Plastic Playing Cards All you need to know about them

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Good playing cards make a huge difference in any type of card playing game. There are several types of playing cards, the most popular are plastic and plastic coated with the main difference being the quality and durability of the cards.

Plastic coated cards are paper cards coated in plastic and will not last as long as a 100% plastic card.
You can expect plastic coated cards to be good for a few tournaments and you can expect plastic cards to be good for many tournaments.

The type of playing cards you use will have a great impact on your card game. There's nothing worse than playing poker, bridge, or whatever with bad cards on a bad playing surface. You should probably use one or two decks of plastic playing cards, rather than paper (plastic coated) cards. Plastic cards will last for months or years compared to lasting only one or two tournaments for paper cards.

Paper (plastic coated) playing cards will bend, crease, rip, chip and tear. They will only be good for one tournament or less. Paper cards mark easily and don't bend back into shape. They become dirty and sticky and don't slide as well as they did when they were new. They cannot be washed when they do become sticky. The colours are bright but fade as the cards wear out. If you spill a drink on a paper card, you might as well throw away the deck. They can be easily smudged or marked with a fingernail. It is easy to crease or bend a corner.

Plastic (100%) playing cards are much more durable and long-lasting than paper cards. They will not crease, rip, or tear as easily as a coated plastic card. Plastic cards will last longer, shuffle better, and slide across the table better.  Plastic cards may be washed using a damp cloth when they begin to get dirty and stick together. Plastic cards can get wet and soiled and are easy to clean.  Plastic cards are easier to handle and shuffle. They bend back into shape better than a paper card and are much harder to mark or smudge than a paper card. They are more expensive than paper cards but are worth the extra money in the long run.

Plastic cards slide very easily on just about any playing surface. They feel strange to shuffle at first but once you start using them, you'll never want to go back to a paper card. Plastic cards may smell when you first open a new deck. The smell will disappear with use.

In the long run, plastic playing cards will probably cost you less than paper playing cards. If you are going to use use paper cards, plan on buying lots of decks. On the other hand, plastic playing cards will last dozens of tournaments, with a little cleaning needed now and then. When the cards get a little sticky, simply wipe them clean with a damp towel and let them dry. This will save you money in the long run.

As with any type of card various brands will have differing type of plastic.  The best cards and best value for money I have ever used are the COPAG range of plastic playing cards.

Card Size
Playing cards are 3.5" in height. Poker (Wide) size cards are 2.5" (6.35cm) wide and Bridge size cards are 2.25" (5.72cm) wide.  The relevant card sizes are show in the pictures below.


Card Index
Regular, Jumbo or Magnum Index refers to the size of the numbers and pips (suits) on the card. Jumbo (Large) index cards have larger, easier-to-read numbers and suits than Regular (Standard) index cards. Jumbo Index cards are good to use on large oval tables because it is much easier to see the board cards (Flop, Turn and River) from the end seats. On the other hand, for inexperience players Jumbo index cards are worse as hole cards (down cards) because you have to expose more of your card to see what it is.
Magnum index cards have even larger numbers and pips than Large index cards. The thing about Magnum Index cards is that they have huge numbers and pips that can be seen from across the table but they also have smaller numbers and pips in the corners of the card, allowing you to simply flip up a corner of your down-card to view it.   Below are designs showing the difference between regular, jumbo and magnum index.


       REGULAR                                                        JUMBO                                                    MAGNUM

Remember that it may be difficult for the players at the ends of the table to see the board cards (Flop, Turn, and River) especially if the overhead lighting is inadequate or the player's eyes are aged. You might consider using  Jumbo index cards to make it easier to see the board cards, much depends on your players and your lighting. You could, alternatively, use regular index cards and ask the dealer to announce the cards as they are shown.


Most playing cards have numbers and pips located on the top left and bottom right corners of the card. Some decks, have numbers and pips on all four corners of the card. These are so-called "left-handed cards" and they make it easier to bend up any corner of your down card to view it. Most card decks have only two pips.

Store your cards in a consistently cool and dry environment. Do not leave your playing cards in a hot car or exposed to direct sunlight.

Looking After Plastic Playing Cards

  • Your cards will last longer if you keep them clean.
  •  To wash your cards, use cold water, mild neutral soap and a soft cloth. Do not use hot water.
  • Clean only a few cards at a time.
  • Rub lightly on both sides of the card and rinse quickly.
  • Dry thoroughly at once using a clean, soft cloth.
  • Spread your washed cards on a table and allow time to dry each side.
  • Avoid direct sunshine or artificial heating.
  • Occasionally wipe your plastic cards with a damp cloth and let dry thoroughly.
  • Never use detergent or alkaline soap.
  • Never put cards away damp, either from washing or perspiration.
  • Never store cards where they will be exposed to sunshine or any other source of heat.
  •  Play on a clean felt table. Playing on poor quality or dirty surfaces will result in scratches which will allow dirt to accumulate on the cards.

One of the best places to buy quality 100% plastic playing cards is right here on ebay.

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