Chip Chat

Chip Chat The iconic image of the casino chip exists throughout society. There are various designs and collectors and every chip has a story to tell; some hold significant value by virtue of their face value or collectability. With that in mind, let’s have an impromptu Q&A session of some of the casino and poker chip questions that may be of interest to casino goers.

How can you tell a real casino chip from a fake one?

Being that casino chips are so essential to the running of casinos, it’s of utmost importance that they remain on the premises, are not swiped from other patrons, and  are genuine rather than counterfeit. Casinos have had decades to get a structure in place to ensure that nothing untoward happens. For starters chips vary in weight from casino to casino, so this is one telltale sign of their authenticity. Chips also often have distinctive logos, colours and marking which differentiate them from that of other establishments.

Beyond this there are also often markings on the chips that only show up under UV light. More modern day measures now rely on RFID tags embedded into the chips themselves (a chip within a chip – chipception!). Casinos also have advanced CCTV and facial recognition systems in place. These protect customers (should somebody try to swipe your chips!) but primarily the casino itself. Transactions are also kept track of in a forensic manner and so if something is off it will soon be recognised.

Why Do Casinos Use Chips Instead of Cash?

It’s a valid question to ask, as surely casinos want to remove as many obstacles to gambling as humanly possible.  Gamblers aren’t always known for their patience though; they can be an impulsive bunch. The reasons are actually multi faceted. There is a security aspect to it, in line with the aforementioned measures put in place to ensure the legitimacy of chips. Where chips are stolen they can be cancelled via their RFID data, whereas if cool, hard cash was taken this wouldn’t be the case. The RFID tags also allow for mistakes to be tracked during play. On top of this it’s convenient to use chips in such a fast paced environment. Imagine roulette with endless piles of notes on the table. It would soon become unworkable.

A key factor though, is the psychological component to gambling. You see the same online; mentally it ‘feels’ very different to be handing over your money, in comparison to using casino chips or something that’s taking place in a virtual realm. Inhibitions find themselves on the back burner. The human mind is more familiar with the value of notes,  but not so much with casino or poker chips. It’s mentally far easier to push $100 worth of chips onto red or black, rather than having to count it out first.

What’s the largest ever collection of casino chips?

If you can think of it, somebody in the world is undoubtedly a collector of it. The iconic appearance of, and tales behind casino chips make them prime collector material. Some of us may keep a chip or two from a memorable visit to Vegas for instance, whereas others go the whole hog and make collecting them a passion. To ascertain who has the most casino chips we need look no further than the Guinness Book of World Records. Until 2020 that the Largest collection of $1 casino chips and tokens was 802 individual pieces. The record was fittingly achieved in Las Vegas, Nevada on 22th June 2019, by Paul Schaffer. He’d been amassing his collection since 2004. The record fell on 4th October 2020 to Gregg Fisher with a collection of 818 $1 casino chips. Some casino chips can cost hundreds of dollars and so if you’re planning on taking Gregg’s record, you’ll need deep pockets.

Ad Space on Your Face

Ad Space on Your Face We live in a pretty world time. Political turmoil the world over, growing environmental concerns, a pandemic.  As it has sometimes been said “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen“. But even after all of the current madness is factored in, my mind still returns from time to time to the woman who had tattood on her forehead.

While I would usually commend companies for thinking ‘outside of the box’ with their advertising campaigns, whoever decided to go along with this idea was clearly on a wind up that went a step too far. Not only was it ill-advised on their part, but clearly the woman in question, 30 year old Kari Smith, can’t have been the full ticket either. Admittedly it was inventive of her to come up with the idea of auctioning off advertising space on her own forehead, but the reality of the result is perhaps more a combination of sad and strange.

The winning bid of $10,000 resulted in her having the website address written on her forehead in permanent black block letters. Smith pledged to use the money for her son’s education, so there was at least one sane decision made during this process. She remained adamant throughout said that she didn’t have any regrets about getting the forehead tattoo. Much to my amusement there is, in fact, an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to forehead tattoos.

The question on everyone’s lips though, must now surely be ‘does she still, to this day, have the tattoo?’. It’s now 15 years since that fateful day, and *drumroll* I can confirm that in 2012 actually paid for her to have the tattoo removed. They no doubt wanted to step back from their more controversial advertising strategies. In the early 2000s this included paying multiple individuals, not just Smith, to get forehead and body tattoos of their web address.  They also paid $28,000 for a cheese sandwich on eBay  alleged to have the image of the Virgin Mary on it, and paid a woman $15,199 to have her name legally changes to!

Movies – Casino

Movies - Casino ‘Casino’ is an epic crime drama film based on the non-fiction book, ‘Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, written by Nicholas Pileggi; unusually, Pileggi did not finish the book until after filming has started. Distributed by Universal Pictures in 1995, ‘Casino’ was directed by Martin Scorcese, who co-wrote the screenplay, and stars Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci.

The film charts the rise and fall of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (De Niro), a former expert sports handicapper, who applies for a gaming licence, despite ‘at least two dozen gambling and bookmaking pinches’, and takes over the everyday running of the Mafia-controlled Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas in the early Seventies. Rothstein is joined in Las Vegas by his childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Pesci), who is assigned by Chicago Mafia boss Remo Gaggi to protect the skimming operation or, in other words, the cash taken ‘off the top’ of daily revenue to fund organised crime. Santoro, though, refuses to keep a low profile and his violent extracurricular activities earm him a place in the so-called ‘Black Book’, officially banning him from every casino in Nevada. Rothstein meets, has a daughter with, and marries former prostitute Ginger McKenna (Stone), but their relationship gradually breaks down, thanks in no small part to her former boyfriend, conman-turned pimp Lester Diamond (James Woods) and her increasing dependency on alcohol and drugs.

Rothstein was inspired by Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a real-life Las Vegas legend, while McKenna was inspired by his real-life wife, Geraldine ‘Geri’ McGee, a Las Vegas showgirl, and Santoro was inspired by Anthony Spilotro, a.k.a. ‘Tony the Ant’, a much-feared Mafia enforcer, whose badly beaten body was found, along with that of his brother, Michael, in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

Movies – 21

Movies - 21 Released by Columbia Pictures in 2008, ’21’ is a slick, stylish crime drama film loosely based on the book, ‘Bringing Down The House’, written by Ben Mezrich, which tells the story of the real-life Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Blackjack Team. Jim Sturgess stars as brilliant, but down-on-his-luck, mathematics prodigy Ben Campbell, whose admission to Harvard Medical School depends on his ability to raise $300,000 to pay tuition fees. Having impressed statistics professor Micky Rosa, played by Kevin Spacey, by unhestatingly solving the so-called ‘Monty Hall’ problem – a counter-intuitive probabililty puzzle – Campbell is deemed suitable to be trained in the ‘dark art’ of card counting.

Based on the principle that a deck rich in tens, court cards and aces is good for the blackjack player, keeping a tally of certain cards as they are played reveals when the odds shift in favour of the player and give a card counter a small advantage, typically between 0.5% and 1.5%, over the house. Although not technically illegal, card counting is heavily discouraged by casinos.

Having passed his initiation at an ‘underground’ casino in Chinatown, downton Boston, Campbell joins four fellow recruits on weekend trips to Las Vegas; using a well-rehearsed system of hand signals and code words they proceed to win hundreds of thousands of dollars playing blackjack. Predictably, despite his honourable intentions, Campbell is gradually corrupted by the high-rolling lifestyle and, ultimately, his arrogance and greed attracts unwanted attention. Events spiral out of control, leading to a final showdown, during which the avaricious Rosa finally gets his comeuppance at the hands of his long-time nemesis, veteran casino security consultant Cole Williams, played by Laurence Fishburne.

The movie was set to be one of the top gambling movies of all time (it did make the top 10 gambling movies in Italy ) but over time it has instead become regarded as one of many gambling flick of modern times..