How to Tell a Real Casino Chip from a Fake One
Whether you’ve found a casino chip and want to know if it’s legit, or you’re planning to make your own in a lucrative counterfeiting casino chip ring (bad idea), there are some key things you should know.
Spoiler alert: making fake poker chips hasn’t worked in years.
Signs of a real casino chip
You might think that chips are fairly standardized, and while they are in some ways, they actually vary from one casino to the next. For example, the general feeling is that casino chips must weigh 11.5 grams to be official, but that’s actually a myth.
In fact, across the top casinos on the Las Vegas strip, poker chips will range in weight from 8.5 grams to 10.6 grams. Chips are made out of clay or ceramic.
All casinos have stamps or markings indicating where they’re from. It’s helpful to think of this as a currency marking, as this is the accepted money in this land. That said, some casinos will cash “foreign” chips for players, although there can be limits, particularly if the casinos are owned by the same operators. But chips without logos from any casino will be instantly flagged as fake.
In the past, every casino could use their own colors for the various values of the chips, but that has become fairly standard over the years. White or blue chips are $1, red chips are $5 and can be called nickels. Green chips are $25 and called quarters. Black chips are $100. Purple chips, sometimes called Barneys, are worth $500 with orange chips worth $1,000 called pumpkins.
Ask any artist or designer, or just plan to repaint your home, and you’ll instantly realize that there are more shades of each of these colors than you can imagine. So even though all casinos might have green $25 chips, the exact shade is distinct and can be hard for counterfeit casino chip makers to match.
The colors do more than simply show the values and deter fakers, though, as they’re often used on signs for the table games to denote table limits. A red sign indicates a $5 minimum wager compared to a green sign with a $25 minimum bet.
How casinos stop counterfeit chips
It can be harder to counterfeit casino chips than you might imagine, because each chip is an exact weight, color and design, plus they are generally marked with special ink that is only visible under UV rays. Additionally, high value chips are specifically tracked by casinos, so you could only really attempt to counterfeit casino chips that are worth $25 or less.
For the higher value chips, casinos typically use tracking devices such as RFID tags embedded in the chips themselves. These can be useful if someone tries to steal chips, counterfeit casino chips or otherwise cheat the system.
But these chips do more than act as security measures. They also help the casino keep track of activity at the various table games, watching how much each table is making or losing and ensure that dealers are handling transactions correctly. So, you can’t even pass off your fake poker chip to the dealer in the hopes of the chip getting mixed into the pot.
It’s also important to remember how omniscient casinos are thanks to having such intense surveillance throughout the casino floors. They can literally track every player who cashed in large sums of money, follow their chips and ensure that they are cashing out the right amount.
Walking into a casino with an extra stack of counterfeit casino chips will get you instantly flagged by security. So don’t even think about it, unless you want to end up on the black book.
Found one? Here’s what you should do
You would think that this part of the story would be straight forward. Like finding money on the floor, it’s a “finders keepers” rule for chips, too, right?
Well, not exactly.
Most casinos have rules stating that any chips on the floor with unclear ownership belong to the casino. As a result, picking up chips from the floor is tantamount to stealing. This can be tricky to enforce, though, as players usually don’t just take a chip off the floor and try to cash it in, but first play it at a table where dealers don’t know the source of your chips.
Some casinos adopt a more lax approach to found chips, although prowling around casino floors looking for lost chips or unclaimed pennies in the slots is considered lowlife behavior can lead to your removal or banning.
If you find a chip in your couch or at a friend’s house, you may want to consider your options. You could return to the casino and explain what happened. They will often cash in the chip, especially if security footage can prove that you really did gamble there and the chip was worthwhile. Just be aware that stealing chips and trying to use them in various games to get high roller status – like this guy – isn’t as easy as it sounds and will carry heavy prison time.
Older chips, perhaps from now defunct casinos, could be worth even more than their face value. Collectors will pay piles of cash to own a piece of casino history. Of course, these collectors know what they’re looking for, so don’t even try to pass counterfeit casino chips to these experts.
Caught in the act
Despite all the protections and security, there are still people who try to pass fake casino chips off as real. Getting caught using counterfeit casino chips can set you up for a variety of felony charges, including burglary and manufacturing and possessing a cheating device.
That’s what happened to Leonard Martin Stone. After cashiers realized he was cashing in fake poker chips, investigators searched his belongings and found a paint brush, acrylic paint, glue, scissors and sheets of casino chip inserts. He later admitted to passing fake chips to the value of $125. Not worthwhile for a crime carrying penalties of up to six years in prison per count.
Here’s one criminal talking openly about making fake casino chips:
According to dealers and cashiers, it’s easier to counterfeit currency than it is poker chips, so maybe think of a different life of crime. The team at Casino.org strongly advise against making fake casino chips – trust us when we say you will get busted and go down for breaking the law.