Why do we play poker with poker chips?

As a poker player, we know that there is nothing more satisfying than coming home with a massive bag of poker chips after a game. There is no better feeling than just stacking up a tall poker chip skyscraper to brag and intimidate the rest of the table in the game. The bigger the stack, the larger you are, as a force to be reckoned with, on the table.

But did you know that playing with poker chips is a very recent phenomenon?

Nobody used poker chips at all when they started out. In fact, we the poker equipment we use today are vastly different from those our poker crazy ancestors played with.

But why need any other object to play with when you can just play with hard cash/ coins?

The explanation for this is really simple.

Now when you play with currency, you are acutely aware, at all times, that you’re playing with the objects that you use to buy your daily groceries, fund your business or your studies with, etc. In such a scenario, you’re not really able to relax and play the game for what it is, a game.

One reason was that since the currency has been replaced by another object, the player is less aware of how much money is lost or gained and can mentally ‘afford’ to play more.

Secondly, the new objects could also be sold as gaming equipment separately. One could get creative with it. The better looking the play money, the more profit it earns for the gaming parlour. Learn all about how to select the perfect poker chipset, here

So, as a result, when you go back to the history of poker, you see that the players used all kinds of thing like gold nuggets, ivory, bones, clay, stones etc, amongst the more popular ones .

However, all these items could be forged and there was no count of how much a player was already bringing in to the game because they all looked so similar and were easily available.

Each house then began branding it’s poker clay chips with its own symbols but that process could not last too long as well.

In the 1880s, when companies saw how popular the game had gotten, the first models of the now used clay chips were born.

But how do we know these can’t be forged? On the surface, poker chips and casino tokens look pretty simple. It's a circular disc with a nice design on it. Figure out what the design is, replicate the disc, and you're good to go, right?

Over the years, the process of creating ‘un-forge-able’ clay chips has been cleaned out and today, it is actually harder to forge a poker clay chip than to forge currency!

Each casino chip is designed to have a certain weight, texture, and feel. Some even have microchips inside them! If you want to create a duplicate, you will have to deal with serial numbers, and tons of other stuff that you have probably never thought of.

The casino industry knows that there's a huge market for their in-house currency, so they've taken all sorts of security measures to make sure that the chips can't be forged. And if they can be forged, it's easy for a cashier to spot a fake. Know how poker chips are made , here .

So what’s the future?

There actually is a lot of debate with regards to poker chips and their relevance, Especially since there is such a massive boom in the online poker industry. Poker players over the past 30 years have resolutely moved to online poker.

However, in casinos, the idea has still not been embraced completely. Some claim that poker players, however modern they may seem, like physically seeing what’s in front of them and the bragging rights to accumulating the largest stack has always been a major draw.

But then that is also the debate between playing online poker vs playing LIVE poker. With the rise and rise of online poker, poker companies have realised it is cheaper and more profitable to go online. (Ofcourse). To retain the element of fun that poker chips bring to the game, online poker companies have developed the Dual Chips System ( 9stacks has the bragging rights of introducing this one to the Indian poker industry, so much so that this system has now being regarded as the gold standard in calculating tax for online poker winnings.

Check it out here.

We’re doing a series on how to select the best poker chips, where to buy them from today, etc. Keep following us to stay updated on the latest gyan!


Team 9stacks



Saptarshi 'Pixie' Basak

An avid poker enthusiast, a book bug, highly interested in International Politics and Affairs, he loves the variations in poker, his blogs bring the same variation in writing style and topics.