The terms "Casino Grade Chips" and "Poker Chips" have different meanings in the Gaming Industry. Essentially, there are two classes of chips to be considered. The premier chip is the true casino grade chip and the other alternative is the low cost 'home game' chip.
Casino Grade chips are further divided into 2 categories; clay and clay composite. Both generally weigh between 9 and 10.5 grams.
The discerning or professional player considers clay chips the most desirous chips. These compression-molded chips are the standard for the vast majority of casinos worldwide. Both the composition of clay chips and their manufacturing process are highly guarded industry secrets. In addition, they are a very labor-intensive product. Both of these factors contribute to their higher cost. Clay chips are generally priced in excess of $1 per chip.
Home Poker Chips - From Left to Right - Full Clay Poker Chip, A Clay Composite Chip, 13 Gram 'Casino' Chip, 11.5 Gram 'Dice' Chip
The second casino grade chip is the clay composite chip. These chips are injection molded. Chipco and Kardwell are the two primary manufactures of this style chip and both firms manufacture their chips in the USA. NJ utilizes a 'natural' feeling substance, giving their chip a clay sound and feel while Chipco's chip is a more 'cold' ceramic material. The major advantage these chips have over their clay counterpart is their ability to accept full-face graphics.
Although the clay chip has been the industry standard for decades, the composite chip's popularity and use has grown significantly in the past few years. While there is no tangible difference in the quality of a clay chip versus a casino grade composite chip, the lower cost and graphic capability of the composite chip has seen its popularity grow within the casinos worldwide. NJ offers a "production line" chip to the public for the purpose of creating an affordable quality chip for the home user and is releasing a second more traditional "casino line" soon.
There is a third type of chip available for the home user. This is a composite chip manufactured in China. These low cost, multi-colored chips are made of PVC injected plastic over a metal slug and are produced specifically for the inexperienced and novice market. Cleverly marketed as "the heaviest (11.5 - 13 gram) casino chips on the market", these chips are not casino grade.
It is their metal core that makes them heavier than a casino grade product. Their mass production makes them widely available throughout the world at sometimes extremely low prices. This doesn't make them better. just heavier and cheaper and therefore not casino grade. This type of chip, although never recommended over a casino grade product, may be appropriate for the occasional player.
Whilst the clay chips and clay composite chips are generally more expensive (often 3 to 4 times more) I would suggest any regular poker player invest in a quality set as acquiring poker chips should be a once in a lifetime purchase. The cheaper Chinese chips are quite slippery, making them difficult to create high stacks and perform some chip tricks. From our experience casino grade quality (clay or clay composite) is the way to go! The usual set makeup is from 300-500 chips and are available from the following retailers.