What's In a Poker Chip? by: Joe Daley, VP - Palm Imports We have all heard it -- "REAL CLAY POKER CHIPS"-- but when asked "how do we know they are clay?" many different answers come up. Blank looks and faraway stares can be seen, and often times just plain silence. So you may ask yourself, "what exactly is in MY poker chips?" The ad says clay, you say no... what's the story? Back in the days of horse-drawn carriages, poker chips were indeed made from clay. Once the industrial revolution took form, however, the clay poker chip died. Clay chips had to be fired, they were extremely brittle, and could easily be damaged. Once new and stronger materials became available --specifically plastic-- clay was no longer used for poker chips. <hr width="200"> ABS (Plastic) Poker Chips What most sellers today refer to as clay is nothing more then ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene) plastic. Savvy advertisers tout their chips as "real clay, clay filled, all clay", et cetera, but the fact of the matter is there ain't no clay in them there chips. ABS chips and real casino quality chips (such as Paulson, Blue Chip, ASM, and TR King) are distinctively different then most everything coming from China or Taiwan. I say real casino quality chips are different, but not necessarily better, because defining better when it comes to poker chips is a debate that has no end. The casinos use Paulson (parent company is GPI or Gaming Partners International who also owns Bud Jones and several other casino branded names), The Blue Chip Company, or Chipco. These chips are well made with the tell-tale imperfections that infer they are truly made by hand. Most everything in life has a reference model, the elite or "best" of the best. For gaming chips, the casino quality chips are thought to be the standard by which others are judged. <hr width="200"> Compression Molded (Clay) Poker Chips While most imported chips and all ceramics are made using plastic injection molding equipment, casino quality clay chips are made using compression molding. Compression molding consists of forcing material under extreme pressure and heat to bind together. The inlay of these chips(as most true casino chips) are different then any other inlay chip. They are added to the chip and pressed INTO the chip when the " clay" material is hot, thus bonding the inlay to the chip itself. Once cooled, they become the finished product. They are truly made by hand, or in gaming jargon- "hand squeezed". The most notable differences between injection-molded and compression-molded chips are the feel and sound. The word clay, in reference to Paulson, Blue Chip et al is a misnomer. They may look and feel more clay-like, but there's probably little clay (as in clay from the Earth) in them. But misuse the word we do, and will probably do so for as long as poker chips are around. Until someone unveils the secret recipe for the casino quality chips we just won't know. Don't hold your breath though, Coca-Cola, KFC and many other companies have managed to keep the lid on their trade secrets for a LONG time. We believe Paulson, Blue Chip and others will also. You can find hundreds of recipes online for methamphetemine, but for a casino poker chip ingredient list-- good luck. The Chinese learned to soften the feel of their ABS chips by using compounds such as calcium carbonate and other ingredients, and the feel and sound of the traditional ABS chip soon was altered forever. This new softer-sounding, softer feel chip became the "real clay" chips we see advertised everywhere we turn, and ABS fell into it's own distinctive "plastic" category, yet many are still confused and disappointed that their "clay" chips are --in fact-- only plastic... and will defend to the death the fact that they do have "REAL" clay chips. One way to easily determine the composition of your chip is to light it on fire. ABS will burn blue and melt. If the chip has a very high content of non-ABS material you will not see this effect. It doesn't mean you have a clay chip; it only means your chip is not primarily ABS. <hr width="200"> Ceramic Poker Chips Even the term "ceramic poker chips" is a misnomer. Ceramic chips are primarily made from a polyester material which mimics the feel of ceramic. They absorb ink through a special manufacturing process but they are not, by strict definition, a ceramic chip. While other materials surface to change the feel and sound of poker chips today, rest assured that if you own anything but Paulson, Blue Chip, ASM, TR King and perhaps a few others we may have missed, what you own will be either plastic, a combination of plastic and calcium carbonate and other soft ingredients- or polyester, NOT clay.