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What is a poker chip made of?

The draw of poker is unparalleled and every aspect of the game has evolved over the ages to suit the comfort of the discerning poker player.

Playing with actual currency after a while became quite stressful and there was felt a growing need to replace it with tokens. Check out the history of poker chips, here. These early games had no standardization. Poker houses, in an attempt to bring standardization to their games began to create their own standardized substitute.

Soon, upscale poker rooms and saloon back in the 1800s began to have specially made tokens made of ivory or bone while others made do with gambling tokens made of paper and shellac.

One of the downsides to these proto-chips was that they were easy to forge so the poker rooms started to put markings, or brands, on these early chips while they searched for a more secure substitute. Pure clay chips began to be made. But they too, were also not durable (especially when a player on tilt would have the tendency to throw anything in sight, often his poker chips ). Imagine the losses the poker game room would have to incur in such cases!

Things changed after the Second World War. you began to see other things mixed in with the clay to make the chips more durable. This was when earthen materials such as sand, chalk and clay material similar to the material found in cat litter, was used. In the mid-1980’s the Ceramic casino chip was introduced as an alternative to the traditional clay composite casino chip. These Ceramic chips have become popular because they allow lettering and graphics on the entire surface of the chip instead of just on the inlay.  


Because the poker chip industry has been so burnt by the regular forging of poker chip materials, the process to make modern clay composite poker chips is a closely guarded trade secret. Every manufacturer now keeps the unique recipe, under wraps. After all, one poker chip is equivalent to the currency it was bought with.

The most common method of creating a poker chip involves using an injection molding device.

ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). This is a hard compressed plastic material and can  last a lifetime if handled with proper care. A metal insert to adjust the weight of the chip is added to it. Chips made out of ABS usually make a clinking noise when they hit each other. There is another plastic that is used to make poker chips but then , that does not make the noise and can be quite tacky. Know how to differentiate between a good poker chip and a bad poker chip, here.

The Technical Aspect of The Story

The plastic is heated to a molten state and is then forced into the mols designed by tool makers who frame the intricate details of the poker chip customised to the manufacturer’s orders.  

The edge spots on the chips are also made of the same material as the rest of the chip.

To achieve the effect of the edge spot that area of clay is removed and then it is replaced with clay of a different color before the clay blocks are cut into the shape of chips. Any printed graphic or inlay will be put on at this time and covered with a thin layer of plastic; each chip then receives a mid-inlay, if desired, and the chip is then placed in a special compression mold that bakes and compresses the chip into the proper size, weight and permanently adhering the inlay to the chip.

In less than 150 years, poker chips have evolved from the crude, easily forged chip made of makeshift materials, to the modern chips we know today. The modern day poker chip boasts of enhanced security features such as radio frequency identification (RFID), UV markings, only visible under a black light and other security features.

Do you know how to buy a poker chip set? Make sure you read this, before you buy one!

Want more poker trivia? Subscribe to the 9stacks blog and sign up to play online poker every day here.

Cheers,

Team 9stacks

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