Casino Chips: What They Are and Why They Are Used

In this article, we will discuss casino chips. Many people appreciate these chips for their colours and because they become a handy distraction during games. If you are a poker fan, you might have noticed players’ movements with poker chips and their sound on the table. However, not everyone knows how they work, why they were created, and how they spread. Knowing this information won’t necessarily help you win more, but it’s interesting and often curious.

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    What Are Casino Chips?

    what is casino chips

    Casino or “chips” are small discs used at the green table instead of cash. Even if you usually play in a live online casino, these chips are also used to indicate the amount you want to bet. Typically, they are made of compressed plastic and come in different colours, often with the value indicated on both faces. High-end casino chips are not made of plastic but metal, distinguished by their superior quality and decorations. Collectors know that some sets of these tokens can be expensive and even collectable. For casual games among friends, a modest set will suffice.

    Why Are Casino Chips Used?

    Have you ever wondered why casino chips are used in physical and virtual casinos? There are numerous reasons for this, and various aspects are covered. Before delving into the details, it’s important to clarify one key point: Poker chips in games like Texas Hold’em do not indicate money but a general value. For example, there might be a $10 chip in regular casinos. In sports poker, no money is involved; the buy-in is paid before the game to get a certain number of chips. These chips don’t represent currency but a value of 10, 20, or 100.

    Reasons for Their Creation

    • Avoiding Cash at the Table: In land-based casinos, players exchange money for chips at the cashier. This allows players who use different currencies to play together since there are no banknotes on the table, only chips.
    • Security: Using chips ensures the money is stored safely, reducing the theft risk. This reassures players that they can always cash out their winnings or unused funds.

    Psychological Aspect

    Another crucial reason for using casino chips is psychological. Casinos have realised that exchanging real money for chips makes players perceive that the money is already spent, giving it less importance. For instance, if a person exchanges €100 for chips and loses €90, they are unlikely to return to the cashier to change the remaining €10. This money is considered already spent, encouraging players to bet all their chips without much thought. This principle is also applied in online casinos, where deposited money is often considered spent even though it could be withdrawn.

    The History of Poker Chips

    the history of poker chips

    Primitive Gambling

    Historians believe that the use of substitutes for valuable items dates back to primitive humans. Ancient archaeological sites in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East have yielded small, differently coloured stones, possibly used for counting and bone dice. These ancient items could have been used in early forms of gambling games. Gambling was far more common in various cultures throughout history than non-gambling activities. Modern gambling games have their roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, where people bet with gold and silver coins as early as the fifth century BC.

    From Asia to Europe to the United States

    The spread of card games began in Asia in the seventh century AD, changing the face of gambling as it grew throughout Europe from the second millennium onward. Gambling gained significant popularity during the Renaissance, with players using virtually anything to represent bets of particular value. The French game Quadrille, a precursor to poker, included sets with coloured and shaped elements that allowed players to settle scores and make payments at the end of a game. Before the chips, players used various valuable items for their bets.
    By the mid-to-late 19th century, gold pieces were replaced with wood, ivory, bone, paper, and clay chips. Gambling houses and casinos realized that standard round chips worked best, and as poker spread through American casinos and European establishments adopted chips, they became the norm.

    Collecting Poker Chips

    In the 20th and 21st centuries, collecting poker chips became a popular hobby among gambling and casino enthusiasts. The Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club holds an annual summer convention in Las Vegas, attracting buyers and sellers searching for these colourful gambling discs and other collectables. Some rare chips can be worth tens of thousands of euros. For example, a $5 chip from the Golden Goose in Las Vegas sold for 75,000 euros in 2014.

    The Origins of Casino Chips and Their Use in Table Games

    Universal Exchange Tokens in Gambling Halls

    Casino chips were created to replace real money and standardise betting units across all card and table games. Today, they are used worldwide and are often branded with various casino logos for promotional purposes.

    From the First Chips to Virtual Tokens

    While casino chips seem to have always been a part of gambling halls, their first use in gambling is relatively recent, dating back approximately 200 years. Before their invention, gamblers would bet with various items: real money, jewellery, stones, and different valued trinkets. This situation led to several problems, as assessing the value of the items being wagered took a lot of work. To address this, small, thick plates resembling real coins were introduced. Each had a predetermined value indicated by colour or an embossed figure, thus giving rise to casino chips.
    Today, their function also includes limiting the flow of real money in gambling halls to protect players, making them indispensable for gambling. Casino chips are also very useful in online roulette and other virtual casino tables, allowing players to place their bets securely.

    Types of Chips and Materials Used

    Different types of chips can be categorised based on their use and the materials they are made from. Each casino offers its branded line with an embossed logo, making them very attractive to collectors.

    • Materials: The first chips were bone or ivory. Later, clay was used, followed by plastic and ceramic. Today, environmental awareness has led to producing biodegradable and eco-friendly tokens.
    • Chips vs. Tokens: Chips are used in real casinos to replace money, while tokens are used in sports poker, where all players have the same stack after paying a fixed tournament entry fee. The two terms are often used interchangeably.


    Casino chips have a rich history and play a crucial role in both physical and online gambling. From their origins as a practical solution for standardising bets to their current status as collectable items and eco-friendly tokens, chips are an integral part of the gambling industry. Whether in a traditional casino or an online platform, chips ensure a secure and standardised gaming environment for all players.

    Brian Morin Casino Reviewer, Content Editor
    Brian works in iGaming since 2018 reviewing online casinos, writing guides, and trying new games and strategies. His rich experience in gambling helps the Casinosters team provide you with honest reviews, profitable bonuses, and rewards. Brian is a big fan of video slots and traditional casino card games.
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