The Lure of Casino Chips

What is it exactly that makes people collect casino chips? Is it the round shape? After all, who hasn’t taken a coin of some type and flipped it – heads, tails, heads, tails…………that’s got to be a universal urge. But chips, I’m not sure.

The fact that you can hold a chip in your hand helps, and it represents money, or better yet, it represents the quest for more money, easy money. That one little chip can be transformed into a lot more. Hell, “Tree Top” Jack Straus turned the phrase “a chip and a chair” into reality when he won the 1982 World Series of Poker Championship after being nearly busted early in the tournament.

Straus was down to just one $500 chip before doubling up several times and eventually winning the largest paying single sporting event in history (at the time), some $520,000. That chip must have been magical! And that’s how I feel about all the chips I collect.

Every chip I have is special for some reason. Some, only because I like the look of the chip, or because I traded it with somebody special (I have a few ugly chips I like because Bruce Landau or Doug Saito and I haggled over them at some point). Others are from casinos where I played a little poker or blackjack, even winning sometimes.

However, the main reason I love casino chips is that they represent the casino itself: the history of the casino and the people who built gaming. When I hold a chip from the Calneva at North Shore Lake Tahoe circa 1930, I know who was in the club and running things at the time.

I know Bill Graham or Jim McKay probably authorized that chip, and I know their own history. I know movie stars like Clara Bow played in the club at the time – and could have even touched that very chip. How could that connection be any more intoxicating?

Don’t collect chips? Well, there is still time for you to turn your life around. Maybe you already collect old dice, postcards, ashtrays or some other casino memorabilia – and you probably get the same excitement as I do with the chips. Or maybe you don’t. Perhaps you should give it a try.

Go ahead, I dare you.

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