Poker Chips – The Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Chips

To some, the thought of expensive poker chips might seem a bit absurd. After all, they’re just chips. How different can they be? The answer might surprise you. Look for poker chips on any site and you’ll be able to see the vast difference in prices. You’ll find results that range from a few dollars to hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds.

In this article, we’ll give you a closer look at what you can expect from cheap vs expensive poker sets and whether it’s worth upgrading your personal set.

How do cheap and expensive chips differ?


Ok, so this isn’t the most important factor. However, without a proper case for your chips, you’ll quickly become annoyed with how frustrating (and noisy) it can get to carry them around. Cheaper poker chips or sets usually don’t come with great cases, if any.

You want a great case with a cushy interior that neatly organizes and lays out your poker setup. Space for your cards and dice is nice to have as well. Plus, it just looks cool whipping out your poker chip case in front of your poker gang. Silver metallic cases are the most popular, but you can find some interesting alternatives.

Number of chips

Even if you just play for fun at home, you will need a decent amount of chips to keep the game running smoothly. Unless you play very casually, you will need at least 40 chips per person. If you play casually but want to replicate a more series experience, shoot for at least 50 per person.

If you want to play high stakes or make it feel like a game in a real casino, aim for around 70-100 chips. This should give you a lot of smaller value chips as well as a decent amount of larger value chips to cover all kinds of buy-ins, antes and stakes.

Material, Weight and Feel

This is the most tangible difference you will experience between cheap and expensive chips. With higher-end chips, you will notice an obvious upgrade in quality regarding how they feel. Pricier chips usually have a bit more weight to them, and you can almost feel the value of your money handling them. It is up to you whether or not you want a smooth or rough texture, and you will find both in any price range.

In the lower end of chips, you’ll mostly find plastic or faux clay chips. The cheap “supermarket” plastic chips are insanely cheap, but you can feel the lack of substance right away. Cheap plastic chips also feel “grainy” and rough. Faux clay chips already feel like a considerable upgrade despite not costing much more.

From mid to high-end, you will mostly be dealing with either ceramic or composite chips. These will already feel much weightier, robust and smoother to the touch. You might already find some casino-grade chips among these. The top end of poker chips usually consists of true clay chips. These chips feel so good that everyone coming to your game will play loose just to handle them.


Poker chips have become collector’s items in their own right with plenty of players using this as a serious consideration when browsing. Needless to say, you won’t find anything inspiring among the cheaper spectrum of poker chips. They will usually be a single colour with simple imprints or printed suites along the edges.

You’ll need to look in the mid to high-end range for anything that resembles real casino poker chips. Ceramic or composite chips already look better because of the superior quality of the materials they are made of. Casino-grade chips usually have far more intricate designs and might even feature complex engravings.

Special Materials/Features

If you really want to go all out, you can find special collector’s chips that are made of unusual materials. You may pay a premium for these chips; however, they will definitely give you bragging rights among your friends and will make a fantastic start to your collection.

For example, you can find older chips made from ivory which are becoming less available now as conservation awareness picks up. You can also find chips with gold finishings or engravings, inlaid precious stones, etc.

If you really want to go overboard, you can invest in a luxurious set of poker chips by Geoffrey Parker that will set you back around £5,688,000!!! We have to add that these chips are crusted with white gold (18 karats), 22,364 diamonds and come in an alligator leather casing. If you don’t have a few million laying around, you can find some special designer sets for £1,000-£2,000.


Lastly, we need to talk a little about what these poker sets will cost you. As we alluded to earlier, poker chip prices can vary dramatically based on the quality, composite materials, detailing, etc. The cheapest sets should cost you only a few pounds for about a 100 (£0.02 per chip). This includes the chips only (without any casing or extras).

Decent sets with a few hundred mid-range chips, casing and card decks + dice should cost you between £20-£100. So, as you can see, not expensive at all. Paulson chips are some of the best and most highly recommended high-end chips on the market and will work out to about £1-£2 per chip. This means that if you’re willing to pay a few hundred pounds, you are already looking at high-end poker chips.

In conclusion

As you can see, aesthetics, bragging rights and a VIP-feel are the only major differences between cheap and expensive poker chips. That means it’s entirely up to you whether you want to put down more cash for a fancier set. What we can tell you is that you will immediately feel the difference playing with higher-quality chips. However, there is nothing they can do that your cheap, “supermarket” chips can’t do as well.