Gambling has been around for a very long time, in fact, the first legalized casino, that we know of, was in Venice back in 1626. But how much do we actually know about the history of casinos and gambling? Specifically, when did Poker chips come into play and why did we start using them as a form of payment in the first place? In this story, we are going to research the history of poker chips and see if we can figure out their origins.
The concept of using something other than money came up very soon after gambling and poker were created. Often times people would be betting valuables over money because back then, valuables were worth more than the amount of money that you had. Instead of going into the casino with whatever money that you had, you would give them a gold or diamond necklace, a fancy watch, or any actual silver or gold that you owned.
You could place this in the pot and make bets the same way you do now, and if your hand wins then you get your valuable possession back along with whatever everyone else had thrown in as their bets. This system, while it worked for years, became problematic.
People were getting very reckless with the bets that they were making. They were selling their rings, their irreplaceable heirlooms, and other things that had sentimental value. This would be fine if their reckless behavior would have only affected them or the people who owned those valuables, but it was bringing conflict into the casinos.
Conflict is one of the reasons why a lot of casinos were still illegal back then. There were a lot of fights and a lot of stealing and robbing happening that the casinos decided they needed to find another way. In the 1800s is when Poker chips started to be created and soon all of the conflicts with using valuable possessions would come to an end.
You would still be allowed to trade in fancy watches and necklaces but it was more common to just use those things to buy yourself some tokens to play with. You might go to a big casino one day and find someone at the table with a very expensive watch thrown into the pot, but it is very rare.
Now you can go to a casino and not have to worry about selling away your great grandmother’s diamond necklace for a simple round of poker. I’m sure the casino would still accept it, or if they didn’t then the pawn shop down the street will, but it is much easier for everyone now that poker chips exist in the world of casinos.