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Buying Poker Chips

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How to Win at the Game of Poker Chip Buying

When it comes to Poker Chips, it can be an arduous task to know what you are looking at with so many styles and quality, often times being misrepresented, on the market. This guide will help you walk through what you are looking for from a quality and price perspective, give you an idea what is out there and help you find exactly the right poker chip for you.

First, determine a few factors:

  1.  How many chips do you need? If you are looking for a home playing set of a typical game of 5 - 7 people, you'll want at least 300 chips with a correct split of colors/denominations to match your game play. For example, do you play for 5 dollars? Do you play for 100 dollars? This will help you to understand how many chips you may need to represent that. A safe bet, no pun intended, is 500 chips. Again, pay attention to how many you get of each color/denom. Usually you'll want at least 4 colors/denoms, the highest valued color/denom being less chips. (ie - if you want a chip worth $100, or a $1 chip for nickel and dime lower valued games, get less as you'll need less to give to your players) 750 or 1000 chips are good for a tournament or to just be sure you'll always have enough as time goes on.
  2.  How much do you want to spend? For comparison sake, let's look at a set of 500 chips. The prices range anywhere from $30 all the way up to $10,000. Determine how much you want to spend and that will determine what type of poker chip you'll be purchasing. We'll discuss the different types of chips later.
  3. Are you looking for simply a playing set or a collectible set? This will definitely be driven by price, or drive your price, and move you in one direction or another. A collectible set may gain value over time and will most likely be something from a retired casino. A simple playing set can be acquired from anywhere.

Now that you've determined those factors, let's take a look at the different types of chips and the quality and price that comes with what you buy.

Types of Chips

There are several categories of chips with several more sub-categories. Below are the main types.

True Clay 

These chips are not truly real clay, since real clay is too fragile to use, but are the highest end quality of a real clay (composite) chip you can buy. They have a chalky feel at times and are used by casinos such as Mandalay Bay. They are typically made by a company called Paulson or an offshoot of Paulson called the BlueChip Company. They are also made by several other companies, such as Nevada Jacks and TR King, for fantasy sets. They typically have a mold that is their signature. Paulson might say Paulson or feature a top hate and cane. BlueChip most often has a torch mold (looks like a shell). They will have true edge spots that run from one side of the chip to the other.  These chips are the highest quality clay. Most companies make fantasy sets that are for home use and are almost exactly the quality of the casinos. The weight is normally 9 - 10 grams which is what the weight is in the casino.

Cost - Cost for a fantasy set runs around 70 cents a chip to just over a dollar. For retired casino chips, which you will often find, the price jumps from one dollar a chip to upwards of two hundred dollars a chip depending on the rarity of the chip or casino. These chips will most likely increase in value over time.

 Paulson True Clay home/fantasy set Pharaohs

 

Ceramic

 These chips are made from a cermaic slug. They are often textured as the process allows for this and gives it a unique feel some players like. An example of these would be the Desert Sands chips by Nevada Jack. A higher end, more oftenly used cermaic chip is made by Chipco. These have a smooth surface feel, often will have a dimple on the edge from where the chip was made and not have overly beautiful edge spots. Many casinos use these chips. These can also be customized by several companies. The weight is around 9 to 10 grams and the chip itself is highly durable. Also, the edge spots on these chips do not usually line up. These are not as high a quality as true clay chips but many expired casino sets can be found and many casinos still use these as they are a slightly cheaper alternative.

Cost - Cost for a fantasy set of ceramic chips ranges from 40 cents to around a dollar chip. A used casino set can range anywhere from 75 cents to 2 dollars a chip depending on rarity.

 Nevada Jacks Desert Sands  Chipco Egyptians Home Set

 

Bud Jones style

 This is named after the Bud Jones company which first produced these chips. They are a softer, plastic, rubbery feel, sometimes with a coin in the middle. The Bud Jones company only made these style chips for real casinos but there are several makers of somewhat cheaper, less quality feeling home sets on the market. The Matsui Company and the makers of the WSOP chip set also makes a Bud Jones style fantasy chip that, depending on the quality, may have a slicker feeling to it. Real Bud Jones chips are currently used by such casinos as Harrah's. You will find some sets of retired casinos but expect to pay top dollar for these as they are high end and comparable to the true clay yet with a completely different feel. Very durable.

updated 10/10/06 (just found out by experience that there are different levels of quality chips that bud jones makes so sample set is always the answer to taking out some of the guess work on your decision - still my favorite chip with a thud!)

Cost - Cost for a fantasy set ranges from 15 cents a chip to a dollar a chip depending on quality. A real Bud Jones retired set will range from a dollar a chip upwards of 200 dollars a chip. You'll know real Bud Jones chips when you find them by the cost.

 Bud Jones Coin Centered Grand Casino

Plastic

These chips are often labeled as Real Clay or Clay Composite. They are most typically not and if that is their true construction, they are very little clay and mostly plastic. Of course, the sets range from your exceptionally cheap plastic chips you can buy at the grocery store to a more weighted, plastic 11.5 gram, 12 gram or more because of an inserted metal slug. These are your typical home playing sets often labeled as dice chips or royal flush. There are a million of these sets out there and you can get them pretty cheap and frankly, if you just want to play cards, they are just as goood as anything else! Just don't be fooled - they are NOT clay and will have a plasticy feel to them and a tingy sound when thrown in the pot due to the metal insert which gives them their weight.

Cost- Cost on these sets is about as low as you can imagine. Watch the shipping but many sets of 500 go for a dollar but then you'll be tacked on a 20 or 30 dollar shipping fee. Most include a case so choose your design and price and go for whatever you need!

  Plastic Deck of Cards  Plastic Suits

Miscellaneous

There are many other types of chips that fall into these categories in some form or fashion.                  Coin centered chips- Again, some made by Bud Jones which will be obvious because of their price. Some are very cheap and can be purchased in large sets for little money but don't be surprised if the coins pop out on a few. They are usually heavier - twelve to eighteen grams - so if you like that go for it. Nexgen or Real Clay Alternative chips - These chips have a clay feel but aren't a true clay as much as the Paulson's or BlueChips. They have good edge spots, a nicer feel than the plastic composite and can sometimes be customized. They have a less hefty price tag than the clays. They are typically around 10 - 13 grams and can be purchased on a slightly more thrifty budget. Metal Chips - These are usually a Brass Chip in the style of Tangiers (based off the movie Casino) or WSOP. They are heavy, 16 - 18 gram chips and go for around 50 to 75 cents a chip.

Brass Poker Chips Tangiers  Coin Center World Series of Poker

 

Some last helpful hints...

If you are looking for a quality set of used or retired casino chips, take your time. They come and go often and if you are keen and know what you are looking for, you'll find a set that is perfect for you and with just a little patience - they'll be yours. Good key word searches to use are Bud Jones, Chipco and Paulson. Be sure to search the descriptions and not just the titles! Also, don't be afraid to buy a set of sample chips to see and feel what you might be getting. There are many chips on the market and what you think you might want, might not really be! So spend a couple bucks and get some samples. And remember, the bigger the set, the cheaper the price. When purchasing a fantasy set, pay attention to the denomination amounts printed on the chip's label. If you like big stakes, stick with larger denominations or just keep in mind how they will translate to a lower staked game (ie - a $500 chip is equal to 5 cents). Also, non-denominational chips are available and will come in various colors.

 Last but not least, buying Poker Chips can be fun - and frustrating. So stick to your price, your quantity (make sure you get enough!) and shop around to get the best deal paying close attention to the shipping charges. Have fun with it and then shuffle up and deal!

 

(pictures above used with the express written permission of pokerchipreviews.com, which has much greater detail on poker chips than I have written above - a highly recomended site for information)                       

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Edge Spots - The spots around the edges usually different in color than the main part of the chip.

Dimple - The small mark left on the edge of some cermaic or plastic chips. It can be larger or barely noticeable.

Insert - A metal insert that gives weight to most of the cheaper chips.

Fantasy Set - This is a set of chips made for home play - lacks most security features of a casino chip. Fantasy sets come in many different styles and are some times customizable.

Mold - Most clay chips or alternative clay chips will have a certain mold that is on the face of the chip near the edges and may say the names of the manufacturer or be a symbol such as a top hat and cane, dice, or torch/shell.

Denomination - The amount printed on the chip which gives it the value or the color of a blank chip which you can designate for any amount when playing.

Grams - the weight associated with a certain chip. Chips range from 6 grams to 18 grams.

Case - Most chip sets will come with a carrying case usually of aluminum, leather or different price ranges of wood.

 
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