History of the Pharaoh’s Club Poker Chips By: Greg Cagle (TenPercenter) HOW IT BEGAN Ancient Egyptian art has been an interest of mine ever since I was a sophomore in high school. In art appreciation class I learned a lot about the Egyptians, and I felt that they were far ahead of their time in architecture, engineering, and of course art. I have been collecting things Egyptian ever since. It was only logical that my first (and second) set of nice poker chips would have an Egyptian theme. The idea for the chip came soon after the new home Paulson was announced. For over a year it was understood that Paulson had pulled out of the home market, seemingly forever. We all thought that they had decided to focus on the casino sales and let all the other manufacturers fight over the “crumbs” of home market sales. The idea for a new clay set was a back burner thought because at the time we were anticipating the arrival of The Egyptians, my custom Chipco set. The Egyptians were a continuation of the first group buy I had organized with just 7-8 members of the 2+2 bulletin board. A second group buy of these Egyptian Chipcos was organized when I had decided to add three new chips to the set. We were just finishing this big purchase when I started thinking of a nice clay set. I think that the Egyptian theme was a given all along. Talking with my family one night about The Egyptians Chipco chips, I mentioned that I was thinking of a new clay set. I needed a casino name because I planned on making this a classic fantasy casino set. I remember doodling on an envelope some ideas that my Mom and I were tossing around. (I wish I still had that envelope). Somehow I ended up with “Pharaoh’s Casino” and I think I have to credit my Mom with that. I wanted something a little different, and I thought “Pharaoh’s Club” sounded cleaner. I added “and Casino” to keep the fantasy casino theme. I was already working on finding a designer but I felt it was time to test the waters. One thing that I liked to do when getting a set together is create a lot of polls. I don’t necessarily adhere to the results of the polls, but I like to know where all the people stand on an issue. I usually know what I want to do before I post a poll, but the poll can tell me if I’m WAY off track or not. In the first post I just wanted to know if people liked a simple, more classic designed inlay, or a newer style, fancier inlay. Either way the inlay would be placed on a clay chip, probably Matsui or Paulson. 2/21/2005 Post: The 2+2 Forums Older Archives: If you had your own custom CLAY chip set... - “If you had your own custom CLAY chip set...” Basically there were a few chips posted, and a poll question. “If you had your own custom CLAY chip set, would you choose:” (which style) CLASSIC: (vote count 53%) FANCY: (vote count 46%) I had already decided that I wanted a classic style, because I had liked these chips a lot: [check for images here] I knew that there were 5 elements that I wanted on a chip inlay: A high quality image for each different chip (this strayed from classic but made my set unique The casino name in the center, prominent The denomination, bold but not overpowering The location name at the bottom, And a watermark of some kind, like the Le Cove chip. CHOOSING THE DESIGNER 2/19/2005: I wanted to find a designer for the set since I didn’t use one for the Chipco Egyptians. I’m great at design direction (explaining what I want and leading through revisions) but I do not have the natural artistic or technical ability necessary to create the perfect set that I wanted. What I decided to do was talk to a few of the friends I’d made on the boards. Each of them had created designs that I respected and liked. I purposely gave each of them VERY LITTLE information. I wanted to see what they could do, and I figured that the one that I liked best without “telling” them what I wanted would be the natural choice for the designer. I sent 5 emails. For each designer, I only told them that I was designing a new chip label in a “classic casino style.” I told them that the only criteria were that the casino name is “The Pharaoh’s Club” and it’s located in Cairo. I showed them one chip set as a guide, the Scandia Paulson: [need to check for scandia image] One guy never came back with anything, but four of them did. One was too late to make it into the poll after revisions so it has never been seen before this article. I looked at each of the three submissions and went through about 2-3 revisions with each designer. Somewhere in the process I also asked for a “fancy version” as well as the “classic design” because the poll for this was running neck-and neck. (See above section) Here are a few of the submissions: ChipTalk.net member “Cin0s3” Cin0s3’s Classic Submissions, in order of revision: Cin0s3’s “Fancy” version Cin0s3’s Final version for Poll: ------------------------------------------------------ ChipTalk.net member “KY_POKER_DEPOT” KY_POKER_DEPOT’s Classic Submissions, in order of revision: KY_POKER_DEPOT’s “Fancy” version KY_POKER_DEPOT’s Final version for Poll: ------------------------------------------------------ ChipTalk member “Lynbark Designs” lynbark’s Submission: (There was no time for revisions) ------------------------------------------------------ ChipTalk.net member “Johnny5” Johnny5’s First Classic Submissions all submitted at once: Johnny5’s “Fancy” version: Johnny5’s Final version for the Poll (after two revision stages): ------------------------------------------------------ I liked ALL the designs. I thought that KY_POKER_DEPOT’s submissions were very original and deserved revisiting for a future project, but they were not really close to what I was looking for this classic set. Cin0s3’s designs were very close to what I was looking for but lacked a tad of refined class that I wanted. Johnny5: Wow. This guy really blew me away. He put a LOT of work into it even before we were really talking about a project. He gave me dozens of images, and the sky was the limit on the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t need a poll, but tradition dictated that I ask everyone’s opinion. 03/01/05 Post: The 2+2 Forums Older Archives: Design review for the Pharaoh's Club Paulson chips - “Design review for the Pharaoh's Club Paulson chips” This post was to introduce the three designers that I had narrowed down to. I posted my favorite chip from each of them. I wanted to show each inlay the same way, so I required that they all be placed on the same green chip scan, and all three use a hex inlay shape. Here are the images and the vote percentage they got: OPTION #1 (Cin0s3 – 4%) OPTION #2 (Johnny5 – 70%) OPTION #3 (KY_POKER_DEPOT – 24%) Clearly everyone agreed with me: I’d be working with Johnny5 on this project. CHOOSING A DESIGN DIRECTION From beginning to end Johnny5 made it very easy. He’d send me about 10-12 designs and I’d pick one to go to the next stage. He’s send a bunch more, and we’d do it again. This happened very quickly, I was amazed at the designs that came from J5 so fast. Once I chose from among the first and second revisions, what I ended up with was the design that you saw in that first poll. This design had what I wanted: A colorful image up top, the casino name prominent in the middle, the denomination at the bottom to balance with the upper image, the location of the casino at the bottom, and a watermarked image in the background. The water mark on this design was a scarab beetle. From the very first 12 designs that Johnny5 sent me, I chose this one. This is in essence the first version of the final Pharaoh's Club Chip Design: I made to J5 the following requests. This email is basically what started the path towards the final Pharaoh's Club that we all know today: The results of my requests are the first batch of revisions you see here: Johnny5 Version 1.01: Once the poll was posted Johnny5 told me, “I must say that I’m a bit surprised at the design you chose to post, but it obviously works!” This was in response to the enormous support that his design was getting over the other two. I was still a bit torn over choosing a “fancier” design over a simple, classic one, but I was committed to doing a classic inlay. This was a clay chip after all, and I’d already designed a “fancy” Egyptian set on ceramics. While the poll was running Johnny5 also sent these two great versions for my perusal. TO this day I still love these two designs every much: While the poll to choose the direction was running, the “crowd went wild” to coin a phrase. Discussions were heated and moving fast. The designers themselves were all interested in buying sets of these chips and were frustrated that they were not allowed to take part in the discussions yet. I wanted to keep their identities secret until the votes were in (for the most part). From the huge batch of revision choices I chose the following as our next benchmark: At this point I thought we were very close to a final layout of elements on the inlay (the image, the denom, the title, the location, and the watermark), but we needed to start choosing the individual chip images. I had sent all the original designers a huge zip file of Egyptian images, and J5 and I had gone through and picked a few from this file, and J5 had also grabbed a few new ones from the net. Here was the next batch of images from Johnny five, which I call Version 2.0: Version 2.0: *Note: Notice that J5 had ingeniously filled in the gap in the mold with his drafts. On the only new Paulson set on the market, the 2005 James Bond, there was an “empty area” between the edge of the standard inlay and the outside area of the chip mold. This had left an odd looking “dead area” as can be seen in the three green chips above that were used in the first Pharaoh’s Club poll. That chip had clearly been made for a Grand size inlay but only had a standard sized inlay. Johnny5 filled in the gap and textured it, eerily premonitient of the actual mold that showed up in late May 2005. We were having trouble finalizing the indivvidual images because we had to choose seven that fit well with their chips colors. Johnny5 had suggested at this point that we might choose one graphic for all chips and change the watermarked image for each chip instead. I was committed to having a different element on each chip, so I sent another zip of graphics that we could choose from. We were both concerned with having the main images have a similar “style” or “feel” from chip to chip, but I was determined and I had faith that we could do it. We were now getting close. I loved some of the image-to-color matches that J5 showed me, but there were also a few that I wanted to change. I had received a couple releases from artists whose work I wanted to use, and I gave these images to J5. Over the next day or so I received a lot of images from him. I call these Version 3.0. The following images are a lot of versions that I chose NOT to use. I thought it would be interesting for everyone to see a few of them. Version 3.0 (Unused Images): We had nailed down what were to become (for the most part) the final set of images for the set. Here is what we had at this point: Version 3.0: [missing images here!] IMAGE OPTIONS Before we settled on the final image choices on each chip, I wanted a few more choices to be presented. We were not completely happy with the blue , the purple, or the green images. Here are few of the different images that we played around with before finalizing each chip. Blue Options: Green Options: [missing images!] Purple Options: COMPROMISES At this point in the process, I had chosen the manufacturer; The Pharaoh’s Club was to be a new Paulson chip. This presented a few options that I had been hoping for. For one, we were told that we could have a grand sized inlay. Secondly, we were told that we could have shaped inlays, a desire I had from the beginning. During the process the group was told many different things from Trademark, the only broker allowed to place orders to Paulson. We wanted big inlays, shapes, and at one point our own mold. Some of these items were promised and later revoked. In-between, we made different mockups to match what we were currently allowed to have. Here are some of the mockups that J5 did during these phases: Grand Inlays: (later revoked) Shaped/Grand Inlays: (later revoked) Alas, we were forced to go back to our older mockups because all the “special features” were no longer allowed by GPI. BLUE vs. WHITE One of the earliest major controversies on ChipTalk was whether or not to make the $1 chip blue, or white. White won. There are still custom "smilies" on this site of a blue $1 chips and a white $1 chip. THE GROUP BUY The group buy for the first order of Pharaoh's Club poker chips was most likely the largest grass roots poker chips group buy to date. HoldemPokerChips.com bought a very large portion and individuals in the group buy (between 80-100 of them) bought 126,200 Paulson Pharaoh's Club poker chips. In total there was between a quarter of a million and half of a million Pharaoh's Club purchased in one day. The payment totaled well over a quarter of a million dollars. Since then we estimate that between 1.2 million and 2 million Pharaoh's Club Paulson chips were sold. The first release of the Pharaoh's Club has been discontinued and will no longer be manufactured by GPI/Paul-Son. THE FUTURE OF THE PHARAOH'S CLUB The Pharaoh's Club was a dream come true for me personally. To me it is still the most beautiful and perfect chip design for a fantasy casino chip. To have it produced on a Paulson mold was an unbelievable feat for the time. To have it so widely accepted in a gigantic group buy and to have sold so many since that time is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. It is one of the proudest accomplishments I could hope to achieve. The Pharaoh's Club chip design is a registered copyright. In July 2009 I decided to revoke the option for Paulson to manufacture the Pharaoh's line any longer. The Paulson line was getting more and more expensive to the end users as well as to the resellers. Despite the success in sales, I felt that I needed to breath new life into the Pharaoh's Club. In September 2008 HoldemPokerChips.com and I gathered a group of chip enthusiasts to take part in a new design for a Blue Chip Company line of Pharaoh's Club chips. Despite the great work and designs that came out of that effort, there were manufacturing problems and delays that led to the project being abandoned. We considered using another US based clay manufacturer but for several reasons decided not to pursue that avenue. In early 2009 I came to an agreement with a new partner, TheChipRoom.com, and we began plans to re-release the Pharaoh's Club Poker Chips line as another compression molded clay chip. Because of the widespread popularity and the enormous existing base of Pharaoh's owners, we decided to release the new chip line on the most affordable, high quality, true clay chip currently on the market. We have coupled the historic "Pharaoh's in a perfect world" ideas of a custom mold and a large inlay, and are introducing the New Pharaoh's Club Clay Poker Chip. CONCLUSION To this day I still meet people at home poker games that have heard of the Pharaoh's Club. I rarely meet anyone that researched for chips of their own that has not heard of them. When the subject comes up some of the people I tell that I own the rights to the Pharaoh's don't even believe me. The pride that this design has brought me will be with me forever, and I thank everyone in the chip community for this experience. Without the Pharaoh's Club, ChipTalk would likely not exist and all of the chip geeks would still be searching for a home to talk about chips. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the history of the Pharaoh's Club and Casino poker chip. I would be happy to hear your thoughts about my article, and please tell us all what your experience with the Pharaoh's Club chip is. Was it your first real clay set? Were you a part of that historic group buy? What happened to your Pharaoh's if you do not still have them? Greg Cagle (TenPercenter) Note: If I have used an image in this article that you own and you would like credit, a link, or removal, contact me and I would be happy to oblige.