Not One-of-a-kind, but Rare

So, you have some one-of-a-kind chips? So do I. Well, not exactly, well, no, I don’t. However, I do have a few that have just a few cousins kicking around in drawers and collections.

One of them is the chip on the left. This is an over-sized variety 42 mm and has “SPEED POKER ALL-IN” on the rim.

This colorful chip is from the Poker Dome televised championship series circa 2006. I know this because it is the last chip I had left when I busted out of the game.

Mansion Poker put together this championship, by allowing players from all over the world to compete in online tournaments. I started with a $5 buy-in tournament and finished in the top ten, which got me an entry into the $100 buy-in tournament. In that tournament, only the winner got a seat at the Poker Dome.

The best part of the tournament structure was that Mansion gave the entry to the Poker Dome as a freebie, and players got to keep their tournament winnings. I pocketed about $3500 and the entry, and while my flight (with my wife) wasn’t from across the ocean, we still enjoyed the free airfare to Las Vegas.

Mansion had a limo available for use, and we were put up for a few days in a suite at Caesar’s Palace. They were also nice enough to pay for our meals, and to top it off, they gave me $500 in casino chips to play with. Good people.

The Poker Dome was built upstairs at a theater complex on Fremont Street, and the day of the tournament I arrived several hours before the filming was to start so all the contestants could learn the rules, get fitted for blood- pressure meters, and do some practice. We had a great time, and they supplied lunch, snacks, and drinks. Well, non-alcoholic drinks.

When it got close to time for filming, the Speed Poker crew got us ready, and that included makeup. I don’t know how you ladies put that stuff on every day. That was tough, but not as tough as the lights………..jeez those things were bright. I thought I would have permanent damage, I could just see myself on a street corner with my little cup of chips, err, pencils.

As for the tournament, each of the six contestants started with 50,000 in chips, and play continued until one player had all 300,000. I used my special ALL-IN chip to signify a hand I thought would win (A-9) – it did not.

My wife and I sat in the audience and watched the last couple players battle it out, and Zack Williamson eventually won. Then we got moved back to Caesar’s for a very nice meal in Nero’s restaurant. Since it was only about 9 PM, my wife suggested we play a little poker, so off to the poker room we went.

There was a tournament starting at 11 PM, and although I was tired, I love my wife, and she wanted to play, so …………….we both entered. She got bumped out about 1 AM, and I was still alive with chips at 5 AM when we got down to the final table, and who do you think was on this table?

That’s right, Zack, with his $25,000 check from the Poker Dome and another trip in a month to fight towards a million dollar first prize. At 6 AM, Zack and the remaining three of us agreed to split the prize money in Caesar’s tournament four ways, and although Zack had about half the chips, we split evenly – he’s a gentleman.

As luck would have it, my wife also played on Mansion, and she came in second-place two weeks later in a tournament and qualified as an alternate, so we headed back to Vegas. Although she didn’t get to play in the Poker Dome, we did get all the perks. What a great time we had.

There is no more Poker Dome, no more speed poker, and no more Mansion for me since they no longer allow US citizens to play. I do have this cool chip though, and even if it isn’t one-of-a-kind, I still like it.

There are more posts to come, I’m not ALL-IN. What have you got?

Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe


My Early Poker Games and Chips

I saved my first casino chip in 1978. Although I wasn’t old enough to legally play poker at the Pacheco Inn (now the California Grand), I managed to get away with a few hours of Low ball to start my playing career. I lost.

I didn’t go home completely empty-handed, because, from the $20 in chips that I started with, I still had three $1 chips in the pocket of my jeans as I drove home. I was disappointed since I had a job that paid $2.50 an hour, and a $20 crunch was more than a day’s pay after taxes.

On the other hand, I convinced myself that I had gone through a great learning experience, and decided to keep the chips forever, as a kind of tribute to my first poker game against what I thought were really tough players. After four years playing against my high school buddies who could blame me for being optimistic?

In fact, in the very first game I ever played for money as a freshman in high school, I was ahead almost $5 before by some strange turn of events I started losing hand after hand. By the end of the night my buddy, Barry Wilson, was losing $10. I was stuck $9.20 and had to give a marker to one of the big winners.

It was problematic that the player I gave the marker to was a senior, while I was just a freshman, but the real issue was that I had a crush on his 15-year old sister, Denise. When I scraped up the money, I walked over to their house and rang the doorbell, hoping Steve would answer.

Did he? Of course not. Denise opened the door, looked excited to see me, and then asked why I was there. When I explained that I had to see her brother, she gave me a strange look, called him, and then passed quick judgment on me as I paid Steve and got my marker back.

Denise said anybody that would play poker for money was stupid. Strangely enough, she wasn’t the only one. Denise completely dismissed me after the poker payoff debacle. I was heartbroken but got over it when I started beating the games I was playing in on a regular basis. ‘Twas not the case for my buddy, Barry.

Barry had to take a job at Village Inn Pizza to pay his poker loses at the tender age of 14. Plus, I lost the time we had spent together swimming, shooting pool, and watching him crash his bike, which was a regular occurrence. I will admit that one of the times it was because I threw a pool towel at his head, missed, and it landed in the spokes of his bike.

Immediately after that, the towel stopped his back tire, the bike skidded to a fast stop, and my friend Barry continued on – in the air – until gravity brought him back to earth.

He got up from the asphalt with burns on his arms and knees and never complained, just gave me a grin and pulled the towel out of the spokes and the chain. What a guy! I eventually took to calling him, Wipe-out Wilson. Cooking pizzas was probably a safer experience for him.

I rather enjoyed beating the seniors each week, but eventually, they stopped inviting me. My first barring. A number of casinos in Nevada would later add me to the list of 21 players they barred, but fortunately, they don’t exclude you for being a good poker player, and I’ve been able to supplement my income with poker winnings for the past thirty years.

As for those poker chips I saved from the Pacheco Inn, they were brown with a covered wagon on the inlay. The mold was a Hat & Cane (Christy & Jones Co.), and there was a $1 symbol on them – but no name.

When I made it up to Lake Tahoe in 1978, the first club I collected a chip from was the Park Tahoe. They were gray with a gold hot stamp in the middle with the “Park Tahoe – $1 – Stateline Nevada.”

I was too cheap to save one of the red $5 chips with the coin inlay, but the rim of the $1 chips had four sets of dice and four sets of cards around it – made by the Nevada Dice company. I wrote Nevada’s Golden Age of Gambling after that. It’s about the casinos of Nevada from 1931 to 1981 – Kindle is free for Kindle Unlimited members.

Believe it or not, I still have one of each of those two early examples of now old (obsolete) casinos. That early trip also netted my a few chips from Harrah’s, Harvey’s, and the Sahara Tahoe. Every one of those chips is now worth some money ($5-$20 each), and whenever I saved chips, I saved more than one – and traded them with other collectors. It has been a lot of fun.

Do you remember your first collecting experience?

Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe.


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