What are "Win Cards" and Win Cards Chips?
By Jim Follis
I would have to suspect that Win Cards chips have evolved from the earlier days when casinos first developed the match-play concept. Match-play is where a no cash value (NCV) marker, issued for a specific unit (1, 5, 25, etc., sometimes with a “$” sign, but often times not) is given to a customer as an enticement to get that person involved in a game of chance. Basically, the marker(s) is used as a “free” bet in a game of blackjack, craps or roulette, but they have also been good for sporting events betting and the myriad of newer, live-action table games (3-card poker, pai-gow, Caribbean stud, etc.). If the bet is won, then the dealer will match the amount of the NCV marker(s) in live-action chips. Depending on the rules of the specific casinos, when the bet is paid off the NCV markers may be removed from play by the dealer, or they may be left in-play for subsequent bet(s) by the holder. However, a losing bet will cause the removal of the NCV marker(s) from the table, i.e., they get dropped into the “drop box” (the slot where cash is deposited) as opposed to being placed into the chip rack tray.
Over the years many NCV markers have been put into use by a number of casinos around the World. They exist in many different forms and wording. Some were printed on paper as chits or coupons, some onto wooden, plastic or metal rounds, often called tokens and quite a few where made in the likeness of live-action gaming chips. While many of these chips are plentiful, some are very unique and quite collectible.
It would appear that several years later an enterprising individual decided that he could market the concept of match-play markers to the casinos as a for-profit business, thus Win Cards and Win Cards Chips were created.
For a fee, Gaming International would provide a casino operation with its Win Cards program. Other than some earlier twists and turns, the Win Cards program still consists of a casino offering 3 different Win Card devices to a customer and giving the customer 15 units of match-play markers for $10. The match-play markers (chips) were free and the $10 was for the Win Cards devices. The three different Win Cards devices pertained to how to bet and play craps, roulette and blackjack. Each device was a plastic printed card with a turnable plastic disk to line-up with options on the card and view different betting and playing recommendations. In Nevada and New Jersey, gaming regulations permitted the use of the cards (a sort of crib sheet) which plays into the advertising of Win Cards; “Gaming Approved!”.
Armed with the cards, a new player could enter a craps, roulette or blackjack game and be better prepared to know the play of the game. But as an enticement, the whole package included 15- 1 NCV chips (
)or 3- 5 NCV chips (
), so that the buyer could get involved with a game and practice with “play money”. Although the 15- 1 NCV chips are standard, some casinos even permitted a purchaser to have other 1 and 5 NCV combinations totaling 15, i.e., 10- 1 and 1- 5 NCVs, or 5- 1 and 2- 5 NCVs. Each package also include a “Dealer’s Tip Chip” (
). A Dealer’s Tip Chip is used as a match-play marker for $1. If used and the hand wins, the dealer exchanges the marker for a $1 chip and gets to keep the $1 chip. In the early days of the Win Cards program, a Dealer’s Tip Chip (in the form of a plastic round) was included in the package and could be used to try and tip your favorite dealer. The tip chips were not compression-molded chips, but were of the same diameter and thickness of a casino chip. Most depicted the Win Cards trademarked silhouette of a couple jumping for joy on one side and “Non Negotiable” and “No Cash Value” on the opposite side. Later on (currently) the “Dealer’s Tip Chip” was replaced with the “Dealer’s Tip Chip Coupon” a paper chit meant to perform the same dealer tip action for $1.
While the Dealer’s Tip Chips were generic (they did not depict the casino name), the newer Dealer’s Tip Chip Coupons do reflect the name of the casino. Most, but not all Win Cards programs are administered by a casino’s slot club department and typically require a customer to be signed-up in the slot club in order to be eligible to buy Win Cards. This is often done with a Gaming International provided application form. A completed form is then offered to the slot club promotions desk person, who in turn writes up an authorization form (again, a form furnished by Gaming International). The authorization form is then carried to the casino’s main Cashier Cage, where it and $10 are exchanged for the Win Cards package. Most Win Cards packages consist of a tall zip-lock bag containing the 15 units of NCV chips, a Dealer’s Tip Chip Coupon, three tri-fold Win Cards brochures, each holds a specific Win Card (craps, roulette and blackjack) and provides instructions for use of the applicable Win Cards device. Most of the zip-lock bags also have a sticker affixed to the outside of the bag denoting the “Win Cards” program and the name of the casino. Some casinos limit a purchase to once only, while others limit you to once each month for the duration of the program.
The original Win Cards chips were Paulson, Hat and Cane molded chips with printed inlays. (
) The inlays reflected the casino name/logo and also the familiar silhouette of the jumping for joy couple. More recently, Win Cards chips are Unicorn molded (Chipco), hot-stamped chips with a casino name and the familiar “Win Cards” and “No Cash Value” printed on both sides. For a brief period of time, Win Cards chips were also Paulson, Hat and Cane, hot-stamps, reflecting casino name, “Win Cards” and “No Cash Value”.
However, there are also some very distinct, different and unusual Win Cards chips in existence. The Tahoe Biltmore had chips made from the same material as the earlier issued Dealer’s Tip Chip chips, which allowed for better graphics. (
) The Flamingo Hilton, Reno, NV had several, very similar looking hot-stamped issues with six (3 sets of split) inserts, as did the Rail City Casino, Sparks, NV, all from RTP (Gamblers General Store, Las Vegas, NV). The Dunes, The Virginian and The Flamingo Hilton, Reno (yes, a third version) had a hot-stamped, clover leaf molded chip. And The Four Queens, Las Vegas, NV has two, specially made Win Cards chips for a 1 and 5 NCV. Both are ¼ pie chips with printed inlays in a house mold. The 5 NCV is white and green on one side and white and red on the other side, while the 1 NCV is white and blue on one side and white and pink on the other. Both of these examples are very nice looking chips.
As an interesting aside, there must have been a delay between the time that the Win Cards program was started at the Four Queens and the time they received their Win Cards chips from PaulSon. During that period, the Four Queens substituted their pre-existing, in-house 1 and 5 NCVs as Win Cards chips. Specifically, they used the yellow, Bud Jones, 4-suits, plastic, hot-stamped “1 No Cash Value” chip for the Win Cards 1 NCV and hot pink, PaulSon, H/C, hot-stamped “5 No Cash Value” chip for the Win Cards 5 NCV. A similar substitution was also done at the Lady Luck, Las Vegas, NV, however the pre-existing in-house chips they used were not replaced by actual “Win Cards” branded chips. The Lady Luck used two different versions of NCV chips, both are hot-stamped “Lady Luck Las Vegas” “Special Events” “No Cash Value”. One is grey in a TRI-CLUB mold, while the other is beige in a HHR mold.
Win Cards chips are but a sub-category in the sub-category of NCV/match-play chips in the arena of collecting casino chips. However, in addition to collecting that sub- sub-category, I also collect “Win Cards” branded items, like the three different brochures included in the Win Cards package for craps, roulette and blackjack. As well as the cards themselves (craps, roulette and blackjack), paper Dealer’s Tip Chip Coupons and other such similar items. My collection includes a “Win Cards” branded wrist watch that is a bonus offering to a casino executive when they agree to market the Win Cards program at their casino. (
)I also have a “Baccarat” Win Card device, which to my knowledge has not been packaged into a Win Cards promotion set-up (
), and a green, unicorn molded, hot-stamped chip printed as a business card for Gaming International. (
Gaming International maintains a web page, as a portal to sell their Win Cards program to casinos World-wide. Their web page can also be used to view a listing of what casinos are currently offering Win Cards and Win Cards chips. Check them out on the web at: WinCards.com - Casino and Gaming Links
While on the web, also check out my commercial-free site of collectible Win Cards items, which includes front and back scans of many Win Cards chips, at: Win Cards!
Jim (Gaming Ore) Follis