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Casinos And $5.000 Chips

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Sounds far-fetched, I know. You've probably never even seen a $5,000 chip, let alone owned one. But here are three horror stories about $5,000 chips, one told to me, one that I witnessed, and one fairly recent episode I read about in a 1999 issue of Gambling Today.

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The first instance happened on what was supposed to be a jolly and carefree, fun-filled junket to a Caribbean Island Casino. The husband, who gambled, took along his wife, who didn't. She was just eager to soak up a little winter sunshine.

While strolling through the casino the wife spied a chip on the floor and picked it up. To her amazement and delight it turned out to be a $5,000 chip. Now grandiose thoughts danced in her brain, like how she would surprise her husband with extravagant gifts, etc. Her dream turned into a nightmare when she went to the cashier's cage and tried to cash the $5,000 chip. Immediately the shift boss and the casino manager closed in on her, asking her exactly where she got the chip.

She wasn't a junketeer gambler known to them, and no one had ever seen her at the tables. She told them that she had found it, but that didn't satisfy the casino bosses. Without going into all the nasty by-play, I'll just say that she and her husband fled the island paradise, threatened with arrest! Truth be told, they probably were lucky to get out in one piece.

Another episode concerning a $5,000 chip happened on my watch recently at Caesars in Atlantic City. I was at a $25-minimum blackjack table, as is my wont. Sitting next to me was a young guy, who couldn't have been much older than eighteen, by law the age requirement for gambling in a New Jersey casino.

He pushed a chip toward the dealer for change—a $5,000 chip. The dealer froze and stopped the action. He immediately summoned the pit boss, who asked the kid a few questions and then called over the shift manager. Meanwhile all action at the table stopped.

After the shift manager had interrogated the kid, an impressive casino executive appeared, probably an assistant casino manager. He asked the youth for his ID and then wanted to know where he got the $5,000 chip. Still no action at the table. The lad explained—claimed—that his father had given him the $5,000 chip.

After a short sotto-voce conference between the three Caesar stooges, they pushed the chip back to the kid and told him to have his father bring it in. Red-faced and crestfallen, the kid left the table, and at last—the game went forward.

I relate these two $5,000 chip episodes, which occurred thousands of miles apart, to alert you to the perils of accepting high-denomination chips. I wonder what happens to the schnook who stumbles upon a $10,000 or a $25,000 chip.

In 1998 an entirely new set of problems arose over the $5,000 chip, this time in Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas. It appears that some very enterprising counterfeiter successfully cloned the casino's $5,000 chocolate chip, panicking the management. Hamid Dastmalchi, winner of the 1992 World Series of Poker, tried to redeem the five-grand chips for $815,000, but was rebuffed at the cashier's cage. The explanation he was given was that, with counterfeit chips in circulation, Binion's would only cash big-money chips they could verify as having been bought or won at the casino.

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