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Ready for the Best Poker Chips - Clay or Ceramic?

Discussion in 'Poker Chip Advice' started by tomb1, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. tomb1

    tomb1 Well-Known Member

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    Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?
    Article by: Tomb1

    Most people looking to get or upgrade to the best chips ask what chips they should buy. You really can't answer that question without deciding which way you want to go when facing that first fork in the road: Clay or Ceramic.

    So the purpose of this article is to give some basic information, in words and pictures, to help guide that decision -- "I know I'm ready for good chips, but do I want clay or ceramic?"

    I'm not reviewing any chips in particular, and I'm not pointing to any buying sites. Look around this board for lots of this specific information. Some of this material has been posted before in the 2+2 or THP forums.


    BASIC CHIP INFORMATION

    Good places to start for lots of information are Poker Chip Reviews and Home Poker Tourney - Poker Chip Comparison Chart

    Real casinos in North America primarily use Paulson clay chips or Chipco ceramic chips. A few places use Bud Jones chips (made by Paulson/GPI), including those incredible WSOP chips at the 2004 Finals. And some casinos use coin inlay chips. So if you're trying to emulate a real casino chip, these are your choices.





    To select my favorite chips, first thing I had to do was choose among the major materials --
    - ceramic
    - clay
    - casino-grade composites
    - plastics, or
    - plastic with coin centers
    (and I use all these terms loosely since none of them are really 100% of one material).



    Most people prefer Ceramic or Clay -- and that's all you can get at retail -- so I'll talk only about these in this post. I'll save Bud Jones, Matsui and others for another time.


    Casino clay or ceramic chips all weigh about 10 grams. So when someone on eBay claims their chips are "true 11.5 gram casino weight," that's crap.

    And speaking of crap, most claims of "clay" chips are totally false. Many retailers and auction sellers try to make their chips sound better by calling them clay, or clay-filled, or clay composite. But they are not.






    OK, so I'll give you my opinions below. But first, here are 3 things to remember:
    #1. As they say on TV, your mileage may vary :) ... Much of it comes down to personal opinion and your priorities. For example, do you want good looks even if the feel is a little more slippery, or do you want chips that feel and wear well, even if the looks are somewhat subdued. Do you want denominations or not.


    #2. I ain't got no dog in this fight (as they'd say in the back woods). I don't sell chips and I'm not affiliated with anyone who does, period. Somebody may think I'm naive, wrong, or just plain stupid, but you can't say that I'm not objective.


    #3. And finally, if somebody reading this doesn't want a lot of detail, you can read only the "Short Version" below or just stop reading now. Get some samples, feel them for yourself, and make a decision.




    SHORT VERSION
    Always get samples. You'll know what you like when you feel them. If you're buying expensive chips, spend a few bucks before making a big purchase.​
    Ceramics:
    Pro:
    - killer graphics
    - silky feel
    - especially good for custom graphics
    - consistent quality



    Con:
    - won't stack as high
    - "clinky" sound
    - graphics wear down with heavy use



    Clay:
    Pro:
    - most traditional real casino chip
    - feel good -- stick together well and stack real high
    - molded faces and edge spots give a classy look



    Con:
    - fewer customization options
    - real Paulsons are very expensive
    - quality can vary between manufacturers




    - - - C E R A M I C - - -

    Chipco pioneered ceramic casino chips, and is the leader. They changed the chip industry with their colorful approach. Their web site http://www.chipco.com/home2.htm shows their ceramic line for home use, which you can buy from many places. All their chips are the same in look and feel, like the Suits, Classics, Casino, and Oysters, and you'll get the identical chips no matter which site you buy them from.

    The newer Chipco designs have their mark "CI" printed in small letters somewhere on the face. Many of the custom chips on this board and elsewhere are Chipco. Look at TenPercenter's outstanding Chipco Egyptian chips and be prepared to be blown away!

    There are some other good non-Chipco ceramics out there -- notably the Nevada Jacks Dead Man (Skulls) and Desert Sands, the Mardi Gras chips, and the Archetype chips from buypokerchips.com. These are a little different from the Chipcos in texture and feel, but the sound is about the same.

    What we call "ceramic" chips aren't really made of ceramic material like a dinner plate or coffee mug. No, they are a special multi-plastic compound, injection-molded under heat and pressure. The resulting white disk (before printing) feels like hard ceramic and has a fine, even surface.

    Here are some pictures of ceramic chips. The first 3 rows are actual Chipco casino chips (I even threw in one B&G chip, see if you can find it). The fourth row has NJ Desert Sands, NJ Mardi Gras, and two Chipco Classics.

    [​IMG]

    My take on ceramics is as follows:





    LOOKS
    - Ceramics offer stunning good looks. The faces can have photographs and bright colors, with excellent fine detail. These will "wow" you right away -- I mean, really knock your socks off!


    - Great colors and spots available on the edges, and words or denominations may also be printed on the edge.



    EDGES
    - The colors and stripes on the edges are not molded through the chips (edge spots that go from the face into and through the edge, like clay chips). The colors and edge spots can be bright and sharp, though the marks on the edge will usually not line up with the spots on the face, since the edges are made separately.


    - The edges on the Desert Sands have a marbleized look, not solid colors like Chipcos.


    - All the sample home use Chipcos I've seen have a "pimple" (or "nipple") on the edge, from the molding process. Some but not all of the casino chips have this, so I can't explain it. This is not very good to me. The non-Chipco ceramic samples I have don't have this imperfection.


    TEXTURE
    - The face of a ceramic chip is almost always flat and solid, with no indentations, ridges, mold marks, etc. Actually, on Chipcos and B&Gs the white rims (outer edges) are slightly raised above the face of the chip for wear purposes, but you usually can't feel that -- they feel smooth all the way across. For Nevada Jacks brands, the face of the chip appears to be flat, without a raised ridge.


    - The Chipco faces are somewhat slippery, especially compared to clay. Most casino and home Chipcos have a "satin" finish, with a slight texture at first. This texture is not slick like glass, but more like hard paper or even newspaper. Some Chipcos have more of a linen texture, but you don't find many of those. I call the Chipco faces "silky" because it's a high-quality feel to me.


    - Because of their slickness, they don't stack as well as clay or even some composites. If you rub two new ceramics together between your thumb and finger, they'll slide around pretty easily, almost like metal coins.


    - The faces on the Nevada Jacks, Mardi Gras, and Desert Sands ceramics are much more textured than the Chipcos. The Desert Sands are the most textured, feeling almost like a hard cloth or even very fine sandpaper. Some people don't like this feel, but they definitely won't slide as much as Chipcos in your fingers.


    - This NJ texture makes the pictures and colors on the face a little duller, without as much sharpness. (Like a photo in a newspaper, vs. a glossy magazine.) The slicker Chipco faces make the colors really stand out.


    - Ceramic texture will "break in" over time, but only a little. Well-worn casino Chipcos stack OK, but still they're somewhat slippery.


    - Here's a picture of different ceramic chip textures, up close:



    [​IMG]





    CHIP WEAR


    - The worst thing about Chipcos is that their faces don't wear very well at all. Now I'm talking about A LOT of wear and tear, like the constant use at a casino. I'd defer to other people on how much wear shows on home chips used in weekly tournaments, but probably not much.


    - If you look at casino Chipcos, you'll see two things. First, a white ring gets badly worn around the edge on the face. In fact I heard this was so bad in the old days, that now Chipco actually designs a white ring on the face for most of their chips, so it's part of the design and doesn't look as bad over time. This rim actually sticks up a tiny bit, so the rim is what is in contact with the chip above and below. However, over time (again, with heavy casino use) the face gets flat and the whole chips rub against each other.


    - This top edge wear also happens because the Chipco edges are nice and square, and stay that way for life (unlike clays, where their sharp edges will get very rounded over the years from use).


    -By comparison, the edge on the Mardi Gras is made more rounded, and the Desert Sands are even more rounded than Mardi Gras. (They actually seemed smaller in diameter that Chipcos because of this rounded edge, but they're all 39mm.)


    - The faces on these NJ chips with rounded edges do not wear off like the Chipcos with square edges. I think this is because of the rougher texture, but there is not enough data on NJ wear to say for sure. But the Chipcos edges feel better and sharper to me. Take your pick...


    - Here is a picture of the edges of some ceramic chips. Note that the Chipco edges are much more square.


    [​IMG]
    - The second thing you see on well-used ceramics is general wear across the entire face. After lots of use, the colors get faded, the pictures get blurry, and they look washed out and just plain old. Like I said, this is from my collection of actual casino chips, and most home chips won't get this much use. But the "wow" that you get with new ceramics definitely goes away. ​
    Here are some new Chipco chips (top row), typical casino wear (2nd row), and well-worn chips (bottom row):

    [​IMG]





    SOUND & TRICKS
    - The sound of ceramics is harder than clay -- I call it a "clink." Chipcos have a distinct sound that you learn to love (or hate). NJ ceramic have almost the same sound, but a little more subdued. Some people say that ceramics have a metallic sound, though of course there's nothing metal about them. They don't sound metallic to me.


    - Ceramics are very good for chip shuffling -- especially Chipcos -- and they make their distinct, crisp sound. I love shuffling my ceramics.



    [break]
    - - - C L A Y - - -

    When you're talking about clay, the first thing you talk about is Paulson. The Paul-son Company (the Endy family) was one of the pioneers of casino chips in Nevada, and Paulson chips are the REAL thing and the ONLY thing in most casinos. But since they were sold to a French gaming company (GPI), they haven't sold chips for consumer use.

    All that has changed with the new Paulson home chips now out Paulson Poker Chips, Clay Chips, Poker Tables, Playing Cards, Poker Chips For Sale, Poker Set, Poker Chips , and the customized Pharoah's Paulson chips in process.

    I won't go through the history of Paulson fantasy chips, Blue Chip chips (made by the Endy family after the Paulson buy-out), or some of the remaining original clay chip manufacturers, notably ASM and T.R King. They all make good "clay" chips.

    Each one has their own "mold" to identify their chips, shapes indented around the face of the chip. Paulson's Top Hat & Cane (in four versions) is the most famous, plus Paulson makes their chips in a "house mold" for many of the big casinos -- Hilton, Caesars, Ballys, Bellagio, Mirage, Venetian, Four Queens, etc. The new Paulson chips for consumers are going to be different from their casino mold, with the words "Paulson Chips" made into the mold.

    But the Blue Chip "Flames" mold (most people call it a Seashell), ASM Horsehead, "A" mold, T.R. King Crown, Nevada mold, Courts & Numerals, Martini Club Suits mold, Roman mold, Circle/Square, etc. are other good brands.

    If you want real casino clay chips, you can buy used Paulson chips all over eBay, although they've gotten damn expensive lately. (Most claims of "clay" chips on eBay are bullshit, by the way.) The other true clay chips on various web sites or eBay may be called Paulson "style."


    Almost all casino clays are 39mm in diameter, and most of the fanatsy chips or other true clay chips are the same size. A few Paulson fantasy/baccarat chips were made in 43mm or other oversize molds, but I would stay away from these if you're ever going to mix-and-match a set or add to it over time. For example, the higher denoms in the Vineyards chips are 43mm, which I don't like when you're playing a game.




    So here are some sample chips:
    1-4 = Paulson "standard" inlays (3 & 4 have shaped inlays, and 3 is a "house" mold)
    5-8 = Paulson "grand" inlays (5 & 8 are "house" molds)
    9-12 = Paulson "giant" inlays
    13 = Blue Chip "Courts & Numerals" mold
    14 = Blue Chip "Nevada" mold
    15 = Blue Chip "Suits" mold
    16 = ASM "A" mold
    17 = ASM "Horsehead (Right)" mold
    18 = T.R. King "Crown" mold


    [​IMG]





    LOOKS
    - Clay chips have a distinctive look and feel. Originally, these chips had very wide molded faces, with a small center area (1 inch or less). They were made with this printed center pressed into the chip, or some type of hot stamp. Often the center has a distinct, cross-hatched texture, like the texture of the Desert Sands ceramic chip. But many recent inlays are smooth and glossy, or even vinyl-feeling.


    - The face of the chip is not flat all the way across like ceramics. The molded shapes are indented around the chip on the face, and the center is almost always recessed a little bit. In fact, this inlay is supposed to create a slight vacuum that prevents the chips from sliding when they are stacked.


    - Once Chipco started making the flashy ceramic chips, Paulson had to adjust their chips to meet the desires of the casinos for flashy chips. When customers buy "collector" chips and take them home, that's pure profit for the casino. So to keep competitive and encourage collecting, there are now tons of "limited edition" chips, and they have to look good. I think Hard Rock was probably the first to do this in a big way, and they use Paulson "Giant" inlay chips.


    - So newer Paulson chips have larger inlays and smaller molded areas. On the newest Paulson chips, they can print pictures/colors almost to the edge. The Top Hat & Cane is actually indented into part of the picture on these chips. Look at chips 9-12 above, the "giant" inlays.


    - As far as I can tell, most of the consumer clay chips have the standard centers (approximately), or something closer to the Paulson Grands. See 13-18 above. I haven't seen consumer clays with the Giant inlays that Paulson sells to casinos.


    -But the bottom line is that the brightness and sharpness of clay chips isn't nearly as good as Chipco ceramics. The color of the clay itself is usually muted (unless they're Dayglo colors). Anything fancy is usually on the printed inlays.


    EDGES
    - Clays are molded from a granular material, sometimes with brass shavings inserted. The new chip comes out of the mold with very sharp edges -- they will easily stand on edge.


    - Clay chips can have edge spots molded into them. These are pieces of a different color clay material that is molded through the chip. It shows on the faces, and looks like stripes on the edge when you have a bunch of chips stacked up. Not all clay chips have edge spots, though.


    - The molded edge spots have a "classic" look, but they definitely are not as bright or sharp as ceramic edges. I've never seen a clay chip with any printing or design on the edge.


    TEXTURE
    - Brand new clay chips can be chalky or dusty from the manufacturing process. They may have ridges in their mold, or have a linen or cross-hatch texture.


    - Clay chips are absorbent, unlike plastic or ceramic. The oils from your hand soak in to the chip and actually improve the color and feel over time. They can get very dirty from use, if you've ever seen a stack from a casino. Check this board and other forums for lots of information about wearing in these chips.


    - Clay chips do not seem as slick as ceramic, at least to me. When rubbing them together, they usually stick together just as much as you'd want. You can stack clay chips over 100 high very easily, and they won't fall over from vibration to the table, etc.


    - The texture gets smoother over time and less granular, sometimes almost slick.

    CHIP WEAR
    - Clay chips definitely get worn. It's personal preference, but they seem to get old and still look good (like Cindy Crawford, Courtney Cox, Tea Leoni, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Raquel Welch) vs. ceramics (like Courtney Love, Renee Zellweger, or Barbra Streisand).


    - The indentations in the mold will get a little worn down, but they stay very identifiable.


    - Clay edges will wear down and get very rounded with lots of use. Somewhat rounded edges are actually very desirable in a clay chip you want to bet & shuffle with, rather than the brand new sharp edges which are prized for collecting and display. Look at the edges of these 20-year old Dunes chips:

    dunes4sideview100pct150dpi8hx.jpg


    - Compare this with the sharp edges on some brand new clay chips:

    clay4chipssharpedges100pct150d.jpg

    - The printed inlays molded into the center of clay chips usually stay looking about the same over time, except for getting dirty. Some of this is due to the fact that the printed part is inlaid below the surface, and doesn't get constant rubbing. Hot stamps (like denominations or names stamped in gold) tend to wear off.


    SOUND & TRICKS
    - Clay chips have a "clack" sound. You may ask, what's "clack" versus "clink" (ceramics) versus "click" (cheap plastic with metal centers) and I can't explain it. But you can hear the difference. Which do you like best? Beats the hell out of me!


    - To me, clay chips are slightly harder to shuffle, brand new clay chips especially. As they get rounded edges from use, they are easier to shuffle. But I can still shuffle ceramic and cheap plastic chips better than clays, but I'm not an expert. I think clay chips would work well for other various chip tricks that require some friction, but I can't say for sure.



     
    #1
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2009
  2. Jambine

    Jambine Creativity Alliance

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Great review. I had been agonizing over this decision and finally took the plunge with a set of 650 Chipco’s from Home Poker Chips. This review helped a lot. This site rocks!
     
    #2
  3. *acesandfaces*

    *acesandfaces* Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    WOW....Excellent review. Thanks Tomb1
     
    #3
  4. guitarizt

    guitarizt Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Hahaha I love the chip wear analogy.
     
    #4
  5. BigDogPoker

    BigDogPoker Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Excellant detailed review!
     
    #5
  6. RaiderJoe40

    RaiderJoe40 Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    bring home the "clack" your wife will be so proud...
     
    #6
  7. ace-in-space

    ace-in-space Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    I will stick with Paulson Hat and Canes. Thank you.
     
    #7
  8. gameduck

    gameduck Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    I am not seeing images here. It looks like the image host has closed them.
     
    #8
  9. tomb1

    tomb1 Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Thanks for the heads-up Gameduck. Images are fixed now.

    A lot has changed in the chip market since this article was written,and many new chips are available now. Paulson home chips and custom ASMs are two clay favorites, and several new manufacturers of ceramic chips are offering good color/style/texture combinations.
     
    #9
  10. detroitdad

    detroitdad Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    I'm fairly new to CT, great initial post.

    I have two ceramic sets. I absolutely love them both!!! However I am looking to sell my ceramic cash set so I can move into the clay chip era.

    Thanks for all the information.

    B
     
    #10
  11. KYBill

    KYBill Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Nice post.
     
    #11
  12. noelsarchs

    noelsarchs CCGTCC Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Tom

    Great review. But now I have to send you a better Palmas chip to replace the $100. I'm not a big fan of that particular chip so I'll send you one for free if you replace that picture, lol.
     
    #12
  13. mothmandan

    mothmandan CCGTCC Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Excellent review, as a newcomer to the site I find this gives most of the basic information that gets mentioned constantly among the posts. I hope there are some follow-up articles that can go more in-depth with different brands among the clays and ceramics.

    P.S. your Chipco link may be dead. It wasn't working for me.
     
    #13
  14. Sea Vulture

    Sea Vulture Creativity Alliance

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Great article. I agree with the getting samples before you buy. I have been surprised both ways with several of the samples I have purchased and they were an important part of my chip choices.
     
    #14
  15. sonny the money

    sonny the money Active Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Fantastick information! As a new member of the custom ceramic family (BR pro poker) Designed, ordered & waiting on delivery. I found this article very informative. This site has been alot of help, from suggestions, to advice it has all been great! I am sure this is just the start of my collecting days!
     
    #15
  16. Turner Profit

    Turner Profit Creativity Alliance

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Great Article! A good, fun and very educational read.
    Thanks to Tomb1 for taking the time to write it.
     
    #16
  17. cootmack

    cootmack Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Very informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it up!
     
    #17
  18. searcher

    searcher Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    Very articulate. Excellent article.
     
    #18
  19. SheaJ

    SheaJ Well-Known Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    awesome article. Im looking hard at getting some high end chips and this helped alot!!
     
    #19
  20. Jussi Halonen

    Jussi Halonen Member

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    Re: Ready for the Best - Clay or Ceramic?

    I love Paulsons due to their feel. But the customizability and the price keep me away from them. Progen's are enough to me.
     
    #20

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