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WSOP Tournament Chips

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I booked my trip to Las Vegas this week for the 48th annual World Series of Poker. I'll arrive on June 5th and stay 18 nights. I'm catching up on a few PFA podcasts and listened to one yesterday where Druff suggested that the WSOP should have more than 2 racks of tournament chips. These two items gave me the idea to write up a Rio/WSOP chip article.

The first thing I did was to check the Nevada Gaming Control Board Gaming Commission website. Each month they publish the Chip and Token Report. This describes the new chip designs that they have approved for each casino. Casinos constantly replace old designs, or add new ones, to their racks. Below is a copy of the February 2017 report. As you can see, the Rio was the only property in the state to request new chip designs last month and were granted approval by Nevada Gaming for 6 new chips.

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Nevada Gaming Control Board Gaming Commission Feb 2017 Chip and Token Report

Let's first look at the four chips in the middle of the report. These are all $5 denomination chips, so they'll be used in table games and in the poker room. The Rio has been producing a series of $5 WSOP Limited Edition chips for a few years now. These poker designs are popular with players and collectors alike. The Rio will order 2,500 of each of the 4 styles. May poker players are traveling to Las Vegas to play in their first WSOP, and bringing home a souvenir chip commemorates the trip. Since taking WSOP tournament chips is prohibited, these $5 cash game chips, with their beautiful designs, makes a suitable substitute. Below is the 2016 $5 WSOP Limited Edition series. One side shares a common Rio and WSOP logo while the backs each have a different poker hand. The series is dated and limited to 2500 chips. From the description on the 2017 Chip and Token Report, the Rio didn't bother to create new graphics and it appears as if the same 4 poker hands will be used. They'll probably just change the year to 2017. Very lazy.

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2016 $5 Limited Edition Rio/WSOP Chips (front: top row, back: bottom row)

The top line on the Chip and Token Report is an approval for a WSOP Buy-In chip. These are used in the Sit-n-Go area in the Brasilia room at the Rio. Winners receive their prizes in the form of these 500 denomination buy-in chips. They cannot be redeemed at the cage for cash. They can only be used towards WSOP tournament buy-ins. Players generally sell them for face value to players waiting in registration lines. The Rio will only use one style of 500 buy-in chips each year. Limiting the variations makes it easier for tournament cashiers to recognize valid chips from forgeries and fakes. Because of this, be wary if you are offered 500 buy-in chips, especially if the seller has some excuse to sell them to you at a discount. Odds are they are no longer valid. The Chip and Token Report shows that the 500 Buy-In chip will be oversized at 48mm in diameter (buy-in chips have been oversized in recent years), and will be fuchsia in color with inserts (the "stripes" along the edges of the chip) of desert flower & sherbert orange (2 color names offered by GPI -- the company that manufactures the WSOP chips). Yes, Nevada Gaming misspelled sherbet. So, if someone offers you a 500 buy-in chip of some other color, do not accept it. Below is one of the 500 Buy-In chips used in 2013 which is now non-redeemable.

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2013 WSOP 500 Buy-In Chip

The last line on the Chip and Token Report is for a 500,000 denomination tournament chip which will be standard 43mm size with an ocean blue color with ivory inserts. I suspect that this will be an addition to their "B" rack of WSOP tournament chips as their "A" rack already has this denomination. Druff was correct in that the WSOP only has 2 racks of chips for series tournaments (a cheaper rack is used for the dailies and for the sit-n-goes). The A rack has many more chips, so it's used for the events with smaller buy-ins (which have larger fields). The B rack is therefore only used in high buy-in events with smaller fields. Both racks have been in use since 2008, and the A rack is getting pretty dirty and worn down. The vast quantity of chips make it financially impractical for the Rio to replace them each year as they do the 500 Buy-In chips. If you play any WSOP events, you'll be given the A rack in events with entry fees of $3,000 and under (in general) plus the Main Event. All other events will use the B rack. This limits players from taking chips from one event and introducing them into another only slightly as both events may use different racks. The more common 25 and 100 denomination chips from both A & B racks are shown below.

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"A" Rack

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"B" Rack

Trivia Question: The B rack has a 5 denomination chip shown below. What is it used for? I'll give you the answer at the end of the article.

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5 denomination WSOP tournament chip

Now, I want to discuss Druff's concern about taking tournament chips from one event and introducing them into another. I won't look at any mathematical or ICM-base reasons. I'll leave that for the geeks. Instead, I'll discuss what's in place today that protects players against this type of cheating. Using 2 racks protects players a bit, as we've already mentioned. Here are a few others:

1) The Color Up: Every WSOP tournament will have posted times when dealers and staff will color up players' stacks. These occur at the end of a level when the tournament director deems that the lowest denomination chip is no longer needed in play. For example, let's say that you're playing in Event #5, the $565 Colossus No-Limit Hold'em. This is held early in the series on June 2nd, and the inexpensive buy-in gets you 5,000 in starting chips. This will likely be 8x25 chips, 8x100 chips, 4x500 chips, and 2x1,000 chips for a total of 5,000. At the end of level 8 the staff will remove all of the 25 denomination chips from play. Level 9 starts with 400/800 blinds and a 100 ante. If you want to remove 25 denomination chips from your stack, this is your last chance. You might also want to slip a couple 100 denomination chips in your pocket as well, but at level 9, removing this many chips from your stack may represent a sizable chunk. Maybe it's best to wait until later in the tournament. Now it's level 24 and the 1000 chips are about to be removed. Your stack is very healthy and you decide to pocket a few 1000 denomination chips before they get colored up at the end of the level. This seems smarter. You only need to discreetly remove a few chips. Now you've got five of the 1000 denomination chips in your pocket to be added to your stack in a future event. You'll be sure to enter a similar small buy-in event that is sure to use the same A rack. The first donkament on the schedule is tomorrow Event #12, the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em at 11am. You arrive at your starting table with five yellow 1000 chips in your pocket (my avatar shows that chip). Here's the problem. Everyone starts with only 2 or 3 yellow chips. They're bright and noticeable. If you take a few beats in the early rounds, adding 1000 denomination chips back into the game will get noticed. Players will see that you were short-stacked and now have 5 yellow chips in your stack! You either must wait until higher levels -- maybe after level 9 when the 25 chips are removed, but will you last that long and will the extra 5000 make a difference by then? Perhaps you gamble on the hope that your table breaks and you can re-introduce the yellow chips during the move from one table to another. Good luck.

2) Penalties by Caesars: If the Rio catches you either removing tournament chips from play, or re-introducing them in any WSOP tournament, the penalties are severe. These penalties act as a deterrent against cheating and protect the players. Here's a section from the WSOP Tournament Rules:

E. Anyone found to have engaged in or attempted to engage in any act that Tournament officials believe in their sole and absolute discretion compromises or could compromise the competitive integrity of the WSOP will be subject to sanctions imposed by Rio. The nature and extent of the sanctions imposed shall be in the sole and absolute discretion of Rio and may include, but shall not be limited to, the following:
FORFEITURE OF CHIPS
FORFEITURE OF PRIZE MONEY
EJECTION FROM THE TOURNAMENT
LOSS OF PRIVILEGE TO PARTICIPATE IN FUTURE WSOP EVENTS
EXCLUSION FROM ENTERING THE PREMISES OF RIO AND/OR ALL DESIGNATED AFFILIATES OF RIO

3) Cameras: Every tournament table, as well as the entire ballroom and hallways, is monitored by surveillance cameras. While this is not perfect and may not catch everyone trying to remove chips from a table, pocket chips when their table breaks, or re-introduce them at any time, this adds another layer of security.

4) Staff and Fellow Players: While the cameras will not catch everything, you must evade the eyes of the tournament direct and their staff, dealers, and especially your fellow players. After all, it's them that you're cheating, so they will be very aware of your actions. Remember, half of them are wearing sunglasses at the tables, so you never know where they're looking. Do you really want to be penalized by Caesars, reported on my Poker News (or whoever covers the 2017 WSOP), and finally shamed by the poker community?

In summary, having only an A & B rack of chips does not prevent unscrupulous players from cheating my removing and re-introducing tournament chips, but combined with the other layers of protection, players should not worry about this form of cheating. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen. After all, how do you think these scanned images of WSOP tournament chips are able to be posted in the article? Someone removed them from a WSOP event. Fortunately, they hurt themselves the most as they were kept as souvenirs and never re-introduced into another tournament.

And for that 5 denomination tournament chip? That was used for an event several years ago. Since it was from the B rack, it was a higher buy-in event. I think it was in the days when you got double stacks, so the $5,000 event had a starting stack of 10,000 chips. Possibly 2009. This special WSOP event allowed players to add an additional 10,000 to their stacks twice, before any hand. The 5 denomination chips were used for that. So players started the tournament with 10,000 plus two of these 5 chips. Some players redeemed them immediately so they started with a stack of 30,000, while others waited to redeem them until they thought it was appropriate. I don't remember the name of the event, or which year it was held. Does anyone remember? Anyway, that's the only time use for this unique WSOP tournament chip.

Have fun at the 2017 WSOP. Admire the chips, new and old, that the Rio provides as part of the experience. Play well and run better. And if you want to bring home a chip to commemorate your trip, please take one of the $5 limited edition chips produced expressly for this purpose.
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