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Playing Card Buying Guide: Playing Card Faces, Sizes, and other General Information

Playing Card Buying GuideWhile there are dozens of products attempting to cash in on poker's popularity this holiday season, only one item is truly essential to play the game: Playing Cards.

There are three things to consider in your quest for the perfect deck of cards:

  • Paper or Plastic?
  • Poker or Bridge?
  • Standard or Jumbo?

    With this Playing Card Buyers Guide, Let's take these questions one at a time…

    Paper or Plastic?

    Don't feel guilty for buying plastic playing cards. They're actually preferred over coated-paper playing cards in most casino poker rooms. Plastic Playing Cards are much more durable and last much longer than coated paper cards.

    But that durability comes at a cost. Plastic playing cards cost three to five times as much as a standard deck of coated-paper poker cards. But if the person you're shopping for plays more than once a month, plastic is worth the added cost because the playing cards can last for several years.

    Plastic playing card setups also often come with hard plastic cases that also help protect them from damage while not being used.

    Plastic Playing Card Options ($9-$35 for 2 Deck Setup)

    ROYAL Playing Cards: The least expensive option, but that doesn't mean low quality; made of PVC plastic and feel almost identical to higher priced alternatives. They will last for years, but eventually one or two cards will develop a small crack along an edge.

    MODIANO & DA VINCI Playing Cards: High quality plastic cards for the real serious player; slightly more expensive, very similar to KEM brand and will last long.

    KEM Playing Cards: Another high quality plastic option, KEM cards are made of cellulose acetate; also slightly more expensive, but worth the cost for the serious home game. Company was recently purchased by the U.S. Playing Card Company, but there has been no noticeable change in quality.

    Coated Paper Playing Card Options ($3-$10)

    You'll be hard pressed to find coated paper playing cards that are not manufactured by the U.S. Playing Card Company. The company produces a wide range of coated-paper playing cards at affordable prices. There is little difference between their highest quality brands, such as Hoyle, BICYCLE and BEE. But avoid lower priced decks like Aviator, which do not shuffle well and wear out more quickly. For an extra dollar or two, you'll really see the difference.

    Poker or Bridge Size Playing Cards?

    Playing cards generally come in two sizes – poker and bridge. Both varieties are 3.5 inches high. But poker-sized cards are 2.5 inches wide while bridge size playing cards are 2.25 inches.

    Surprisingly, most casinos deal bridge sized playing cards in their poker rooms. The narrower cards are slightly easier to handle and in games like Seven-Card Stud, space at the table can be at a premium at the end of the hand.

    Most people have played games with both card sizes, and whatever feels most natural is perfectly acceptable for a home game. As long as you hit the flop, size doesn't matter.

    Standard or Jumbo Size Playing Cards?

    The final choice for a card player is how big the numbers or faces on the playing card should be.

    In a standard deck of cards, the numbers and suits of hole cards are easily identifiable for players with good eyesight. But across a large table, it may be difficult to identify board cards in Hold'em or up cards in Seven-Card Stud.

    Jumbo playing cards alleviate some of the problems, with the size of the numbers and suits roughly doubled. What you gain in visibility for exposed playing cards, you lose in visibility for your hole cards. You must lift more of the card off the table to identify hole cards with jumbo-sized cards.

    Final thoughts

    The designs on the front and back of playing cards is totally personal preference. Many prefer the design of BICYCLE playing cards, simply because they are the most familiar. All that matters is that the card values are easily identifiable.

    Finding playing cards with the characteristics you are looking for shouldn't be too difficult. Most brands make all variations, so whether want a deck of jumbo poker-sized cards or standard bridge-sized cards, your preferred brand likely manufactures just what you're looking for.