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Like anything else with a hobby, poker chips can be as major or as minor an investment as you like. Some people will only go for the gem-encrusted antique gold and ivory chips blessed by the Pope of Pokerland himself. Other people have a set consisting mostly of beer bottle tops and leftover hardware from failed Ikea projects.

You’ll probably want to aim somewhere in the middle. Poker sets mostly come in sets of 500 and 1000, which is plenty for even the biggest tournament get-togethers. Generally, the cheap sets are plastic and the posh sets are clay. Casinos mostly use a composite (i.e., posh plastic) that has the weight of clay so the chips don’t fly around too much.

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You can pretty much have your choice of designs and colors, but keep in mind that you’ll want to know, with a very quick glance, what the denominations of the chips are. There are a lot of systems but no real standard; I find it helps me quite a bit to have nice big numbers printed on them. But that’s just me.

Fans of the Las Vegas casino mystique (or Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, New Orleans, et cetera) can certainly get all sorts of theme chips, either vintage, reproductions, or cheap imitations. As far as I’m concerned, they all work the same, but if you believe that it adds to the enjoyment fo the experie3nce, by all means stock up on those theme chips.

Holdem chips have been in big demand since everyone and their little sister suddenly decided that Texas Hold’em was the best thing since sliced bread. Someone may even want to tell you that there’s a difference between Holdem chips and regular all-purpose poker chips. Well, there isn’t…except that “holdem chips” usually say “hold’em” or something hold em related (like WSOP or Doyle’s) somewhere on ’em. One last time: poker chips are poker chips. What do you need them for? If the answer is showing off, then by all means, get poker chips that you can show off proudly.

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Finally, there are all sorts of little cases and carousels that you can use to keep them straight. It’s not a bad idea, because un-jumbling a box full of loose chips is not a great way to start a game (or even a great way to spend time beforehand when you’re hosting the game at your place and nothing is coming together the way it should!). I prefer the carousel to the presentation box, but again, that’s just me.

My personal rule of thumb goes like this: don’t spend any more on chips than you expect to win in one night of playing with them. If you have low-bet buddies, buy cheap chips. If you’re playing Donald Trump…well, you may as well still buy cheap chips because you’re never gonna impress that guy.

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