How to Tell a Real Casino Chip from a Fake One
By Alex Smith Apr 14, 2022
Many who are unfamiliar with the land-based casino gambling industry assume that fake casino chips are floating around the casinos in incomprehensible numbers. However, the reality is that fake chips and fake poker chips are incredibly rare because casinos have invested millions of dollars to ensure their poker chips and casino chips can’t easily be faked.
This guide will show you how to spot real casino chips and how casinos are actively working to prevent fake casino chips from infiltrating their casino floors.
Signs of Real Casino Chips
If you’re new to gambling or don’t have much experience telling real casino chips from counterfeit chips, you may assume that most casino chips are pretty standard. This has been fuelled by fake myths (often created by casinos themselves to make counterfeiting harder), such as casino chips having to weigh at least 11.5 grams to be official.
However, the reality is that in Las Vegas, real poker chips and a legit casino chip can weigh anything from 8.5 grams to 10.6 grams – and chips are always made out of clay or ceramic.
Every legitimate casino chip will have specific stamps or markings showing where they’re from. Without a logo or stamp/marking, there’s a good chance that your casino chips are fake; this is one of the first ways that you can identify counterfeit chips.
In the past, different land-based casinos used different colours to indicate the different values of their casino chips. However, today, the vast majority of casinos use the same colours to represent the value of the chips. For example, most $1 chips are white or blue, while most $5 chips are red.
However, while most land-based casinos use the same coloured chips, this doesn’t mean the shades of the colour are the same – and this is one of the key ways that casinos manage to differentiate their chips from one another.
Common Counterfeit Chip Myths Busted
While we’ve already briefly touched upon that many people believe that the easiest way to identify counterfeit casino chips is by the way they look and feel, this is rarely the case. For example, the chips’ weight, look, design, and feel are rarely accurate features to consider. Based on these factors, many people think chips are fake when they’re not.
For example, many people will tell you that the weight alone is enough to tell whether or not a chip is real or not. However, as we already looked at, while weight is indeed a factor, there’s no industry standard for the weight of a chip – so it cannot be accurately used to be 100% sure as to whether a chip is real.
Here’s an interesting snippet from Pokerfortress.com explaining a bit more about why the look and feel of chips is unreliable:
“Since most casino chips use clay composite for their chips, forgers can use metal inserts to make it heavier or match a real poker chip.
There are fake casino chips that even the casino staff might miss. Casinos also know this because if you give someone $500 to replicate a $1,000 chip, it’ll look the same—even the chips’ imperfections and other intricate features. It’s the reason why it’ll be tough for anyone to determine whether a poker chip is real or not.
The look and feel of a casino chip, including all the imperfections that it may have, is only one factor you can use to determine whether a poker chip is real. Casinos also employ various security features to protect their chips and ensure that no one can replicate them, regardless of how much they spend on it.”
How Do Casinos Stop Fake Casino Chips & Counterfeit Chips?
Many people (wrongly) assume that it’s pretty easy to create counterfeit chips; in reality, casinos know what they’re doing, and that’s why they pour so much money into developing their chip technology to prevent fake poker and counterfeit casino chips. For example, one of the first ways casinos manage to prevent counterfeit casino chips from being used successfully in their casino is to coat all of their chips with a special ink that’s only visible under UV rays.
If the cashier has any doubt as to whether or not a casino chip or poker chip is real, they hold the chip under this special light, and they’ll be able to tell almost immediately whether the chip is authentic.
Now, when it comes to higher value chips, most casinos have started to use what are known as RFID chips. These all have a special tracking device inside them – embedded deep within the chip – and like the UV light, this allows the casino’s staff to quickly check if the chip is authentic. Some of the more valuable casino chip denominations will also have a tracking device built-in so the casino can see where their chips are in real-time.
Now, you may think that this kind of technology is intrusive – or even unnecessary – but casinos use it for more than just making sure their chips are accounted for. For example, the larger casinos can help them keep track of activity at their establishment; for example, they can see how much each table/game is losing or making. It also helps to ensure that croupiers are handling transactions correctly.
Another thing worth remembering is that a casino spends millions of dollars every year on surveillance and security; this is often used to prevent a fake poker chip or a counterfeit casino chip from being successfully brought into the casinos and passed off to croupiers. The surveillance team at most casinos track shady-looking players and often those playing the higher-valued games.
What To Do If You Find a Counterfeit Chip
If you’re still wondering how to tell an actual casino chip from a fake one, then make sure you re-read the earlier stages of this article. From now on, we’re going to assume that you know how to spot fake poker chips and a real casino chip – so if you do find real poker chips or fake chips, then we’re now going to tell you what to do.
For example, you may assume that if you find casino chips – both real and fake – on the floor, that you can simply pick them up and cash them out. However, it’s worth pointing out that virtually all land-based casinos have rules starting that any chips found without a clear owner actually belong to the casino – and you’re technically required to hand them in to the casino’s management team. Of course, in reality, this rule is virtually impossible to enforce as anyone who finds a chip on the floor is unlikely to simply hand it into the casino.
When it comes to finding counterfeit chips, your best course of action is always to hand them in. The last thing you want is to get caught with a counterfeit poker chip or casino chip; doing so could get you into legal trouble, not to mention being banned from the casino (or casinos) for life.
Throughout history, there’s been many news stories of people trying to get away with counterfeiting casino and poker chips – although most people who end up doing so get caught. Here are a couple of notable examples, the first from Singapore. A man called Toh Hock Thiam, a 55-year-old Singaporean resident, was caught creating counterfeit casino chips worth $1,000 each – and he had, according to police, created some 1,291 of these, causing losses of more than $1 million to casinos.
DPP Asoka stated: “As the counterfeit cash chips are all the same, an inference can be drawn that Toh was either involved in the manufacture and distribution of all the counterfeit cash chips or he had liaised with an unknown syndicate member who had manufactured and delivered the counterfeit cash chips to him and others involved in the scam.”
In Northern Virginia, a couple were caught creating fraudulent chips for use at Maryland Live – and they cleverly converted low-value $1 chips into $100 chips.
“We are working closely with State Police and will not be commenting on the specific details of the case, except to praise our internal security and surveillance, and the police, for their swift action,” Maryland Live officials said in a written statement. “Our team’s ability to immediately recognize the situation allowed us to provide time-sensitive information to investigators that led to the speedy apprehension of the suspects without any financial impact to our operation. This result clearly demonstrates that the systems and training deployed at Maryland Live Casino are highly effective and should serve as a deterrent to criminal behavior.”
Can you get in trouble for using counterfeit chips?
Yes. In every country where land-based casinos are legally allowed to operate, it’s against the law to use, manufacture or sell counterfeit chips – and there’s some pretty strong legislation in place to punish those who do get involved with such practices.
In the USA, especially, there are very strong laws in states like Las Vegas; some people have been jailed for more than 10 years for getting involved with using counterfeit chips, and it’s one of the main reasons why you should stay well-clear if you ever find yourself running into them.
What should I do if I find a counterfeit chip?
If you find a chip that you believe may be a forgery, you should head straight to the cashier at the land-based casino or speak to a management team member. Explain your concerns, tell them where you got the chip from and don’t hesitate to answer any of their questions.
Do casinos check whether chips are real at casino table games?
Yes; croupiers and dealers are well-trained to spot counterfeit chips. Many of the high-value chips have special tracking technology built into them – so a casino’s security team can tell pretty quickly whether you’re using forged chips at the table or not.