The poker chip has an old and interesting history, almost as interesting as the game itself. It wasn’t an original component of poker, but as the game became very popular and began to spread, the chips were created more out of necessity than anything else, sometime around the 1870s or 1880s. What prompted the introduction of the original clay chips was the need to standardize the way players placed bets and calculated their winnings. There was too much uncertainty when they were able to use random valuables like coins or gold flakes.
However, it wasn’t simply a matter of every player or gambling establishment changing to a uniform type of poker chips right away. Even though chips eventually became the recognized medium of exchange in poker games, they came in literally hundreds of designs and very different materials. Some might have been made of bone or ivory, for example. A player’s custom poker chips could have been as diverse and unique as the player they belonged to. Yet with nothing being uniform, players could sneak their own chips into a game and end up wealthier at the end than their play might have warranted.
This diversity, though, ironically became the way gambling establishments used to make the game more honest. Establishments eventually created their own custom poker chips designs, which meant every person in a game played with a specific set that couldn’t be confused with anyone else’s. This placed all players on a level field. The poker chip began to be made in a standard way, using clay with ceramic materials, molded in high pressure machines. Complex patterns were designed for the edges and graphics for the center to prevent counterfeiting. These sets of clay chips became the norm, sometime between the 1880s and the 1930s.
Since then, some of the materials have gotten less expensive, especially as the poker chips set was introduced into homes for more casual, friendly games with lower stakes. Those chips tended to be made of plastic, and remain so, made with a very uniform design. However, the chips used in casinos are generally made mostly of clay and ceramics, or at least a sturdy injection-molded plastic. From miscellaneous coins and gold nuggets to the quality chips in casinos, the poker chip has come a long way in the last 150 years.
Beth Kaminski is the co-author of Curing Your Anxiety And Panic Attacks which detailed help for panic attacks as well as tips on the various panic disorder medications available at www.anxietydisordercure.com.