How to Tell if a Poker Chip Is Real


Poker chips are the currency that we use when playing poker, and it’s also how we determine who wins the game. When you’re in a casino, the more chips you have, the higher stakes you can play. If we use them when playing and people are trying to make fake poker chips, how can we be sure that the ones we have are real?

Casinos use different methods to tell if a poker chip is real. Most of them use holographic images, UV inks, and serial numbers. Some casinos even install RFID in their high-value chips, making it impossible to replicate. All of these make it possible for casinos to identify fake poker chips.

It’s illegal to copy casino chips, and mere possession of it can be a legal violation. So, players must educate themselves with the security measures that casinos use for their poker chips. Stick around to find out everything you need to know about the differences between real and fake poker chips.

Example of fake poker chips
Often for higher-value poker chips it is impossible to tell if a poker chip is real or not. But casinos have hidden securities in place with which they can easily see if a chip is real.

The Economy of Poker Chips

Every time you play poker, you’ll need chips to make your bets. It remains true even if you’re only playing casual games with your friends. If you start playing cash games, your chips will have a monetary value that starts at $1. Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino even has chips that are worth $100,000!

Casino chips are your currency whenever you play table games. With that, you can expect people to create a counterfeit of these chips. After all, if people have reasons to counterfeit money bills, they have more reason to replicate something that has a higher value, right?

Another reason people are trying to create copies of poker chips is that other people buy them online.

Using poker chips as a currency outside of the issuing casino is illegal. In fact, you can’t even use it to pay for anything within the premises aside from the gaming tables.

However, casinos aren’t doing anything about this trade because it’s cheaper to create another $10 chip than to pay its value. Just imagine how much they’re making from $1,000 chip collectors.

Unfortunately, this practice creates an industry of selling poker chips online, which leads to an open market of fake poker chips. In fact, you don’t have to go online to find them; some people are selling poker chips to other players outside the premises, and, unfortunately, people are buying them. Although it’s illegal, casinos aren’t doing anything about it because there’s less reason to pursue it.

Aside from that, casinos rarely lose money from counterfeit poker chips. They have various security features installed in their chips, making it easy for them to detect fake ones. For everyone else, there are only two ways to prevent themselves from being a victim: never buy a poker chip outside the casino or learn the difference between real and fake poker chips.

Real Poker Chips vs. Fake Poker Chips

Imitating poker chips is easy; you only need to recreate how a casino chip looks. Some cheap imitations only intend to look like a casino’s poker chip. These may include cheap materials, paint, and inlay graphics that replicate an actual casino chip’s look. This process is so bad that even someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time playing poker will know that they’re holding a fake one.

Some processes are a bit more elaborate, and it intends to imitate the look and feel of an actual casino chip. They may use laser etching, laser-printed graphics, high-quality paint, and metals to replicate a real poker chip.

It’s more than enough to pass for most people, especially those who haven’t spent enough time shuffling chips between their fingers.

Creating something so elaborate will require special skills and attention to detail. But even with enough funds and the right skills, copying a poker chip that will pass a casino staff’s trained eyes will be very hard. The higher the value a poker chip gets, the more reason for people to counterfeit it. That’s why casinos use different techniques to ensure that they’re protecting their business.

Video: Adam Savage’s Rounders Poker Chips and Case Replica!

Weight, Look, and Design Are Not Determining Factors

The weight, look, design, and other intricate details are unreliable features that people, sometimes, use to identify fake chips. Remember, the more expensive a chip gets, the more “real” it looks and feels. Even if someone doesn’t have the right skills, replicating a $500 poker chip will be easy, as long as it creates enough margin for them to do so.

Some will tell you that you can use weight to identify fake poker chips, but it’s also not true. Although a casino uses a standard weight for all of their chips, they never use it as a factor to check the authenticity of their chips. One reason is that it’s effortless to replicate a poker chip’s actual weight down to a milligram.

Since most casino chips use clay composite for their chips, forgers can use metal inserts to make it heavier or match a real poker chip.

There are fake casino chips that even the casino staff might miss. Casinos also know this because if you give someone $500 to replicate a $1,000 chip, it’ll look the same—even the chips’ imperfections and other intricate features. It’s the reason why it’ll be tough for anyone to determine whether a poker chip is real or not.

The look and feel of a casino chip, including all the imperfections that it may have, is only one factor you can use to determine whether a poker chip is real. Casinos also employ various security features to protect their chips and ensure that no one can replicate them, regardless of how much they spend on it.

Security Features of Casino Chips

The security features that casinos use to protect their chips depend on its value. The more valuable a chip gets, the more sophisticated measures casinos use. Here are some of the anti-counterfeiting features that many casinos use to protect their chips:

  • Exclusive use of chips within the premises of the issuing casino. It renders any poker chip that leaves the issuing casino’s premises useless. Casinos will never accept chips from another casino, making it easier for them to track counterfeit poker chips. Even if you use it at the same casino on a different branch, they won’t accept it. By making it exclusively for the issuing casino, the management can help their staff identify fake ones.
  • Casinos use sophisticated camera systems to monitor every activity. Initially, these camera systems only aim to fight cheating within their premises. However, as their systems improve, many casinos can already use it to monitor any activity within their premises and detect any attempts to use counterfeit poker chips.
  • Laser printed logo, images, and artwork within the chip. One of the cheapest ways to replicate a poker chip is using inlay graphics that you can easily remove. Laser images are within the chip itself, making it impossible to remove. Some of them even use a combination of pictures with tiny details that an untrained eye can’t detect.
  • UV inks that are invisible to the naked eye. If you only look at the chips with your naked eye, you won’t see anything. However, most casinos use UV inks as an anti-counterfeiting measure for their low-value chips. It’s an expensive material that makes counterfeiting less enticing for criminal organizations.
  • Holographic images within the chips. This feature isn’t invisible, but it uses advanced technology that makes it more expensive for anyone to replicate. Using holographic images makes the poker chips more secure and easier to check whenever a staff suspects counterfeit chips.
  • Laser-etched serial numbers that allow casinos to track their chips. Serial numbers in poker chips give casinos the ability to decommission them when there’s massive theft. They don’t have to take out all of their chips; instead, they only need to figure out the ones involved in theft and make them invalid for cash out. 
  • High-value chips contain RFID chips or chips within a chip. Regardless of how hard it is for people to replicate, there will always be those who will try to replicate high-value chips. The idea is if you give someone $250 to copy a $500 chip, they can do it, and no one can tell the difference. Using RFID chips makes poker chips impossible to counterfeit because of a central monitoring server.
Even real poker chips don't all weigh the same.
Contrary to the common knowledge, you can’t use weight to determine if a poker chip is real or fake.

Unfortunately, an untrained eye cannot use any of these security measures to tell whether they’re holding a real poker chip or not. In fact, even casino staff can’t use some of these measures without high-tech equipment. That’s why it can be challenging for anyone to tell whether a poker chip is real or not.

Aside from the ones that we already know, casinos always come up with various anti-counterfeiting measures that they never reveal to the public.

It’s safe to say that of all the security measures that each chip has, the ones we know are the ones that are easy to replicate. Remember, the more expensive it is to copy poker chips, the less rewarding it’ll be to make counterfeits.

Common Myths About Identifying Real Poker Chips

Selling counterfeit poker chips is a widespread practice, and many enthusiasts try to help others learn how they can avoid buying these chips. However, many of the tips you’ll find online are myths that won’t really help identify real poker chips. Although it has some valid points, none of these will help you avoid counterfeits, and might even lead you to believe that you’re holding a real poker chip.

Standard Weight for Poker Chips

Many poker players believe that the standard weight for a poker chip is 11.5 grams (0.4 ounces); some would even say it’s 13 grams (0.5 ounces). It’s so common that even poker chip retailers—those that sell poker chips for home games—believe it to be true.

Those who believe this myth will reject any chip that doesn’t weigh either way, thinking it’s fake.

However, neither is correct and in fact, there’s no such thing as a standard weight for poker chips.

Casinos use clay composite or ceramics for their chips, and the actual weight may vary from 8.5 grams (0.3 ounces) up to 13 grams (0.5 ounces). Although chips from the same casino will be identical, it’s not the standard weight for every poker chip. It’s not a metric you can use to identify fakes because different casinos use different techniques in making their chips.

So, it’s impossible to have a standard weight for all poker chips.

Real Poker Chips Use High-Quality Paint

There are two sides to this myth: the belief that counterfeits can’t use high-quality paint and real poker chips aren’t susceptible to wear and tear. When you use a poker chip, it always looks good as new, right? However, it doesn’t mean that these chips aren’t prone to wear and tear. Many casinos keep producing new chips, then take their old ones out of circulation.

Although casinos use high-quality paint for their chips, it doesn’t prevent forgers from using the same to create counterfeits. Unless you’re looking at a cheap replica, it’ll be impossible to determine whether it’s real or not, if you only consider the quality of paint in poker chips.

If your old casino chips happen to be out of circulation, there is a chance they are still worth some money. If a poker chip is very rare it can even be sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Security Features in Poker Chips Is Public Information

One widespread misconception that people make when talking about real poker chips is the security features that these chips have. Although all of them are valid, it doesn’t mean that we know every technique that casinos use to keep their chips safe. In fact, most of the security features that you’ll often hear from people are trivial for casinos.

It may be present, but sometimes, staff won’t even look at it when he thinks he’s holding a fake poker chip.

As technology progresses, the harder it’ll be for anyone to create a poker chip that’ll pass a casino staff. It may be okay as a collectible (yes, you can take poker chips from casinos, but there is some risk), but it won’t have real value when you’re in a casino. Unfortunately, this truth also makes it impossible for players to determine whether they’re looking at a real poker chip or not. That’s why poker players need to know how they can avoid fake poker chips.

High-value poker chips have special RFID chips in them
High-value poker chips are microchipped. With that, and some other hidden markers, a casino can easily and quickly see if chips are real.

How to Avoid Fake Poker Chips

If you’re only looking at a cheap replica, comparing it with a real poker chip will be easy. Nobody will even care, especially if you don’t plan to use it at a casino. The application of paint, construction, and overall build quality will differ from the real ones. These are easy to avoid, and sellers will even claim that these are imitations.

However, there are also imitations so elaborate that they even have the most intricate details we’ll see in a real poker chip. You’ll find many of these on eBay, and they’re usually the higher value chips—$100 and up. As mentioned, these are the ones that are more rewarding for criminals to replicate.

In its simplest form, if they’re spending $20 to copy a $100 poker chip and sell it at a discount, they’ll still make exuberant profits.

Avoid Buying Online

So one of the best ways to protect yourself from fake poker chips is to avoid buying it online.

Casinos never sell or offer poker chips as a commodity. In fact, using chips as a form of payment is illegal, making the process of purchasing chips a felony.

The only reason casinos never pursue offenders is to also make money from collectors taking their chips home. Chips are cheaper to produce, so it serves as a secondary business for casinos.

Some will even try to sell poker chips personally or when you’re visiting a casino. Anthony Carleo is one of these people, and although he tried to sell real Bellagio chips, the ones in his possession were from a theft he committed.

It’s illegal for anyone to buy these chips, and what made it even worse is that he was trying to sell a $25,000 Bellagio chip. It’s not something that any casino would take lightly, even if they’ve already decommissioned it.

Buy Only From Casinos

The best, and possibly the only, way for you to avoid fake poker chips is to avoid buying them anywhere aside from the casino where you’ll use them. Even if the chips you’re getting are for a steep discount, it’s not a risk that you should take.

Serial forgers use elaborate techniques to copy real poker chips, making it impossible for anyone to detect. It’s also a good practice to cash out every chip you have before leaving the casino unless you’re trying to add them to your collection.

Conclusion

There are different types of fake poker chips that you’ll find online; some are cheap replicas that anyone can tell it’s fake. The paint, images, laser etching, and overall build quality are factors that you need to consider when looking at a poker chip. These will help you determine whether you’re looking at a real poker chip or not.

However, some fake poker chips, especially high-value ones, are almost identical to the real ones. The copy is so good that even the casino can’t tell the difference unless they use RFID chips to authenticate it. The best way for you to stay safe from these poker chips is to avoid buying them online and make sure that you only get your chips from the issuing casino.

Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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