Although poker cards are the same as all other playing cards, a proper poker deck may look and feel different.
Poker cards should always be 100 percent plastic, so that the cards can bend easily and last longer. In terms of design, poker cards usually come with a bigger index as well.
Poker size cards are wider compared to bridge size cards, but this doesn’t really affect the game, and poker can be played with either size.
Keep reading for the full explanation, and feel free to leave a comment at the end if you have any questions.
Poker cards may look different
1. Jumbo index
In poker, players are not allowed to hold their cards off the table. Besides, if they did, other players may see their cards.
So typically poker players look at their hole cards by lifting one of the corners or sides slightly, so they can see the index and pip.
Jumbo index playing cards make this easier as the index is a lot more visible. It’s a small change, but it helps.
2. Smaller royals
In jumbo index decks, royalties — picture cards such as the queen of spades — are smaller and narrower just because the index takes up more space.
Now, this affects the design, and nothing else. I find that in some cases picture cards actually look better when they’re smaller.
3. Four colors
In poker, suits do not determine the value of a hand. If two players hold the same two pair, with an ace kicker, it doesn’t matter if player A has the ace of spades and player B the ace of clubs.
That being said, there is a suit order — spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs — and it is used in some situations, such as dealing for the button. Plus, five cards of the same suit is a flush (usually a pretty good hand).
To make suits easier to recognize, some poker cards come in four colors: black spades, red hearts, blue diamonds, green clubs. Personally I’m not a big fan of them, but they have been used in a few major tournaments.
4. No jokers
The two jokers are never used in poker, unless it’s some kind of weird variant of the game.
So when purchasing poker cards, some casinos and card rooms order decks that come with two or three spare cards, but no jokers.
That being said, if you buy any poker deck, regardless of the brand, it should come with the two jokers as usual. Doesn’t make any difference but it’s nice to see the joker design.
Poker card size vs bridge card size
Poker size playing cards measure 64 by 89 mm, while bridge size cards measure 57 by 89 mm.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can only play poker with wider cards — as a matter of fact, bridge size cards have been used by the World Series of Poker, including the main event.
Personally, I would always use the poker size if I were to host a home game.
But narrower cards do have a few advantages. They may be easier to handle, cut, and shuffle. And the five community cards wouldn’t take up so much space.
When choosing poker cards, what you need to look for is the material of the cards rather than the size. So, paper or plastic?
Poker cards must be 100 percent plastic
When dealing and playing poker in actual casinos and card rooms, I have never seen paper cards. And I’d be very surprised if I ever saw a casino using paper cards (that is, for poker games — blackjack is a different story).
Obviously, you can use any kind of playing cards if you’re playing poker with friends. But there’s a few reasons poker should always be played with plastic cards…
Easier to bend
Unless you’re playing heads-up, you can’t just lift your hole cards casually — other players may see them.
When poker players look at their cards, they pretty much have to bend them. Do that with paper cards and you’ll instantly ruin them.
Plastic cards, on the other hand, can be bent quite heavily, multiple times, without being damaged. That’s a big difference.
Easier to slide
Some dealers like to literally slide the cards over the felt during the deal, while most dealers use the standard pitch.
In either case, the goal is to keep the cards as low as possible and make them slide on the table, rather than make them land directly in front of the chip stacks.
With plastic cards, especially brand new ones, this is relatively easy to do.
And yes, the quality of the felt helps too. But to pitch the cards properly, and make them slide, you want to make sure you’re using plastic cards.
Why is this important? Because if the dealer throws a card against a chip stack or the dealer button with too much force, that can easily damage the edge of the card, and you’d have to replace the deck.
But proper plastic cards have stiff edges, so you won’t have to worry about that.
Poker playing cards: famous brands
- Bee (USPC). Probably the cheapest on this list, although the quality of the cards is excellent. These have been used in the World Poker Tour.
- Fournier (USPC). These are made in Spain, but the brand is still owned by the United States Playing Card Company.
- KEM (USPC). Usually referred to as the best plastic cards in the world, KEMs are quite expensive — roughly $30 for a two-deck set — but the quality is second to none.
- Copag. Owned by Cartamundi, the Brazilian brand is now the official playing card brand for the WSOP. You can check out my review of the 1546 deck here.
- Modiano. The Italian brand was used in the 2015 WSOP and was then replaced as a few players complained about a few issues. I’m sure they’re still excellent cards for poker though.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions 👇