Thursday, January 10, 2013

Learning to Love the Finer Things in Live Poker

As previously mentioned in a recent post, when I started getting back into poker I decided it was time to treat myself to a fancy set of new chips - sort of an engagement gift to myself.  With online poker virtually dead I was becoming more aware of the fact that if I really wanted to play more often I would need to branch out into nearby home games, start hosting some myself, and/or drive over an hour away whenever convenient to play in one of the poker rooms right over Maryland state lines.  If I was going to have any success hosting a game of my own I was definitely going to need the proper setup, and the first item on the list was new chips.

Venerati chips by Sidepot
After a quick Google search I stumbled into the world of poker chip obsession,, which is now one of the sites I check almost daily.  Turns out poker chips are a much more complicated product than most of the cheap "dice" chip manufacturers would have you believe.  Not only that, but there is a dedicated group of poker-loving folks out there who take their chips very seriously and have a wealth of knowledge on everything from mold options to edge-spot designs.  I spent a few days perusing old threads and boning up on all the lingo while discovering a wide range of poker chip options that I never knew existed.  Eventually I settled upon a set of ceramic chips that I found visually right up my alley - the Venerati chips by Sidepot.  I liked them so much I actually went back and put in two more supplemental orders over the next few months.  These chips continue to get compliments from both regulars and recreational players, and they're probably the only ceramic chips that I've ever found to be just as satisfying as the other alternatives that I next discovered...

A few months down the road I officially have the poker chip addiction and can't wait to see what's new on ChipTalk every day.  I've bought a few sample sets of other chips here and there and am beginning to amass a collection to go along with my Atlantic City mementos.  Then one day a thread pops up about a Halloween sale offered by this guy Jim  from The Chip Room, featuring used chips from a closed Missouri casino among other things.  Knowing what I know now, I probably should have just handed my whole bankroll over to Jim at the time, as my first purchase of a small set of used Paulson (the top hat and cane chip company) President Casino on the Admiral (PCA) chips was only the first in a long line of his great sales that I would take advantage of.  Hmm, or am I the one being taken advantage of?  Who cares, poker chips!

President Casino on the Admiral chips
The PCA's came complete with the grime and gunk of the former riverboat casino-goers, also known as "finger jelly."  They demanded quite the labor-intensive process of soaking, scrubbing, and oiling in order to get cleaned up real nice, and luckily all the details of how to go about this were already covered in the ChipTalk threads.  This set doesn't get much play anymore, though they still have a great feel and I love the color combos and shaped inlays of each denomination.  I will add that I play in a few home games with mint condition and lightly-used PCA's and the difference is remarkable.  Mint Paulson chips are the absolute nuts, but you'll have to pay a pretty penny for them.

A little further down the road I started thinking about getting a serious set.  And by serious, I mean that in the world of chip-talkers you're only serious about your chips when you get your own custom-designed set.  One of the main companies in the business of making custom clay chips for enthusiasts such as myself is Atlantic Standard Molding (ASM) now based out in Las Vegas.  You pick the color combinations, the edge-spots, the mold, and the inlay design of your own making, give them the preferred quantities needed, and they shop it up and ship it off in a few months time.  A few of the home games hosts I know have their own custom sets from ASM (some actually have two or three full sets) and they are awesome chips to play with.  After doing a little Q&A with some of these guys I started playing around with the color combos and inlay designs, using the ChipTalk Chip Factory and an old version of Photoshop, respectively.  The whole process took a matter of months to finally get things right, but as of now I have an order in and paid for and am hoping for a late February or early March delivery.  Putting a game together with quality chips is nice.  Having your own custom set to put in play is definitely extra baller!

Empress Casino chips
For a little while I thought the big order for ASM's would mark the end of my poker chip shopping sprees, or at least for a good while.  Unfortunately it was not long before another one of Jim's sales went up in the threads that had me rationalizing how NOT purchasing more chips clearly did not make any sense.  The prices were just too good to pass on as always, and thus I started putting together another set of used Paulson chips from the former Empress riverboat casino in Illinois.  This set is now my go-to for nickel-dime games with friends and family (we just move the decimal places on the $5, $25, and $100's), as well as for any potential tournaments.  The hundos ($100's) are by far some of my favorite chips that I've ever laid eyes on, and they look particularly nice in stacks and racks.  It's quite likely that this set will become secondary once I receive my custom babies, but I'll make sure they still see the table every now and then.

I'm hoping that at this point I'll settle down a little bit and be happy with the beautiful chip sets that I have.  One thing I'm sure of though is that the little things are insanely addicting.  There are quite a few chip-talkers out there that boast tens of thousands of chips across dozens of large sets... we're also talking tens of thousands of dollars worth of total investments here.  Some even put together live sets - sets of chips from casinos still in operation.  These are the folks who could have cashed in their chips before they left the casino for hundreds of dollars, but opted instead to keep them (some temporarily, some likely permanently) for playing at home.  Certainly I'll take a souvenir or two from the casino poker rooms I play in, but I can't see myself ever driving hours away to mine racks of mint chips from new casinos.  Then again, I probably never would have predicted that my fanaticism for poker chips would have ever reached the level that it's currently at.  Perhaps when you get into live poker you just start to appreciate the finer things that you never think of when sitting at a computer and playing online.

My new appreciation for live poker things has also extended to cards and tables, which I'll talk more about later.  Certainly it'd be a bit unfortunate to have great quality chips on a lousy table with old marked-up paper cards, and I definitely have plans for a future poker room / man-cave that brings the whole high-quality package together; think Ron Burgundy's leather-bound books and smells of rich mahogany.  It will likely be a while before this project even begins, but the necessary pieces are already accumulating in various rooms of my house.  Rest assured that one of these days my fine poker chips will get to splash around and play surrounded by the classiest poker room amenities on the block.

For now, I'll just keep dreaming and trying not to spend all my money on more chips...


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