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The Demise of the Snapper

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Well, by now you know that I've written several casino chip stories, so what on earth is a snapper? The $2.50 denomination chip used by casinos on the blackjack tables are known as a snapper. Most are pink, but I've seen colored snappers as well (insert jokes here). There are two competing stories on how snappers came to get their name -- both related to the table game where they're used. The Twin River Casino chip below will give you a hint.

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Twin River Casino with "21" inlay

1.) Years ago when all blackjack was dealt with the player's two cards face down, a snapper referred to the sound a player would make with their cards when finding that they were dealt "21" and turning over the cards with a crisp "snap" sound for the dealer to pay them at 3-2. Many old blackjack dealers and casino employees still refer to a natural 21 as a snapper.

2.) The $2.50 chip was designed to more efficiently pay off a natural 21 when there is a $5 bet. The dealer will lay a $5 chip next to the player's original bet, then pop the $2.50 chip atop the two others with a distinctive motion. The sound, or "snap", made by the chips became associated with these unique $2.50 chips.

Whichever explanation you choose to believe, $2.50 chips all over the world are called snappers today. Below are some of the traditional pink snappers. Some are obsolete and some you may have spotted at your local casino.

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An assortment of traditional pink snappers

But not all snappers are pink. Yellow and blue snappers are perhaps the next most popular colors. Below are a small sample of different colored snappers.

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An assortment of multi-colored snappers

In 1996, the Four Queens casino in downtown Las Vegas issued a limited edition set, or family in this instance, of snappers. All 4 chips are shown below and included the family of Sammy, Sandy, Sonny, and Staci Snapper. Look closely and you'll see that each head is made up of a natural 21.

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Four Queens "Snapper Family" set

Across the street at Binion's Horseshoe Club they issued a series of snappers commemorating their Silver Anniversary in 1994. A total of 20 different snappers were made for their Gallery of Champions series. They added to the series from 1995 through 2003 with snappers depicting WSOP Main Event champs Russ Hamilton ('94), Dan Harrington ('95), Huck Seed ('96), Stu Unger ('97), Scotty Nguyen ('98), Noel Furlong ('99), Chris Ferguson ('00), Carlos Mortensen ('01), and Robert Varkonyi ('02). A few are shown below.

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A sample of Horseshoe Club WSOP series snappers

Several other casinos issued limited edition snappers to include Sunset Station, Palms, Nevada Palace, Stateline Saloon, Bonanza, Opera House, and Silver Nugget casinos in Nevada as well as the Imperial Casino in Colorado and Hollywood Park in California. This last casino, Hollywood Park, got creative and produced both a metal core snapper and an octagonal snapper to commemorate Chinese New Year.

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Limited Edition snappers

A couple casinos associated this odd little chip with April Fool's Day. The Riviera in Las Vegas issued this clever snapper for their blackjack tournament in 2001 (notice the limited quantity to 929 chips) and Trump Marina in Atlantic City produced this 2005 April Fools chip -- both taunt the player when you flipped them over to read the other side.

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Riviera "April Fool's" snapper from 2001

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Trump Marina "April Fools" snapper from 2005

Snappers hold a special place among casino chip collectors. Obtaining the chips can be difficult as only roulette chips are tougher to obtain (as well as illegal). Most cashiers will not sell chips directly from the cage, or are prohibited by law from doing so. Cages are only used to redeem chips. Oftentimes snappers can only be gotten from blackjack tables. This means playing $5 hands hoping to hit 21 to receive a snapper. But those days are limited as more casinos are reducing the payout from 3-2 to 6-5, rendering the snapper obsolete. Many casinos do not produce snappers at all, but instead supply blackjack dealers with a row of 50 coins in their racks to handle the payouts.

If you're interested in collecting snappers before they become a thing of the past, your best bet is to find a friendly blackjack dealer at an empty table and ask them if you can buy several snappers. They will more often than not oblige you, especially if you toss a $1 chip on the felt as a tip. If you're interested in seeing snappers from around the globe, the best resource on-line is called Snappers Without Borders.
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