Chip tricks became much more popular after the World Poker Tour took off because many of the professional poker players were doing chip tricks on TV. Some particular players, like Antonio Esfandiari, have helped popularize chip tricks. Esfandiari is especially talented at chip tricks because his background as a magician leads him to have extraordinary finger dexterity.
Although poker newbies love chip tricks because they are fun to do, they can occasionally offer you an advantage in a poker game if you want other players to get the impression that you are an experienced player.
Here is a description of a few of the popular chip tricks. I put them in order of easiest to hardest.
This trick is where you bounce a chip off the felt and have it fall onto your stack of chips. This trick is less about technique and more about practice. You just need to keep practicing the bouncing of the chip and getting a feel for the direction and height of the bounce. The key is the angle at which it hits the table - the angle has to be very small and any subtle inaccuracy will make the chip miss the stack.
This trick is when you are holding a small stack of chips sideways in your hand and moving the front one to the back - and repeating. Start with four chips. You can do this trick with two or more chips but it is easier to do it with about 3 to 5 chips in your hand. Hold them with all your fingers, except for your pinky. Assuming you are using your right hand, push your thumb against the left-most chip and pull it up. Once it is up then move it behind the other chips and push it down. You have to hold the other chips firm enough so that they don't move. This is why you will want to do it with many chips - because it is easier to grip a stack of chips and keep them from being pushed around by the movement of your fingers. Your pinky is on the bottom of the stack of chips and is essentially holding the chips up while your other fingers are moving the chips. This is one of the easier tricks to do and quickly becomes natural once you learn how to do it.
This trick is where you take two stacks of chips and use your fingers to splice them together into one big stack. You should start off doing 6-8 chips, so have two stacks of 3 to 4 chips that are right next to each other. Your thumb goes onto the left lower side of the left stack. Your index finger should go in between the two stacks and touch the chips where the chips meet. Your middle and ring fingers go on the right side of the right stack of chips. Most people don't use the pinky. To begin the chip shuffle, you push the two stacks together gently while lifting up with your middle finger and pulling both stacks up at the same time. It's best to have the chips in the different stacks be different colors so that you can easily see how accurate your splicing is. It helps when you do the trick on a surface that is slightly soft (like a poker table) because it makes it easier to lift the chips up a little to begin the trick, which is the hardest part.
This is where you roll the chips across the poker table from one hand to the other. You should start off with 3 to 5 chips. You can have the back of your hand right on the table (or a couple of inches above it) and your hand should be at an angle so the chips will roll onto the table instead of being dropped. You should have the chips held in between your thumb and your index finger. Your other fingers should be in front of, and below, the chips so that when the chips are let go they roll over the fingers and onto the table. Slowly release each chip.
With the chip twirl, you are holding a stack of exactly 3 chips by their edges using all your fingers except for your pinky. Your ring finger is on the bottom holding the chips up. Use your thumb and index finger to lift up only the two outside chips while letting the middle chip just sit there. To do this you can "lower" the middle chip at the same time you lift the two outside ones. Once the chips are separated, you use either your middle or ring finger to rotate the bottom chip 180 degrees while balancing the chip on your pinky, which serves as the axis for it to rotate on. When the bottom chip is completely rotated, slide the two outside chips back down around the middle chip. The hardest part of the trick is to rotate the chip once you have it separated. This trick looks fancier than the "knuckle roll" but I think it is easier.
In the knuckle roll, you use your fingers to roll a chip over the top of your knuckles. You start with the chip between your thumb and index finger. Slide the chip up with your thumb. Then, at the same time, push your index finger down and your middle finger up in order to get ready to grab the chip. Then slide the chip into the space between your index finger and middle finger. When the chip is partially inserted, then you can push the chip up by lowering your middle finger and raising your index finger. Then you just repeat the process for the following fingers until the chip gets to the end (between your ring finger and pinky). Then you can do it in reverse and make the chip go back the other way. If you get really good at it then you can do two chips at once. But not many people can.
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