My thoughts & decision after analyzing 11 popular sample sets (3 Viewers)

BobbyVegas

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*Note: this post has been updated to reflect some of the wisdom from much more experienced chippers who share their knowledge with me.

Hi everyone,

This is going to be a detailed (long) post where I attempt to share my personal thoughts on my experience with some sample chips. This is my attempt at giving back to this community which has taught me so much recently. Last month, I purchased samples of 11 of the most popular, readily available, and recommended chip sets from 3 different vendors (apache, brpropoker, cpc). Below are my thoughts on them and my eventual decision on what I will purchase for my set of tournament chips.

To help everyone understand my perspective and what my opinion is built from - I have been playing poker regularly since about 2002. I used to play almost weekly back in the 2000s but have started up a regular game again at my home and play every couple of months now. I am obsessed with cards, card magic, and card games. I love poker, particularly no-limit hold 'em. I used to live in Las Vegas and spent a lot of time around dealers, games, casinos, and chips. When I go to a casino, I head straight for the poker room. I am the kind of person who prioritizes quality in my products, and happily accept that usually comes with higher cost. I also appreciate high value for money and usually look for the deal that balances highest quality for reasonable cost. There are steep diminishing returns at a certain point and I usually try to stay on the right side of that line as long as the quality is there. I have owned a couple of the low cost, injection molded, metal slug weighted sets, but for 25 years I've wanted a set of "real clay poker chips" that looked, felt, and sounded like the chips I've used in casinos. I also love the movie "Rounders" and have long dreamed of having a set of chips like Teddy KGB's chips from his poker room (this will come into play again later).

On to the chips:

Brand: Apache poker chips
Material: China Clay
Design: Bank, Majestic, Dunes, Pharaoh's, Royal

  • Thoughts:
    • Aside from aesthetic differences, these 5 sample sets are all essentially the same, with the exception of the Royals being 43mm vs the rest at 39mm
    • From brief time spent playing with them, the China clay chips are very good stand-ins for the real thing. They have a good feel and sound. They stack and shuffle well. There are no real spinners in my samples, although a couple are more slippery than the rest. There's a large variety of styles to choose from and the colors are very good. I can see why these exploded in popularity when they hit the market and continue to be recommended so much. The one concern with these is longevity. I've read posts from a few long term owners that they start to crumble and chip at the edges quite a bit as the materials age, often requiring vacuuming the crumbs from the table after a play session. Real clay poker chips do the same thing, although it takes significantly longer/much more use), so keep that in mind. Some say that home users may never see significant wear on CPC or mint Paulson chips.
    • My personal favorite of the bunch:
      • Pharaoh's - I've long loved Egyptology and the amazing history there

Comparison photo of the 1, 5, and 25 dollar Apache China clay chips is below. Note that any blurriness is the difficulty in photographing so many things on the same macro plane, the graphics are perfectly sharp in person.
IMG_4617.jpg




Brand: Apache poker chips
Material: Ceramic, Cards Mold (Tina)
Design: Empire, Penthouse

These chips are also great stand-ins for the real thing. Here's how they're different to the China clays:
  • Positives:
    • They have a slightly sharper edge
    • The colors appear a little brighter and more saturated (due to the dye-sub printing vs molding)
    • Because of the denser plastic and higher quality plastic, they shouldn't suffer from breakdown like the China clays
      • I've seen a lot of long term reviews of ceramics and they seem to hold up extremely well, even to legitimate abuse
    • (Subjective) They have a slightly higher pitched tone when dribbling/shuffling them (due to the denser/different plastic used for "ceramics")
      • The tone is nearly identical to classic poker chips (CPC) rounders replicas
      • CPC are known to have a higher pitched tone due to the particular clay used and shredded brass in the clay compound
  • Negatives:
    • Small dimple on the side of the chips where the injection molding occurred
    • Spinners: 10-15% of mine are spinning like a dreidel when turned in the stack
    • More slippery overall than the China clays due to the slicker/harder plastic material so pushing a stack takes more care to not topple them
  • My personal favorite of the bunch:
    • Penthouse. Honestly if these were a little more grippy I probably would have just ordered these. The design is great, and I love that the colors scheme matches the Aria chips, which I think is one of the best color combos you'll find. I also found that I preferred chips without a casino or card room name on them, since it they'll be played in "my" card room. I also believe I'll make a custom set with my own artwork for my card room at some point in the future.
Comparison photo of the 1 -1000 dollar Apache Ceramic Cards Mold (Tina) chips is below. Note that any blurriness is the difficulty in photographing so many things on the same macro plane, the graphics are perfectly sharp in person.
IMG_4619.jpg




Brand: BR pro poker chips
Material: Ceramic
Design: Tiki Kings, Dia De Los Muertos, Card Wars

These chips are quite a bit different than the others. They don't look like traditional chips that you would find in a casino, but that may not be what you're after. If you are whimsical, eclectic, then these are probably up your alley. All 3 are functionally identical. Just take your pick of the design you prefer.
  • Differences from the Apache china clays and cards mold ceramic chips:
    • These have all of the same positive and negative points as the cards mold ceramics above, except they aren't slippery because the blank used is slightly textured, and therefore stack well and don't spin
    • These cost .80c per chip, where the others so far cost .49c per chip
      • The quality is definitely high and the cost difference makes sense when you factor in all of the printing, durability, etc.
    • Lots more styles on the website
    • If you dig the style of any of these and they're within your budget, just get them. They're great.
  • My personal favorite of the bunch:
    • Dia De Los Muertos. I'm a big fan of the art style and tradition.
Comparison photo of the 1 -500 dollar BRProPoker Ceramic chips is below. Note that any blurriness is the difficulty in photographing so many things on the same macro plane, the graphics are perfectly sharp in person.

Dia.jpg



Brand: Classic Poker Chips
Material: Clay
Design: Rounders Replica (CSQ Mold)

Ho boy, these are dope. These are made by the same company that made the chips for the movie, and are the only company in America making real clay compression molded chips that can be purchased by non-casino consumers. They feel right, sound right, smell right, and look awesome (for the most part). The connection to the movie props is icing on the cake.

There's 2 problems for me though. Price and quality (for the cost)...

First, the cost is almost 5x the cost of ceramic mold hybrid/inlaid chips, which are somewhat close to the quality of the CPCs. They're a different league for sure, but not 5x above. At $2.25 vs .49c per chip. That's a huge difference when you scale up to 500 or 1000 chips. If money is no object and you want the best new poker chips you can buy, go for these.

Second issue - A couple of chips out of my 9 chip sample set have minor quality niggles, like air or dust bubbles under the inlay, or the inlays aren't perfectly aligned with the edge markings. Nothing deal breaking but for the price, I wouldn't expect those issues.

And a final minor issue/preference: CPC decided to go back "down" to 4 edge spots on the 1k and 5k chips, after moving "up" to 6 spots on the $500 chip. The progression isn't sensible and I would prefer a continued ramping up of edge spots as the denominations go higher, which is typical.

Comparison photo of the 1 -5000 dollar Classic Poker Chips Rounders Replica (CSQ) is below. Note that any blurriness is the difficulty in photographing so many things on the same macro plane, the graphics are perfectly sharp in person.
rounders.jpg



My ultimate purchasing decision:

Here in this forum, some new ceramic hybrid molds have been offered as part of group buys with "Tina", the representative of a Chinese company that makes custom ceramic chips. These new textured hybrid ceramics (injection molded w/ applied labels) are getting rave reviews from the members of the forum. Since I am dead set on getting the "Rounders" style Teddy KGB chips, I can get a set of chips that are similar to CPC, but for 20% the cost. I already have felt the quality of Tina's chips (via Apache), and they're great. I can also customize the colors, spots, denominations, etc. to fix the issues I have with CPCs choices in those regards. A fellow forum member named "Greedy Intern" has already done amazing graphic design work on this, including better edge spots and turning the bear into a Panda to avoid copyright infringement, which looks awesome.

I am waiting for samples of the new "web mold" ceramic hybrid chips to be available, which is expected any time now. As long as they feel as good in my hand as I expect after hearing about them, I will place an order in the next group buy in April 2024.

I know that was a lot but hopefully understanding my thought process might help some with theirs,
- Bobby Vegas


Bonus photo of all the Apache samples I purchased together, for comparison:
IMG_4382.jpg
 

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Nice write up and review!

I do have a few things to clarify.
1. I’ve never seen compression-molded clay chips (ASM, CPC, Paulson, BCC, etc) get crumbly with age and require vacuuming up from the table. They do wear, but it’s the edges that get rounded, after many, MANY hours of play. Most home games won’t see a dramatic amount of wear, even with frequent use.
2. China clays are not compression molded, they’re injection molded.
3. The higher pitched sound of CPCs (compared to Paulsons) is not the brass flakes, rather the clay material is harder. It takes longer to break in CPCs…in fact, there have been many reports of players using them regularly for years with very little signs of wear.
4. It’s not the printing on BRPro ceramics that makes them more textured and less likely to spin. It’s the ceramic blanks they use…they’re definitely superior to the cards mold chips in this regard. The texture in the chip doesn’t wear as fast, and each chip is concave so that the center of one chip never touches another, which is what produces a spinner. BRPro will print any artwork (within legal limits) on those blanks, so if you’re looking for the very best ceramics (and spectacular customer service), you’ll find them at BRPro.
5. This is just my opinion, but it’s tough to compare the new ceramic hybrids with CPC chips (I own sets of both). Granted, the new hybrids are the closest any ceramic has come to a compression molded clay chip to date, but there’s no direct comparison to a CPC, Paulson, etc chip. What makes the hybrids so amazing is the value. As you mention, at only .49 cents per to have custom chips that feel great is a real winner.
6. CPCs are hand made and that’s part of the appeal. The inlays will not always line up with the edgespots, and they may not always be perfectly centered. Many clay aficionados would argue those characteristics are to be embraced.

Enjoy your new chips and your chipping journey!
 
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ceramic mold hybrid/inlaid chips, which are pretty close to the quality of the CPCs
Completely disagree with this opinion. The Chinese (Tina) chips are not even in the same league as CPC, much less a close competitor of it in terms of quality chips. CPC chips are not mass produced, the human element involved in their creation means there will be idiosyncracies in the chips. Even so, I have seen no issues such as you describe in my CPC chip set which includes almost 1000 chips. There have been reports that sometimes the sample sets may not be checked for QC as well as chips in larger regular sales. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know I have handled a lot of CPC chips on various molds as well as various iterations of the Chinese chips and you are not going to be receiving a product that is “very close” to a CPC Rounders (quality or otherwise) set by purchasing knockoffs from China.

Good luck on your journey.
 
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Aside from aesthetic differences, these are all essentially the same
This is probably an inaccurate thing to say about China clays. China clays are notorious for being inconsistent from line to line and even within reorders of the same line.
I supppse it’s possible that all the lines Apache currently stocks were all ordered from the same factory at the same time, but I doubt it.
 
I’ve heard the China Clays as being inject mold…

Well I have a set of royals and I don’t see anywhere that is an injection site. I work in inject mold in my business and there’s always an “entry” for the inject mold. I don’t see it.

So where is the inject mold dimple on the China clays and where does one see this info that they are inject mold?
 
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I’ve heard the China Clays as being inject mold…

Well I have a set of royals and I don’t see anywhere that is an injection site. I work in inject mold in my business and there’s always an “entry” for the inject mold. I don’t see it.

So where is the inject mold dimple on the China clays and where does one see this info that they are inject mold?
Could be under the label.
 
under the label.
^ This. Only on one side of the chip. And it's large and shows signs of having been machined flush (unlike the reverse side).

The injection mold for China clays is actually several separate (and interchangeable) components which are assembled -- base, inner ring, and outer ring. The base material (melted pellets) is added last, hence the injection plug being the same color as the base chip.
 
Nice write up and review!
Thank you :)

I do have a few things to clarify.
1. I’ve never seen compression-molded clay chips (ASM, CPC, Paulson, BCC, etc) get crumbly with age and require vacuuming up from the table. They do wear, but it’s the edges that get rounded, after many, MANY hours of play. Most home games won’t see a dramatic amount of wear, even with frequent use.
OK thanks for all of this extra knowledge in your reply. It must have been photos of casino used racks I saw then that were pretty worn/rounded (and even chipped) at the edges. I'll update my post.
2. China clays are not compression molded, they’re injection molded.
Ahh OK. I thought I read during my research they were molded but just with a much cheaper composite. I'll update my post.
3. The higher pitched sound of CPCs (compared to Paulsons) is not the brass flakes, rather the clay material is harder. It takes longer to break in CPCs…in fact, there have been many reports of players using them regularly for years with very little signs of wear.
Interesting. I can see the brass having an affect as well though. I make guitars and experiment with metals and how they affect the tone of the instrument a lot. I make brass parts and compare them with other metals and do find the pitch to be brighter. I'll update my post to include the clay material difference contributing as well.
4. It’s not the printing on BRPro ceramics that makes them more textured and less likely to spin. It’s the ceramic blanks they use…they’re definitely superior to the cards mold chips in this regard. The texture in the chip doesn’t wear as fast, and each chip is concave so that the center of one chip never touches another, which is what produces a spinner. BRPro will print any artwork (within legal limits) on those blanks, so if you’re looking for the very best ceramics (and spectacular customer service), you’ll find them at BRPro.
Got it. I'll update my post to reflect the textured blanks vs printing.
5. This is just my opinion, but it’s tough to compare the new ceramic hybrids with CPC chips (I own sets of both). Granted, the new hybrids are the closest any ceramic has come to a compression molded clay chip to date, but there’s no direct comparison to a CPC, Paulson, etc chip. What makes the hybrids so amazing is the value. As you mention, at only .49 cents per to have custom chips that feel great is a real winner.
I appreciate your opinion. It's clearly based on lots of knowledge and experience. And yeah your last sentence is really the main point here. For a first set of tournament chips played every month or two, the quality difference is nowhere near 5x, so the cost being 5x just doesn't add up for my purposes at this time.
6. CPCs are hand made and that’s part of the appeal. The inlays will not always line up with the edgespots, and they may not always be perfectly centered. Many clay aficionados would argue those characteristics are to be embraced.
I understand some folks may find those flaws charming. For the price CPC is asking, I personally expect better. I am OCD and do a lot of design myself though so misaligned things drive me nuts more than most others.

Enjoy your new chips and your chipping journey!
Thanks so much for your wisdom here, the cool approach to your reply, and your well wishing. You rock.
 
Completely disagree with this opinion. The Chinese (Tina) chips are not even in the same league as CPC, much less a close competitor of it in terms of quality chips. CPC chips are not mass produced, the human element involved in their creation means there will be idiosyncracies in the chips. Even so, I have seen no issues such as you describe in my CPC chip set which includes almost 1000 chips. There have been reports that sometimes the sample sets may not be checked for QC as well as chips in larger regular sales. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know I have handled a lot of CPC chips on various molds as well as various iterations of the Chinese chips and you are not going to be receiving a product that is “very close” to a CPC Rounders (quality or otherwise) set by purchasing knockoffs from China.

Good luck on your journey.
Thanks for the info and opinion. I was wondering about the sample set thing myself. Perhaps they sent "B stock" chips as samples to preserve the best chips for sets. But then I also thought "why would they send crap as samples, nobody would buy then". So, IDK.

As for my phrasing of the hybrid ceramics being "pretty close" to the quality of CPCs, that might have been a little strong. I've updated my post to now say they're "somewhat close to the quality of the CPCs. They're a different league for sure, but not 5x above."
 
^ This. Only on one side of the chip. And it's large and shows signs of having been machined flush (unlike the reverse side).

The injection mold for China clays is actually several separate (and interchangeable) components which are assembled -- base, inner ring, and outer ring. The base material (melted pellets) is added last, hence the injection plug being the same color as the base chip.
I see how it could machined to erase the injection spot. Thanks!
 
My ratio would be closer to infinite. I almost feel that any money spent on CC is essentially wasted, considering the price point of custom ceramics these days.
I’ve felt both, ceramics are customized, but the feel and sound of CC trumps ceramic personally speaking. So each person determines what’s important to them, I choose sound and feel of CC over ceramics (for now). I haven’t seen or felt the 43mm hybrid web mold yet, but it looks promising.
 
This is probably an inaccurate thing to say about China clays. China clays are notorious for being inconsistent from line to line and even within reorders of the same line.
I supppse it’s possible that all the lines Apache currently stocks were all ordered from the same factory at the same time, but I doubt it.
I was referring to the 5 sample sets I had in front of me from Apache being essentially the same aside from design, and of course the Royals being larger. I updated the phrasing in my post to clarify.
 
My ratio would be closer to infinite. I almost feel that any money spent on CC is essentially wasted, considering the price point of custom ceramics these days.
Thanks for your input. To be clear though, Tony and I are talking about the difference between custom ceramics and CPC. To which he believes CPC are 8-10x better than custom ceramics. China clay is out of the equation due to the long term durability issues I've read about.

Unless you meant custom ceramics when writing "CC" in your post. I am used to seeing that represent China Clay so assuming that's what you meant.
 
I’ve felt both, ceramics are customized, but the feel and sound of CC trumps ceramic personally speaking. So each person determines what’s important to them, I choose sound and feel of CC over ceramics (for now). I haven’t seen or felt the 43mm hybrid web mold yet, but it looks promising.
I think the look and feel of new CC was great, and incredible when you consider the cost. The reason I personally went toward ceramics was long term durability. I found a few posts of people who championed CC in the early days now regretting it because the plastic started deteriorating after some years and the chips were breaking down.
 
I think the look and feel of new CC was great, and incredible when you consider the cost. The reason I personally went toward ceramics was long term durability. I found a few posts of people who championed CC in the early days now regretting it because the plastic started deteriorating after some years and the chips were breaking down.
I’ve also read those reports/feedback. But one has to consider the many hundreds if not thousands of owners of CC chips, I feel more would be reporting “breakdown” of materials if it was a mass problem. On the flip side I’ve also read CC chip owners who have owned for many years and many games saying the chips are just fine. So it could have been some bad batches in the early days (a decade ago?).

I’m looking forward to feeling the new 43mm hybrid web mold, it may do it for me and I can design a custom set.
 
I’ve also read those reports/feedback. But one has to consider the many hundreds if not thousands of owners of CC chips, I feel more would be reporting “breakdown” of materials if it was a mass problem. On the flip side I’ve also read CC chip owners who have owned for many years and many games saying the chips are just fine. So it could have been some bad batches in the early days (a decade ago?).

I’m looking forward to feeling the new 43mm hybrid web mold, it may do it for me and I can design a custom set.
Makes sense. The 43mm size is fun too for sure.
 
Great thread... Great writeups... Great discussions.

I'm basically settled on Empires right now.

@BobbyVegas -- I have the same general ideas and conclusions as you do. Curious as to why you didn't decide to include the Apache Taj in this one?
You might also consider the Atlantic samples from CPC, they are beautiful and none of the design flaws you noted from Rounders.

I basically ran the same breakdown as you in my initial review.
Apache - Bank, Royal, Majestic, Empire, Taj
BRPro - Roman, Bold. (wishing I got DDLM and NJacks Skulls too, but ultimately I will not be ordering these due to price point at this time)
CPC - Atlantic Stock, Tourney

1715282147109.png


1715282177847.png
 
Great thread... Great writeups... Great discussions.

I'm basically settled on Empires right now.

@BobbyVegas -- I have the same general ideas and conclusions as you do. Curious as to why you didn't decide to include the Apache Taj in this one?
You might also consider the Atlantic samples from CPC, they are beautiful and none of the design flaws you noted from Rounders.

I basically ran the same breakdown as you in my initial review.
Apache - Bank, Royal, Majestic, Empire, Taj
BRPro - Roman, Bold. (wishing I got DDLM and NJacks Skulls too, but ultimately I will not be ordering these due to price point at this time)
CPC - Atlantic Stock, Tourney

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Have you checked out the web mold hybrids? Between the high-resolution labels, the feel, and the price...I don't think there's a better chip under $1 each right now.
 
Have you checked out the web mold hybrids? Between the high-resolution labels, the feel, and the price...I don't think there's a better chip under $1 each right now.
I have seen those, but I haven't found a design I'm leaning towards yet. I am quite enjoying the Empire set design as it is straightforward and classic.

Although the Tiberius Towers look pretty cool...
 
The biggest gripe I had when I tried, and quickly sold, my China Clay chips was the nasty smell. The smell that doesn’t go away. The only set I could stand were the Royals, and I got mine without labels which may be the problem with China clays, I didn’t own any long enough to find out.
 

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