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The Great Poker Chip Bake-Off Contest

The Great Poker Chip Bake-Off Contest - by TenPercenter

Introduction

There have been countless occasions when I have run across a friend or acquaintance at a poker game and the conversation turns to poker chips. At most games I’ve been to the chips in play are 11.5 gram chips, of various incarnations. Most, by a long shot, are “dice” chips, or “suited” chips. There are many variations of the 11.5g chip.

The popularity of Dice chips exploded mainly due to their affordability and availability. Long before the chips had metal inserts, they weighed 5 to 7 grams. This must have felt too light for the chip makers (and users), so they added a metal insert to bring up the weight. The new weight happened to be 11.5 grams. This was an accidental, arbitrary number and not an official one. Most actual casino chips weigh 10 grams.

Since the chips were so prevalent, it became public perception that 11.5 grams was the “official” weight of poker chips in general. Walk up to just about any player and put a chip in their hand. Nine times out of ten that player will “weigh” the chip in their hand, using an up-and-down motion, like a set of scales. Then, a good percentage of the time, that person will say the following (or something very close), “Are these the full eleven and a half grams?”

Then there’s the allure of the dice chips being made of “clay.” It is widely advertised by retailers, eBay auctioneers, and wholesalers that these chips are made of actual clay. Some ads will mask the claim by adding the word “composite” in the description. (The word composite means, “Made up of distinct components; compound.” This phrase is true for just about any product made by man! It’s very true in this case, but also deceptive.)

I personally own a set of older “suited” chips. I have had them for over 10 years, long before the explosion of the 11.5g version. They look and feel the exact same as the new 11.5 suited (and dice) chips, but are lighter and sound different when thrown into a pot. These chips have one good thing going for them, THEY WILL LAST FOREVER! They are nearly indestructible, unlike real clay chips. You can break a real clay chip if you try hard enough, but not a dice chip!

This is what I was thinking about one day, the phrase “These will last forever.” Then I thought, “Well, not ‘forever’ really. I guess they wouldn’t last long in the oven, now would they?” Then I thought to myself, “Plastic doesn’t do very well with heat, but what does?” Well, clay does! And so do ceramics! These happen to be the two materials that make up nearly all of the “real casino” chips in use today!

This sparked the idea for the “Chip Bake-Off Contest.” I decided to take one each of many different varieties of chips available in the market, 24 in total actually. I'll place them on a cookie sheet, and yes, BAKE THEM and see what happens!

My guess would be that the plastic chips would melt, revealing their steel innards. The clay chips might char, but not melt. Same with ceramics. The clays and ceramics might crack from heat, but they shouldn't melt. I figured that it would be obvious once the timer went off, which chips were plastic and which were not.

So without further pointless conversation, let’s fire up the ovens! Up until this point, the Chip Bake-Off Contest is just an idea. Let me grab some cookie sheets (no, muffin pans!) and choose come chips to bake!


Recipe

Baked Poker Chips

Recipe

Chef: TenPercenter
Restaurant: Chip Talk Bistro

Course: Late Night Snack
Cuisine: Cajun
Main Ingredient: Poker Chips

DESCRIPTION
'Baked Poker Chips' is a dish that most people associate with the Easter Isles, but here's an Spanish touch that renders a more exotic, spicy interpretation. Glazed polymer takes the place of the usual corn tortilla, while ceramics and clay add an eye-opening twist to the conventional recipe for more traditional 'chips'. Executive Chef, TenPercenter, tops off this innovative treat with a few of his mouthwatering dipping sauces, which add a refreshing Texan influence.

INGREDIENTS
9-13 grams of poker chip (average, per serving)
Canon digital camera
Albert's Picante and Queso for dipping

YIELD
24 fully baked poker chips

METHOD
Preheat convection oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place poker chips in the cups of an ungreased muffin tin, one chip per cup. Place tin(s) on upper rack to prevent scorching bottom of chips. Bake at slow, steady temperature and note any changes to chips during the baking.


Bake-Off

Minutes in Oven
Baking Temp
Comments
10
275° F
After 10 minutes, several chips have started to change shape. These include the dice, suits, WPT, Nexgen. It appears that some of the colors have become a bit more vivid (notably the Mardi Gras and some of the plastics). Metal is already showing through on the dice chip.
22
275° F

More chips have begun "shape shifting." Surprisingly some of the clay chips are changing! The bumps and ridges on the face of some clays have begun to even out and become more smooth. The molds are losing some of their sharpness, like the horse heads on the ASM chip. The inlay on the WPT chip is curling up. There is no apparent change to the three ceramic chips.

45
275° F
There are no apparent changes on any of the chip since the last visual check. Decided to increase the temperature. Turn up the heat baby!
60
325° F

Fifteen minutes at 325°. I'm starting to smell a faint aroma of, something, not really plastic. Not even really unpleasant.

It's very apparent that the clay chips are not liking the oven. Some of them are bubbling from internal heat, like cookies. Unlike the plastics that appear to just melt into the bottom of their cups. The plastics are showing little change from the last check.

The ceramics are clearly fading now. I can see no change of their shape, but the colors are dull and less visible.

Oddly, there are only two chips that show no change at all. The 10g "faux clay" chip, and the super diamond.

80
375° F
Odors are very strong. I opened the oven to a small billow of smoke. The Nevada Jack clay and the Paulson are charred. Other clays show little change from before. None of the other chips appear to have changed. I'm turning the heat down before I burn my house down.
112
350° F
No changes. It appears I've done all the damage I can do.


Results

I have to admit that the results of my little "recipe" were quite unexpected. The plastic chips behaved like I expected. But there were three major surprises with the other chips type. I've made notes about each chip baked. Here are the results of the Bake-Off. [Warning. Some of the images are blurry because I didn't want to burn my hand.]

Individual results:
[Prices are listed as the per-chip price for the smallest chip set available, if more than a sample set, at the time of this publishing. Materials and production methods are educated guesses.]
[Click the thumbnails for larger photos.]
[This Bake-Off is not meant to be taken as a scientific experiment even though it revealed some interesting facts. It is goofy, silly, and fun, and that's all. Really. Seriously not serious.]

Manufacturer: Matsui
Model: Decal
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $1.15
Results: The plastic of this chip held together well, considering the heat. The chip warped a bit and bubbled at the edges. The color inlay held up very well, and retained its color.

Before After

Manufacturer: Atlantic Standard Molding
Model: Horse Head
Material: Compression molded clay
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.95
Results:

The clay chips really surprised me. They appear to have "baked" like little cookies. Some have a more dense construction and took the heat better. Some really turned out to be "toast." This ASM chip was in-between. It puffed up a little on the outer ring, and lost a bit of the vivid colors. The inlay baked a bit, and turned an off-white color.

One odd thing about this and the other clays: The smell. Some were stronger than others, but they all gave off a sweet smelling, "baked" odor. Not like any food I know, more of a sweetish, slightly chemical smell. (man, I felt light headed and happy afterwards ... kidding)


Before After

Manufacturer: All-In Chips
Model: Waxy Clay
Material: Injection molded
Weight: ~10.5g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.47
Results:

This is a truly unique chip. To begin with, it's the softest chips I've seen on the market. I expected it to behave like a clay chip when baked, not to melt. I was mostly right. It warped a tad bit, but did well with retaining its shape and colors.

Here's the coolest thing: After cooking, it smells just like a crayon! So I have to guess that it uses some of the same materials that you find in a Crayola. I tested this by using it to mark on my office walls. It works. :-(


Before After

Manufacturer: Blue Chip
Model: Fan of Cards
Material: Compression molded clay
Weight: ~9g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.79
Results:

This Blue Chip held up very well compared to other clay chips. A pattern is starting to develop that makes sense when you think about clay chips. The "harder" ones are not "cooking" as much as the softer clay chips.

This pattern follows then preferences of "chip junkies" like myself when talking about clay chips. A little bit "soft" is good, so that the edges round off a bit, and you can "feel" that the chip is clay. This particular Blue Chip is harder than, say, the Nevada Jack mold. This is consistent with how that chip looked after cooking... read on.


Before After

Manufacturer: Nexgen
Model: "River Poker Tour"
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~12.5g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.20
Results: The first of the "steel insert" plastics to be looked at. The plastic melted and slid off to the sides. You can tell that it is a little better quality than the plain "dice and suited" varieties, because no metal showed through. If you look closely you can see the circle of holes where the steel inside is held by the molded plastic.

Before After

Manufacturer: Nevada Jack (excusive to HPC.com)
Model: Composite
Material: Ceramic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.89
Results: There were three ceramic chips in the Bake-Off. Two are from the same manufacturer, this one and the Skull NJ chip. All three behaved the same. No changes at all to the structure and shape of the chip, but the colors faded after about one hour at 325°F. The edges of the chip did NOT melt off, confirming that the edges are not plastic.

Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Faux Clay
Material: Injection molded something
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.06
Results:

Here's the scoop of this story! This chip, and the other absolute cheapest chip of all chips on the market, are nearly indestructible! This chip show not even the faintest sign of being baked at 375°F! The color, shape, smell, and hardness were exactly the same as when the chip went into the oven.

Amazing. 6¢ ea.


Before After

Manufacturer: Paulson
Model: Clay home chip
Material: Compression molded clay
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $1.25
Results:

Here's the other scoop! We now show you the MOST EXPENSIVE chip of the bunch, and it took the most damage! This chip puffed up like a muffin compared to the other clay chips (except the NJ Clay and Matsui clay, which looked similar).

There are two theories, neither of which are proven. One is that the "softer" of the clay chips "cook better." Another, less likely, reason is that blue chips cook better than green ones.

I explained above about the aroma that the clays let off. This chip was the strongest smell of any clay.


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Jackpot inlay
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~12g
Insert: Stamped Steel, exposed
Cost Each: About $.21
Results: The plastic melted and slid off to the sides, revealing the four steel "anchors" that keep the insert from spinning inside the chip.

Before After

Manufacturer: The Poker Chip Co.
Model: 1003
Material: Injection molded clay
Weight: ~10.5g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.45
Results:

This chip behaved just like the clay chips, leading me to believe TPC.com's claim that they are clay. Good job TPC.com!

One note: Why would someone purposely make a real clay chip that so much resembles a fake clay 11.5 gram plastic chip?


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Super Diamonds
Material: Injection molded something
Weight: ~9g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.03
Results:

This chip, at 3¢, is the absolute cheapest chip of all chips on the market, and appears to be nearly indestructible! This chip show not even the faintest sign of being baked at 375°F! The color, shape, smell, and hardness were exactly the same as when the chip went into the oven.

And the best thing is, I took this one out of my personal set because I didn't have any other sample. And now I don't have to replace it. :-)

* When I say "all chips on the market" I really mean to say "all chips on the market that any self respecting poker player would use with good conscience and still retain good face in front of other players whether they be friends, family, or strangers; in other words, anything better than 'pokeno chips' or interlocking Hoyle chips."


Before After

Manufacturer: Blue Chip
Model: Martini Club (sold by Nevada Jack)
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~9g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $1.28
Results:

This clay chip, although from the same manufacturer as the NJ Clay and the Fan of Cards, looks "in-between" those two in regards to "puffiness" and color change. It retained its overall shape, and the colors are still distinguishable, but it clearly took damage at 375°F.

My theory of different clays baking differently is reinforced here. See the double edgespots on the Martini Club? The darker spots held their shape, and the lighter ones puffed up more. I could show you better from the side of the chip, but man I am really tired.


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Dice!
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~11.5g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.11
Results: The standard of all the "steel insert" plastics. The plastic melted and slid to the sides. You can clearly see the metal showing through. The plastic got glossy as it melted, but the color stayed the same. Of all the plastic chips, this appears to be the second to the softest.

Before After

Manufacturer: TR King
Model: Kings Crown (sold by Dice702.com)
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.93
Results:

Of all the other clay chips, this one puffed up the least. Again, my "blue cooks more than green" theory is disproved. Reinforced is my theory that the "softer" of the clay chips "cook better."

There is hardly any of the aroma that the other clays let off, and only a light amount of puffiness. The inlay baked a little brown, but didn't curl.


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown (sold by Sam's Club)
Model: WPT
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~11.5g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.32
Results:

The plastic of this chip behaved like the other steel insert chips. It became glossy, melted towards the pan, and retained its color. The inlay curled up like a worm on hot Texas asphalt.

Of the plastic chips, this one is better built. No metal showed through (although I assure you it is there).


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Suited!
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~11.5g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.11
Results: The "suited" chip behaved exactly like the Dice! chip. It melted and slid to the sides. You can clearly see the metal showing through. The plastic got glossy as it melted, but the color stayed the same.

Before After

Manufacturer: Blue Chip
Model: Nevada Jack Clay
Material: Compression molded clay
Weight: ~9g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $1.28
Results:

This chip puffed up like a muffin compared to the other clay chips (except the Paulson Clay and Matsui clay, which looked similar).

My theory that the "softer" clay chips cook more is strengthened with the NJ Clay. Of all of the Blue Chip manufactured chips, most people I know prefer the feel, look, and quality of this model.


Before After

Manufacturer: Bud Jones
Model: Decal
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: Copper
Cost Each: Not available new to the public
Results: The plastic of this chip held together well, considering the heat. The chip warped a bit and bubbled at the edges. The color inlay held up very well, and retained its color. This is one of the (if not THE) best built of plastic chips.

Before After

Manufacturer: Nevada Jack
Model: Composite
Material: Ceramic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.89
Results: There were three ceramic chips in the Bake-Off. Two are from the same manufacturer, this one and the Mardi Gras chip. All three behaved the same. No changes at all to the structure and shape of the chip, but the colors faded after about one hour at 325°F. The edges of the chip did NOT melt off, confirming that the edges are not plastic.

Before After

Manufacturer: Matsui
Model: Clay
Material: Compression molded clay
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $1.00
Results:

This chip bubbled up in the middle and warped quite a bit. It didn't scorch as much as the Paulson or the NJ Clay. The pink and green edge spots puffed about the same amount.


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Casino "Pro Clay"
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~13g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.22
Results: First clue: It's not clay like the name says. It melted just like the other plastic chips, and nothing like the clay chips. The plastic is thicker, as no metal showed through when it melted.

Before After

Manufacturer: Chipco
Model: Pro-Tech
Material: Ceramic
Weight: ~10g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.95
Results:

The third of the ceramics, and first of only three chip manufacturers that make ceramics. This one behaved the same as the NJ ceramics. No change whatever to the chip structure, but the colors nearly faded away after one hour of baking. It also appears that Nefertiti got a sunburn?

* I should have used sun block SPF 140 on Nefertiti. I feel really bad for her. Being from the desert, I thought she could take it.


Before After

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Nexgen
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~12.5g
Insert: Steel
Cost Each: About $.20
Results: This one behaved exactly like its RPT brother, and it looked exactly the same afterwards. The plastic melted and slid off to the sides. You can tell that it is a little better quality than the plain "dice and suited" varieties, because no metal showed through. If you look closely you can see the circle of holes where the steel inside is held by the molded plastic.

Before After

Manufacturer: The Poker Chip Co.
Model: 806
Material: Injection molded plastic
Weight: ~8g
Insert: None
Cost Each: About $.35
Results:

Although it's called "clay composite" buy the maker, this one behave exactly like plastic. In fact it was the softest plastic of the bunch and basically melted into a puddle in the bottom of the pan.

* I forgot to take a picture before I baked it...


Before After


Conclusion

Several things surprised me with this little experiment. One was that clay chips don't exactly melt under heat, but they will sustain damage. They appeared to puff up and bake like they were little cookies. Some took damage more than others, and those that took the most damage are well known to be the best on the market and the most sought after. Afterwards, the clay was harder than it was when the chips went into the oven.

Another surprise came with the ceramics. What was odd was that the color faded from them, nearly completely. This may be from the fact that the ceramic itself heated up so tremendously that it cooked the color off. The chips themselves suffer zero damage whatever.

All of the plastic chips behaved like I expected plastic to behave. Almost immediately they began to melt. Most of them have metal inserts for weight, including the high-end Bud Jones.

And most surpising of all? The cheapest chips you can buy were also the toughest. The Faux Clay and the Super Diamonds were baked at 375°F for nearly an hour and a half and showed no sign of it. They may not be the prettiest chips out there, but they are nearly bullet proof

Clearly, the lesson learned overall was this: If you don't want your chips to melt, fade, or puff up like little cookies, don't bake them. OR: If you must bake your chips, buy the cheapest chips made, the Faux Clay or the Super Daimonds. Both are conclusions that I hadn't expected before beginning the experiment.

*For the curious and adventurous people reading this, "Don't Try This At Home." Oh, and don't eat poker chips.



© 2001-2005 Greg Cagle and Lightning Solutions, LLC

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