The majority of people who play poker today will never hold a poker chip in their hand. That’s because more people play poker online than will ever go into a land-based casino.

In the online casino, new poker players are welcomed to sites with amazing bonuses such as six free entries to freeroll poker tournaments and six free entries to the site’s New Player Turbo tournaments, where for the entry fee of just $1, you can play for a $500 pot etc. But when you’re playing poker on a casino website, you’ll never feel the weight of the chips in your hand.

At the land-based casinos, though, you still get to hold the chips and like all things in life, poker chips have a shelf life. Casinos change the batches of chips that they have when chips begin to look worn. So where do all the old chips go and how do the casinos avoid them falling into the wrong hands and being used illegally?

A few decades ago, casino bosses had various methods of getting rid of expired chips. They would be buried in concrete in the foundation of a new building or tossed into deep waters of a nearby lake. How do we know? People have found them and they’ve now become collector items.

Spinetti’s Gaming Supplies in Las Vegas is run by Mike Spinetti, who is believed to have the largest expired poker chips collection in the world, valued at around $15m. His favourite is a Flamingo Casino chip from 1947.

The Dunes casino was demolished in 1993 and construction workers discovered hundreds of chips in the foundations. Similarly, there were chips found in the foundations of the New Frontier when it was demolished in 2007 that came from the Sands. Whenever chips are found, they’re taken to collectors like Spinetti.

Mike Spinetti poker chips

However, finds like these are becoming rare, due to 1987 legislation. In Regulation 12, chips were declared part of a casino’s property and the casinos were required by law to destroy any discontinued chips according to regulations. The casinos were quite happy with the rule change, but some gamblers were not. Previously, gamblers had been able to settle debts using chips as currency, but Regulation 12 means that chips could no longer be used away from the tables.

The purpose behind the regulations was to cut down on counterfeit chips getting into the casino system. Now, when a player cashes in at the end of a gambling session, they show their player’s card to show that the chips were earned through gambling. A cashier can refuse to cash them if a player can’t prove where he or she got them. Today, most chips have security UV markings or radio frequency ID tags so they can be checked for authenticity.

As for the disposal method, casinos have to use a Gaming Control Board approved company, which loads them into a truck that has a tumbler that grinds the chips to dust.

Although finds of expired poker chips will become fewer as the years go by, it’s all good for people like Spinetti – their collections will only increase in value.

By James