colors either used as very high values such as $500, $1,000, $5,000, and so forth, common in tournaments, or as special “fractional” values such as $2 or $0.50, common in low-limit games.
In casinos, uniform chip colors and sizes are sometimes specified by the local gaming control board for consistency. For example, regulations in specify similar uniform colors. Notably, Nevada has no regulations regarding color, which is why Nevada casinos may use white, blue, or gray as $1, though $5 and greater are almost always consistently colored. All US states where gambling is legal require that casino chips have a unique combination of edge spots for identification, the name and location of the casino and the chip’s value, if any, impressed, printed, or molded onto the obverse and reverse of the token.
In 19th-century America, there was enough of a tradition of using blue chips for higher values that “blue chip” in noun and adjective senses signaling high-value chips and high-value property are attested since 1873 and 1894, respectively.This established connotation was first extended to the sense of a blue-chip stock in the 1920s.
$2.50 chips (colloquially referred to as “snappers” by chip collectors) are mostly used for blackjack tables, since a “natural” (a 21 on the first two cards dealt to a player) typically pays 3:2 and most wagers are in increments of $5. However, the Tropicana Casino and Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and others, have used $2.50 (pink) chips in $7.50 to $15 and $10 to $20 poker games
$20 chips are used mostly at baccarat and pai gow poker because a 5% commission charged for all winning banker wagers at baccarat and winning wagers at pai gow converts evenly. Bets of $20 are not uncommon in traditional table games such as craps and roulette; a $20 chip, for example, places a $5 bet on each of the “hard ways” in craps and is preferable to passing a stack of chips or making change.
Because eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture, chips denominated 8, 88, and 888 (e.g., $8 in the US) are common in casinos catering to a Chinese clientele, often as a promotion for the Chinese Lunar New Year. They will sometimes contain an image of the animal associated with the year and are issued in a variety of colors.
Low-denomination yellow chips vary in value: $20 in Atlantic City and Illinois (which also uses “mustard yellow” $0.50 chips); $5 at most Southern California poker rooms; $2 at Foxwoods’ poker room in Ledyard, Connectiut; Running Aces Harness Park and Cantebury Park, both in Minnesota; and at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona; and $0.50 at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blue chips are occasionally used for $10, most notably in Atlantic City. In Las Vegas and California, most casinos use blue or white for $1 chips, though many Las Vegas casinos now use $1 metal tokens in lieu of chips.
Chips are also available in denominations of $1000 or more, depending on the wagering limits of the casino. Such chips are often yellow or orange. Casinos in Nevada, Atlantic City, and other areas that permit high wagers typically have chips available in $5000, $10,000, $25,000, and more; the colors for these vary widely.
Denominations above $5000 are almost never encountered by the general public; their use is usually limited to “high limit rooms” where bet sizes are much greater than on the main floor. Casinos often use gaming plaques for these denominations: These plaques are about the size of a playing card, and must be marked with serial numbers. The greatest value placed on a plaque to date is $10 million, used at the London Club in Las Vegas.
Televised poker tournaments and cash games sometimes use bundled paper bills for high denominations, though the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour use round chips exclusively with denominations up to $250,000; tournament chips, however, are not redeemable for cash.
European casinos use a similar scheme, though certain venues, such as the Aviation Club de France, use pink for €2 and blue for €10. European casinos also use plaques rather than chips for high denominations, usually in the €1000 and higher range.
Each casino has a unique set of chips, even if the casino is part of a greater company. This distinguishes a casino’s chips from others, since each chip and token on the gaming floor has to be backed up with the appropriate amount of cash. In addition, with the exception of Nevada, casinos are not permitted to honor another casino’s chips.
The security features of casino chips are numerous. Artwork is of a very high resolution or of photographic quality. Custom color combinations on the chip edge (edge spots) are usually distinctive to a particular casino. UV markings can be made on the inlay. Certain chips incorporate RFID technology, such as those at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. Also, makers’ marks are difficult to reproduce. Also being used by one manufacturer, Palm Gaming, is an audible taggant incorporated into the ceramic chip blank. A simple handheld reader will beep if the gaming chip is authentic. Palm Gaming is even manufacturing custom made molds for their ceramic gaming chips- adding yet another high level of security to its gaming chip.
Counterfeit chips are rare. High levels of surveillance, along with staff familiarity with chip design and coloring, make passing fake chips difficult. Casinos, though, are prepared for this situation. All states require that casinos have a set of chips in reserve with alternate markings, though they may not be required to have exactly the same number of reserve chips as they do on the floor. The most notable instance of counterfeiting chips was broken up in 2005, when two men were caught falsely converting $1 chips into higher denominations.
Casino chips used in tournaments are usually much cheaper and of much simpler design. Because the chips have no cash value, usually chips are designed with a single color (usually differing in shade or tone from the version on the casino floor), a smaller breadth, and a basic mark on the interior to distinguish denominations; however, at certain events (such as the World Series of Poker or other televised poker), chips approach quality levels of chips on the floor.