Although design is less important than the materials and weight of the chip, design is still important to many people, especially if you are spending a lot of money on your chips.
The cheaper plastic chips will come in just one design, which is usually relegated to being just a single color. The nice plastic chips (11.5 gram) also usually have a single design, but usually have two colors. These nicer plastic chips almost always come with the "Suited/Dice" design, which have icons of playing cards and dice around the edge of the chip. The "Dice" design has edges pots, while the "Suited" design doesn't have edge spots. These chips are also designed with a simple mold. There is usually not much room for design preference when buying plastic chips.
Here are the different design factors of professional chips.
Inlays are the graphics printed on the middle of clay chips. They are usually made of paper covered with a very thin layer of plastic. Historically, the inlays of clay chips have always taken up about half of the area of the face of the chip. Over the past few years though some of the manufacturers of clay chips have created larger inlays to win over some of the users of ceramic chips who prefer a larger imprintable face area.
The inlay is one of the most important factors when considering the design of a chip. Some people like artwork, some people like to have a personalized name on the inlay, while others like the denomination on the chip. Having the denomination on the inlay is not a popular design for home poker chips since the denominations of the chips may change from game-to-game. Having the denomination on the inlay is more popular for casino chips.
The inlay on the clay chips is recessed so that the air can flow in that empty space which makes the chips easier to stack.
A "mold" is the set of indentations that form a ring around the face of the chip. Most molds are a set of repeating patterned shapes, but some molds are made of letters. Since the molds on poker chips are very subtle, they tend to be one of the least important features that people look at when buying poker chips. But the mold is considered by most poker chip aficionados as the factor that gives the chip its artistic value.
Each chip manufacturer has their own mold to uniquely identify their chips. Paulson's "Top Hat & Cane" mold (see picture to the right) is the most famous. The mold on the new Paulson chips for consumers has the words "Paulson Chips" made into the mold.
Most casinos have their own custom molds, which were originally used as a security feature but used today more for style and banding. Some casinos just have the casino’s name as the mold. Some casinos just use the Paulson Hat & Cane mold.
Although different chip manufacturers offer different molds, custom molds cost a ton of money, so custom-molded chips are not an option for the home poker chip buyers.
The outside edge spots can vary in color and quantity. I have seen chips with as few as 2 edge spots (on a $1 MGM Grand Las Vegas chip) and as many as 16. Most edge spots are a single color but I have seen edge spots with as many as 3 colors. The edge spots vary in thickness - some are thin stripes and some are thicker.
The edge spots on clay chips give the chips a handcrafted appearance. In a world of mass-produced chips, these subtle factors are things chip aficionados appreciate.
One of the more subtle factors of chips is the sharpness of the edges. Some chips are made with soft edges, while many chips come with very sharp edges, which make the chips more difficult to shuffle and handle. Some of these harder edges on clay chips though, such as the edges on Paulsons, become softer with wear.
Some chips come are manufactured with beveled edges (see the picture to the right) in order to make the edge less harsh.
The hardness of the edges is one of the most over-looked factors of a poker chip buyers because the edges are not an official characteristic of a poker chip. It is not until after someone buys some chips that they realize that the edges of the chip are uncomfortable. Poker chip manufacturers themselves often don't realize the feel of the edge of the chip. To get accurate information and an experienced opinion about a poker chip's edges, you should read the poker forums online and read the opinion of other people who have bought the chips.
One of the key factors between clay vs ceramic chips is the texture of the face of the chip. Ceramic have a slicker texture that borders on slippery, while clay chips often have a textured face (see the picture to the right) that makes the feel of the chip a little gritty.
The colors that you need to select are the base color on the face of the chip, and the colors of the edge spots.
Although almost all poker chips are round, you do occasionally see other shapes, such as octagon, rectangular, and square. These shapes are not popular at all with players.
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