Friday, December 16, 2005

Review: Poker Chips

With the Christmas season is upon us, there is little doubt that this year’s hottest gifts will be poker related. That said, I happen to have put a little time into researching one of the most popular poker-related purchases, the poker chip. There are 3 major types of poker chips: clay, composite and plastic. The weight of poker chips can range anywhere from 4 grams to 14.5 grams. They also come in thousands of styles and colors. So, with all these chips to choose from, which chips are the best?

We will start by discussing plastic chips. The plastic poker chip is generally the cheapest. I actually went to my local dollar store and picked up 100 chips for .99. The great thing about these chips is not only their price, but their ability to be replaced. It doesn’t really matter if you lose one, break one, throw one out the window or whatever, because you simply drive down to your local dollar store and buy some more. These chips also tend to be the lightest chips, averaging around 4 grams. They are generally a solid color with no patterns or chip values. Most brands come in red, white, blue and sometimes green and black. The best plastic poker chips I’ve seen are Bicycle chips. These chips generally run a few cents each and you can get the Bicycle chips for around $20 per 100-chips.

Second you have the composite chip. Now, while this type of chip is probably best for 90% of all players, there are still some things to watch out for. Most composite chips are made from a clay/plastic combination and often have a metal disk in the center (not seen to the naked eye) in order to add weight and give a chip that “casino feel”. These composite chips can range from a cheap plastic-like feel (when more plastic than clay is used in the mixture) to an almost casino-like feel (when more clay is added to the mixture). Of course, the more clay used in the making of the chip, the more expensive the chips. A great example and probably the best value of these chips are the “dice” or “suited” versions. These are probably chips you’ve seen in a home game. They usually come is sets of white, blue, red, green and black and they are ringed along the outside edge with either dice or different suits, such as spades, clubs, etc. These chips come in several weights ranging from 8 grams to 14.5 grams. The average casino chip weighs 10-grams. However, because of the metal insert, I prefer the 11.5 gram-version of the composite chip, the added weight really gives a nice sound when you splash the pot. Replacing these chips is a task, because its hard to find single chips. Even to buy a whole new set isn’t that expensive, but if you have the option, buy 600 or 700 chips instead of the standard 500, you’ll be happy you did when you start losing them. Because of the different composite mixtures, these chips can be priced anywhere from $50 to $150 for a set of 500. Ebay is a place to find some GREAT deals on these chips.

Saving the best for last, we have the all clay poker chip. Clay poker chips are, to borrow a phrase, the Cadillac of poker chips. This is what almost all casinos use and they just have a great feel. They are almost always 10grams (the official casino weight). The one downside of these chips is the price. For 500 clay poker chips, I paid almost $600. Another downside is the replacement issue. These chips usually come with custom edge spots (colored stripes that are painted on the chips). Even if you are able to find single chips, finding chips with similar edge spots is difficult. Again, buy a few more chips than you actually need, you’ll be thankful once you start losing them. The best, readily available clay poker chip is called the “horsehead” chip. This chip is generally around $1 per chip (you can see how this might get expensive). But once you play with these chips, you will never want anything else to touch your felt. Now, if you have money and want to get the absolute best, search for something called the “Tophat & Cane” chip. Its made by a company called Paulsen. Paulson only sells these chips to casinos in lots of 100,000 chips or more! They require a casino license in order to make a purchase. The result? These chips are extremely rare and extremely high quality to find in small sets. These chips weight 10 grams. Ive seen these chips sell for upwards of $3 a chip. Unfortunately, you need to take very good care of them, because if you manage to find a complete set, they are almost impossible to replace. I have a set of these chips and they are so great, the feel and the sound are so awesome, I sleep with them under my pillow. Ok, not really, but you get the point. So why do these chips come so close to the actual casino chips? That’s easy, these two chips ARE actual casino chips. Horsehead and Tophat & Cane chips are both used in hundreds, if not thousands of actual casinos across the worlds. Once you hold these chips in your hand, once you splash them into a pot, you’ll realize just what makes these chips so special. The look, the feel, the sound…nothing else even comes close. They are truly amazing.

Well, now that you know all about these chips and you are able to make a decision, how many chips are you going to buy? And what colors? For your average home game, a 500-piece set should do just fine. I recommend 250-white chips (normally $1 chips), 150-red chips (normally $5 chips) and 100-green chips (normally $25 chips). If you opt for the 750-piece or the 1000-piece sets, I would keep the ratios the same, but feel free to add some black chips (normally $100 chips) or some purple (normally $500 chips) into the mix. Ok, you’ve decided on which chips to buy, you’ve decided which colors, you’ve decided how many…now where do you get them? I will give you two resources, both of which I have used personally to buy chips. Ebay is just a great resource for buying poker chips. Often it costs more to ship the chips than it does to actually BUY the chips, because they are so cheap. Also, Kardwell is a great resource for these chips. Their website is and I have no affiliation with them, nor do I benefit from you going there. I simply recommend them as an informed consumer. Their customer service and chip selection is second to none. They even have the Paulson chips (or at least they did a year ago when I bought mine).

I hope this article was helpful and I hope it allows you to make an informed decision and make someone’s Christmas very merry, even if it’s your own J


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7:09 AM  

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