It Wasn’t Always Chips – Poker Chip History
One of the most iconic sights at any casino has to be the chips, right? A variety of colors and styles, many of them customized to match the decor or logo of the casino you’re in, all coming together to make a beautiful fortress of winnings to show everyone else at the poker table just how well you’re doing.
You might not give it a lot of thought when you’re right in the middle of a game, but the truth behind those colorful clay discs is that they’ve actually got a very long history, closely tied with the history of casinos themselves.
It all starts back in the 1800s, when casinos started to notice that gamers were placing their wagers with any old thing they had of value lying around. Coins, paper bills, raw pieces of precious metals (this was especially common in the Wild West when it seemed like everyone was out looking for gold nuggets), or even gold teeth in some cases.
Around the 1880s, gambling halls (and the gamers therein) started to get a little tired of having to sift through promissory notes and random bric-a-brac to get their winnings from a good poker hand, so a group of enterprising American manufacturers came up with an idea: chips!
Originally made out of pressed clay mixed with sand, chalk, or shellac, these chips were originally designed to be specifically used with poker. Much like today, each chip had a specific value assigned to it that players would exchange whatever gold dust or loose change they had in their pockets, and they would use them to place their wagers.
While they were basically just used in poker games at first (since those were among the most popular games for placing wagers) their use quickly spread to other games such as blackjack, craps, and roulette in gaming halls everywhere. The rise in popularity of casinos led to the idea of specially-branded chips being custom made for each casino, and beginning in 1940 these became the standard for casinos in both America and abroad.
And from there they’ve remained pretty much the same chips as always! Technological advances such as serial numbers and microchips have increased the security (and flexibility) of these chips, and many casinos have offered limited edition chips with special designs or photographs on them after they started realizing how many players consider chips to be something of a souvenir. But other than that, and some changes in how they’re manufactured (despite what your friend who always hosts poker games at their house might tell you, chips aren’t completely clay anymore), poker chips are still the winning standard for any casino that offers table games – and doesn’t want their players to bet with random gold nuggets that they brought with them!
If all this talk of chips has got you in the mood to win your own, come on down to Greektown and try your luck!