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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Chips Ahoy!

26 July 2013

Dear Mark: I plan on purchasing a new set of poker chips for, as you so often put it, our weekly kitchen-table poker game. We currently use a cheap plastic set. Besides a quality upgrade, how many chips do you think I should buy? Paul M.

Casino chips, also known as casino or gaming tokens, checks or cheques, are small round discs used in lieu of hard currency.

When purchasing a set of chips, Paul, there are two things you should keep in mind: quantity and quality. As with most things, you pay for quality, and I recommend buying the highest quality chip set your budget allows.

The vast majority of authentic casino chips are “clay” chips, although they are more accurately described as compression molded chips. The chips used in North American casinos typically weigh about 10 grams, but can range anywhere between 8 and 14 grams.

As for quantity, a good rule of thumb is as follows:

3-4 Players: 300 chip set will suffice.
4-6 Players: 400-500 chip set will do.
6-8 Players: 500-650 chip set would be a minimum.
8-10 Players: At least 1,000 plus chips.

Although this is a suggested amount required, you really cannot have too many chips, only too few. So, buy the amount you can afford and purchase more down the road if you need them. Many chip resellers maintain an open stock of their chips, so you should be able to obtain chips matching what you already own.

Currently, there are literally thousands of sets on eBay, so expect to pay for a set of 300 14-gram composite, 3-tone chips around $50. A similar set of 300 clay chips will cost about $20 to $30 more. An injection-molded plastic set can be had for far less.

If your kitchen table game sees plenty of action, you will appreciate bucking up for quality and quantity. Have your crew pitch in for a top-of-the-line, 1,000 true clay chip set that are 39 mm in diameter and 14 grams in weight. Plan on that chip set setting you back about $150. You can’t put a price on a good time.

Dear Mark: Probably not the most interesting question you ever received, but I would be interested in your answer.

About a month ago I walked up to a blackjack table while the dealer was shuffling. I placed $100 cash on the table for chips. A lady seated at the table said, "He can't take it, he's shuffling." I said I would wait, the money won't walk away. She said, "No, take it back NOW!" I said "gladly," having no desire to play with the bossy lady, and went to another table.

I certainly made the right decision, as I did very well at the other table. But, I later wondered if I violated some unknown etiquette, not that doing so would justify the lady's nasty tone. Gary M.


This should not have been an "Aha! Gotcha" moment, Gary.

Plenty of objects are not allowed on a blackjack table, but your hard-earned money, at any given time, is not one of them. Sure, no dealer will stop mid-shuffle to convert cash into chips, but no table etiquette that I am aware of states you can’t put money on the layout while the dealer is shuffling cards. Of course, I can’t discount the possibility of some goofy house rule where you play.

The funniest thing I have seen allowed on the layout was a chocolate-colored toy poodle, good-naturedly sitting alongside the player’s chips, barking every time the player yelled “Snapper” when he got a blackjack. The player was a whale (big hitter), and a George (big tipper), so I am sure some rule was undoubtedly suspended that night. I won’t mention the pit boss on duty by name, but his initials were M.P.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: While the high roller is fawned over in a sickening manner, the low roller must grovel to get a few crumbs. ­– Frank Scoblete, Guerrilla Gambling
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.