negreanu Stake Out), et al. 

Rack’em and stack’em at 888poker, where your chips always count! 

About the Author

With digital marketing strategies in his blood, Louis Wheeler has traveled around the world, exploring gambling cultures and gaining experience in casino games from 2003. If you are in a casino anywhere around the planet, you may find him right next to you, playing blackjack, roulette or texas hold'em. 

Related Content
Best Martial Artists Who Play Poker

15 Best Martial Artists Who Play Poker

The Differences Between Playing Poker Online vs Bricks & Mortar Card Rooms

The Differences Between Playing Poker Online vs Bricks & Mortar Card Rooms 

Who Are the Richest US Poker Players?

The Richest US Poker Players Revealed

Poker Cruise

Poker Cruise

Best Poker Party Ideas

How To Host A Poker Party?