In order to play Poker you need something to bet, and cards. In reality, everything else is optional, table, chairs, and chips, are just accoutrements. Now I’m not going to tell you that your selection of a deck of cards will make or break you game. As long as you use any decent quality cards you’ll do just fine. Having said that, I take a lot of pride in getting the little things right in my weekly games. Playing cards are no exception. Aside from brand, there are three primary considerations in selecting cards. Size: Poker or Bridge, Index: Standard or Jumbo, Material: Paper or Plastic.
We’re playing poker right? Not bridge. The choice seems simple to me. I’ve never used anything other than the wider (31/2”) poker size cards. Many casinos however, still use the narrower (31/4”) bridge size. I’ve been told that this is because it is easier for dealers to control the deck, especially dealers with small hands. I’ve noticed that ever since TV poker became popular many casinos and cardrooms have moved to the wider poker sized decks.
Unless someone in your crew has an issue with poker size cards, I would not consider anything else.
Standard or jumbo. I’m going to show my hand right away on this one too. Jumbo or large index is, in my opinion, the only way to go. Prior to the 1990’s all you ever saw used in casinos and cardrooms was standard index cards. Standard index cards are the more traditional style of cards our parents grew up with.
After the TV poker boom I’ve seen many rooms switch to the jumbo index. I’m guessing they just looked better and were easier to read on TV. The same attributes that make them desirable for TV make them desirable in a live game. More and more I see rooms going to the jumbo index. They are easier to see, especially from the end positions of an elongated oval shaped table.
Yes, it’s true there are some who prefer standard index over jumbo index. Using jumbo index cards though is not likely to keep them away from the game. On the other hand many people with vision impairment will not be comfortable bringing this up in front of the whole gang at the poker table. This player is going to feel handicapped (they are), and will be less inclined to play in that game again.
Paper or plastic? It’s really a matter of personal preference. Most cardrooms use plastic. Why? From what I’ve read about casino operations it is a matter of economics. Paper cards cost less, Plastic cards cost more. Plastic cards can be cleaned a number of times and restored to like new condition. The only time paper cards are like new is when they are new. Once opened they go downhill from there. They can never be restored.
Let me break down the economics of paper verses plastic: I pay about $1.50 per deck for good paper cards; they last one game, then need to be replaced. I pay about $7.50 for a deck of good plastic cards. They last five or six games, then need to be cleaned or replaced. From these numbers it’s easy to see that even if you retire your plastic cards after five or six games, from a strictly economic point of view, paper verses plastic is about a horse apiece. About $1.50 per game for cards. Now if you’ve got a little time on your hands you can clean your cards and get more life out of them saving you some money. I’ve cleaned plastic cards and find the process tedious and unfulfilling. I don’t clean cards anymore.
In the bluegarage poker loft we use mostly paper cards. So I can accommodate any player request that may arise, I always have a plastic setup at the ready.
For me, paper is easier to handle and the cards are always fresh (if you change them every game). Plastic cards are only fresh when they are new, or after they’ve been cleaned. Around the third game of use plastic cards start to feel “thick” and get harder to handle. Plus I like to make a little production out of opening a new fresh deck each game. I bring the new deck in after pizza break (around 10:30), once everyone’s washed the sauce of there hands and settled back in at the table, this is when I break out the new deck. There is a certain cache to breaking the seal on a virgin deck, spread’um face up, flip’um, wash’um, and shuffle’um up. It’s a ritual my players have come to expect.
Bee and Bicycle are the only Brands of paper cards I use. To get them for $1.50 per deck you’ll have to shop around. Of the plastic cards I’ve tried, Copag, in my opinion, represent the best value. I buy most of my cards at Sams Club, or ebay.