Almost all magicians use Bicycle cards because the quality is really good and they are affordable, especially when bought in bulk. Bicycle cards handle well and are ideal for shuffles, card fans, and most magic tricks in general. Bicycle cards are also widely available.
I’m a casino dealer who also enjoys doing card tricks. I’ve been using Bicycle cards for years.
In this article I’ll list all the main reasons Bicycle cards are the go-to for professional magicians as well as anyone who is into card magic.
Without further ado…
Why magicians use Bicycle cards
1. Bicycle cards are relatively common
First of all, magicians don’t want the spectator to think they’re using some kind of trick deck.
Whether it’s an actual magic trick, or just card flourishes, the idea is that the move is performed thanks to the magician’s skills and experience.
And in most cases, that’s precisely what happens.
There are special decks out there, and some magic tricks cannot be performed with regular decks. But in general, it is the magician’s skills that make all the difference.
Bicycle cards are known for their quality, but they’re quite common. Pretty much everyone has seen them.
Therefore, when magicians perform tricks with Bicycle decks, the spectators don’t usually assume they’re using fake decks, which, again, most of the time they don’t anyway.
2. Bicycle cards are relatively cheap
If you’re into card magic and like to practice once in a while, then you may use a few decks a year, or a few decks a month at most.
But some professional magicians who like to perform with playing cards in particular (rather than, say, coins) may go through hundreds of decks each year.
Some even use a thousand or more per year. This includes both practicing and performing on stage.
So even if bought in bulk, playing cards can be very expensive for those who perform magic professionally or semi-professionally.
Imagine having to spend tens of thousands a year… on playing cards alone. Justifiable, maybe, but still a huge expense.
The second reason magicians like Bicycle cards so much is that although the quality is pretty good, they’re relatively cheap, and that can save them quite a bit of money in the long run.
Don’t look at prices online — magicians typically buy in bulk from private sellers.
3. They are easy to shuffle and manipulate
Whether you need to perform card magic, flourishes, or even moves that don’t really involve manipulation but still require you to hold and shuffle the deck — Bicycle cards are ideal.
Not the absolute best. But still pretty good, especially considering the price, as mentioned above.
Some moves are easier with a brand new deck. Some moves are actually easier if the deck’s already been used for a while, and the cards are not too slippery.
And some magicians do use fanning powder to ensure the cards handle even better, by the way.
But for the vast majority of magic tricks and moves, any regular Bicycle deck will do, even if straight out of the box or slightly ruined.
So that’s another big advantage of using the good ol’ Bikes.
4. There are tons of special decks available
For those magicians who do want to show off their skills with special decks, Bicycle cards are again the winner.
Marked cards, invisible decks, stripper decks, and so on. The Bicycle brand makes dozens of these.
Plus, there are also dozens of regular decks (cards that are not marked or modified in any way) with special colors and design.
For instance, black playing cards, such as Tigers or Black Ghosts. Or cards with a super intricate (and eye pleasing) back design, such as the Aureo deck.
I believe most magicians would always prefer to use regular Bicycle decks. But it’s nice to change it up a bit from time to time, whether you’re performing or simply practicing on your own.
5. They can be bought offline
I realize buying online isn’t necessarily an issue for most people. And it’s definitely not an issue for magicians who order hundreds of decks at a time.
But let’s say you want to pick up card magic as a hobby, and you don’t need hundreds of decks (hopefully).
Because Bicycle decks are widely available, you could just go to the store and buy a couple of decks. Simple as that.
Personally, I would always prefer to buy in store, and if I needed just one or two regular Bicycle decks, then I’d just go to the closest store and buy them.
Are Bicycle cards the best for magic?
In terms of quality, no. But overall they are the best cards for magicians for the reasons listed above.
Tally Ho and Phoenix playing cards are slightly better in terms of quality. For example, they handle better and they have a better cut.
This makes it even easier to perform any magic trick where you shuffle or bend the cards, or cut them in packets.
Some say the back design looks better as well, although obviously that’s subjective. I think the original Bicycle rider back design is kind of cool.
Another alternative to Bicycle decks are Bee playing cards. Quality isn’t as good, but they are cheap, and have a softer finish.
They also have a different back design (no edges) and this does make it easier to perform fake shuffles and cuts; it’s a lot harder to spot them if the back of the cards doesn’t have the white border.
Most magic tricks can be performed with any deck
Bicycle cards, as well as those I’ve just mentioned, make magic tricks easier and smoother. But that’s about it.
You won’t turn into a great magician just by using a different deck of playing cards.
The vast majority of magic tricks and flourishes can be performed with any cards of decent quality. Even 100 percent plastic cards, although those were designed for a different reason — mainly longevity and flexibility.
Don’t use cheap cards to perform magic tricks. Cheap decks won’t last long and they handle terribly, and the design is usually ugly as well.
But don’t believe you need some kind of special playing cards in order to improve your skills. Bicycle cards are definitely good enough, even for complex flourishes.
Also, not all Bicycle decks are identical. Things like imperfections in the print or finish are possible, and this changes depending on the deck.
Some say the quality of Bicycles, Bees, and even Tally Hos has changed over the years. I can’t comment on that but it’s probably true.