Yeah, I'm a chip nerd. I collect casino chips for fun and profit. All right, just for fun. But that's because there are so many chips these days I just can't keep up.
When I first started playing poker and sneaking into casinos in my teens I could barely believe how cool everything was. I loved every place I ever walked into, with the possible exception of the Horseshoe Club in Carson City where I caught the dealer cheating. Baring that, I wanted to remember each place, so I bought post cards, took pictures (yeah, even inside the clubs with a little "spy" camera I bought), and wrote stories about the clubs. I saved poker chips to begin with, because I always seemed to loose my stack and get down to just a chip or two. When a casino I played at closed (the Onslow in Reno) I started thinking abut all the casinos that had closed in the past. Where were their chips?
I ran ads in local papers, talked to other players, and started finding chips everywhere. But I couldn't identify them. One of the chips I found was an off-white color with four black inserts and a gold hot-stamp design that said Hollywood Club. I couldn't figure out where that club had been for years. Some said Florida, some said California. Now the truth, it came from Toledo, Ohio!
And, the Hollywood Club was an illegal casino, probably run by mobsters, oh my! Who knew? Well, apparently Terry Shaffer of Toledo knew. And, he's put out a book, Illegal Gambling Clubs of Toledo, that sets the record straight on 72 different illegal gambling operations in the Toledo area. Turns out the Hollywood Club wasn't owned by the Purple Gang, the owners were just run-of-the-mill gangsters. But a lot of other clubs were.
Shaffer's book is a great resource for chip collectors, and has plenty of pictures of the casinos and their owners from back in the bad old days. Worth reading - and owning.