When you play your poker games at home with family or friends, it’s almost certain that you’re using poker chips that are very different from the ones seen in North American or European casinos. Home chips are mass-produced plastic versions, and are fairly inexpensive. They are basically imitations of the original clay pokerchips developed for casinos from the 1880s to the 1930s.
The clay chip sets that have been traditionally used, and which are still used in some places even now, weren’t made entirely of clay except at the very beginning. It was soon discovered that the clay-only chips broke too easily, so the makers began creating them from composites, of which the most common one now is a clay-ceramic mix. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find this type of chip in a home set, however; as these would most usually be casino poker chips.
An interesting development more recently has been another type of composite poker chips; this time made with cores of metal called “slugs,” and then covered with an injection-molded plastic. These have a similar look and feel, not to mention weight, to chips found in a casino. With the right stamping of pattern, color and monetary denomination, one of these chips is almost indistinguishable from a more traditional casino chip. There are even some chips made almost completely of metal, which can be anodized to be certain colors, that is, coated with a protective colored film by chemical or electronic means. But these are not yet common. Where they are used, however, is in a casino setting rather than in a home game, because they tend to be expensive.
The two most common poker chips are the inexpensive plastic kind used by the general public and the professional versions in casinos. The latter are composed of a hard, injection molded resin that makes them look and weigh very much like the original type of clay composite chips. Those and the clay composites tend to be made of formulas that are closely guarded by individual casinos, and are often embedded with security measures like radio frequency ID tags or ultraviolet markings. You may buy a plastic set of chips to use at home, but the most durable, secure and detailed versions will always be the casino poker chips.
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