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IN THIS GAME, YOU HAVE FUN EVEN WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN

People are flipping over the newest craze to hit town: Slammer Whammers (POGs)
April 17, 1995

What are round, can't be put in a vending machine, are the hottest new items to be traded, and are big as half dollars?

Slammer Whammers - or you may have heard them called POGs.

"You can pretty much collect these caps, and (the manufacturers) plan on (them) being as popular as baseball cards," says Joshua Huff, 14, of the Indianapolis Children's Choir.

He and some friends from ICC - Dan Carlson and Mary Owens - have demonstrated how to play this new game at various locations in Indianapolis.

The '90s versions of poker chips are colorful and illustrated with pictures ranging from cartoon and comic characters to skulls and crossbones. The object of the game is to flip over as many of these 1 1/2-inch chips as you can by throwing the slammer.

In the game, each player contributes an equal number of chips to a pile, then all of the chips are stacked face-down. The first player throws the slammer, which is metal or plastic, on top of the stack. The player keeps all the chips that flip over. Then the next player restacks the remaining chips and throws his or her slammer.

Many kids play for keeps.

"I guess it is gambling, but they're so inexpensive," said Dan, 12. "If you're playing with a friend you trust, it doesn't seem like that. It's just like a game, and you can win them back the next round."

"You can collect them, and it's inexpensive, too," Josh added.

The two main brands are Slammer Whammer and POG, although there are several other kinds. POG is often used as a reference name to the game, even though POG is also a manufacturer of the chips.

You can buy chips at Wal-Mart, Target, Meijer, comic stores and some toy stores. Packs of six cost about $2.99, but some chips cost as little as 20 cents each. The chips with elaborate designs and shiny surfaces are more expensive, while those made of stamped cardboard are cheaper.

"There's a lot of kids in school with the ones that cost $2 apiece - collector editions," Josh said.

"The ones that are special editions, they're written in red. The special editions are the ones you want to trade and collect," explained Mary, 11.

Local retailers say their best sellers are the Poison and 8- ball chips, which are made by Slammer Whammer.

The slammer itself can be more expensive than the chips. The slammer can be bronze, brass, gold, silver or plastic and is slightly larger and thicker than the chips.

Slammer Whammers originated in Hawaii during World War II. The original name for the game was POG - named for the Passion, Orange, Guava juice that was capped by a cardboard chip. The game spread to California, where kids played with the caps from milk bottles.

The game faded away when bottled milk and juice was replaced with cardboard and plastic containers.

In 1991, the game reappeared in Hawaii when a frustrated school counselor introduced it as an alternative to students' aggressive dodge ball games. Then, in California in 1993, the company POG started making the caps. It became a craze in California and Hawaii and is spreading to other parts of the country. More than 1 billion chips were sold from 1993 to 1994 in Hawaii alone.

The game is harder than what it appears. "I rate it like about a 5 or 6 (with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest)," says Dan. "You just can't like pick (the slammer) up and throw it down. There's certain places that you can hit.

"You have to like have the right way of laying it down," he added.

While some schools limit the playing of the game because they find it disruptive, these kids haven't run into trouble with schools or parents.

"I think most parents will like this because it gives their kids something to do and not to like bug them all day," says Dan. "Some of these caps (have) satanic stuff on them. My mom doesn't like that kind of stuff."

"My mom thinks it's great that I'm doing something rather than sitting around watching TV," says Mary.

EDITED BY: Chris Lee, 15.

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