Choosing the Perfect Deck of Playing Cards

You know you want to buy a couple of decks of cards, but when you look at all of the available choices, you may not know where to start. With so many choices, it is understandable that choosing the perfect deck can be confusing. Paper or Plastic? Poker or Bridge size? Standard Index or Jumbo Index? What makes a Pinochle or Canasta deck unique? This step-by-step guide will explain the various options, and help you narrow the choices until you find the perfect deck of cards for you.

How are decks sold? Typically, playing cards are sold in pairs (a single pair is also known as a ‘setup’). Most often a Red & Blue deck are sold together, but some manufacturer’s offer other popular color combinations too, such as Black & Gold, or Green & Burgundy. Most of the top end selections will include a sturdy storage box for safekeeping, and less expensive cards will be packaged in a paper tuck box.

Should I buy Paper or Plastic? Good question. Chances are you grew up playing with paper, most of us have. Paper cards (like Bicycle) come with a plastic coating over the paper to give the cards some extra durability. If you like the feel of paper, and don’t mind replacing them on a regular basis, you should probably stick with paper playing cards. Paper decks are less expensive to purchase than plastic playing cards. However, if you want a more durable deck, you are likely to prefer 100% plastic playing cards. Plastic setups are initially more expensive than paper, but they will last many times longer than paper cards, and are likely to be less expensive in the long run. Plastic playing cards shuffle more easily, they slide along the felt effortlessly while dealing, they retain their shape better, and are completely washable if necessary. Most players agree plastic is more luxurious, and add a sense of elegance to their card game. A two-deck setup of plastic playing cards will run $12 to $28, versus $5 to $7 for paper cards.

What does Poker size & Bridge size mean? There are two sizes of playing cards being sold today, and they differ only in width. A poker-size deck of cards measures 2.50 inches wide, and 3.50 inches tall. A bridge-size deck is 1/4 of an inch narrower, so it measures 2.25 inches wide, and 3.50 inches tall (same as a poker deck).

Should I play with a Poker-size or Bridge-size? If you are playing poker, or any card game that requires you to hold relatively few cards in your hand, you should select a poker-size deck. Poker size is a little larger and easier to see than bridge size. However, if you are playing Bridge, or any game that requires you to hold a fistful of cards in your hand, then you will likely be happier with a bridge-size deck. Holding 12 or more cards at once can be cumbersome, and the narrower width of bridge cards will be significantly easier to hold than poker cards. So, in a nutshell, the type of card game you will be playing should determine whether you play with a poker or bridge-size deck.

What does Standard Index & Jumbo Index mean? The index of a card refers to the size of the print on the cards, and has no bearing on the physical dimensions of the deck itself. Standard Index cards have the typical small print that we are all use to seeing. For example, the 7 of Clubs will be printed with small numbers and suits in the upper left and bottom right corners of each card. Jumbo Index on the other hand will be printed with significantly larger numbers and symbols. Senior citizens typically appreciate the larger print of Jumbo Index. If you are playing a game like Texas Hold’em which shares community cards in the center of the table, then most players will prefer the larger print of Jumbo Index, they are easier to see from a distance. Standard or Jumbo Index decks can be used interchangeably for any card game. On balance, whether you select Standard or Jumbo Index, is a matter of preference.

Are Jokers Included? Yes, every standard deck produced today contains at least two Jokers per deck. The lone exception to this rule would be Pinochle decks (which do not require Jokers).

What is a Pinochle deck? A Pinochle deck has six fewer cards than a standard deck of cards. Pinochle decks are designed to be used only when playing Pinochle, they are not suitable for other games. Pinochle decks contain 48 cards consisting of two each of the Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack and Nine for each of the four suits. Pinochle cards are usually produced in paper, but one or two brands will offer their Pinochle decks in plastic.

What are Canasta decks? The game of Canasta has a unique scoring system which can be complicated to remember; for example, the 8 of Clubs is worth only 5 points, while the 3 of Hearts is worth 100 points. A Canasta deck contains the Canasta point value of each card printed on the face of every card in order to make scoring easier for the players. When playing Canasta, multiple decks are shuffled together; therefore, Canasta cards are sold with one uniform back design and color scheme.