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Leisure Sports & Games

Best Playing Cards

Poker night. There may be no greater American mainstay of repose than getting your buddies together for a little friendly rivalry, often times with a small financial component. You know, to make the game "more interesting." You've bought the frothy refreshments and even got a new tablecloth for the kitchen table, but what kind of cards are you using? You know, those little flat things that are actually used to play the game? The deck is all too often overlooked when it comes to planning an evening of cards. But you're probably thinking to yourself, playing cards are all the same, it doesn't matter much... and you'd be dead wrong in that assessment.

Most cards come in two basic types, paper card-stock coated in plastic or vinyl and cards made entirely of plastic stock. You'll also want to consider index size and pip placement, because nothing makes it tougher to keep the other guys from seeing your hand than a large font broadcasting that you indeed have a royal flush. So when you're ready to buy in on some decks for poker night one of the five following picks is likely to be a sure bet, each one chosen along criteria such as durability of material, most cards are made of heavy plastics and cardstocks now so they remain resilient as the oils from fingertips can break down the material of a playing card over long periods of time.

These cards also all have top notch feel to them and a smoothness which makes them easy to play with, whether it's in a game or pulling off a magic trick. The visual aesthetics of these cards are also quite unique and suitable for game play, preventing anyone from cheating on that all important last hand; most important, of course, is the ability to see the pip and value of the card you're playing because it's crucial to know when to hold and fold. Lastly, each of these sets offers eye-catching color and unique design.

KEM Playing Cards

So maybe you're one of those players who's a bit more serious about their game. You need a card that can hold up to hours upon hours of shuffling, dealing, folding and throwing down on the table in victory when your hand beats all others. Well, KEM may be the brand you're looking for. These decks cost ten times more than some of the other names on our list, but what you get with KEM is a playing card that will stand the test of time. They're made of 100 percent cellulose acetate, one of the strongest plastics used in the construction of playing cards in today's market. In fact, these cards are also the preferred brand for the World Series of Poker. This distinction has made KEM the industry leader in plastic playing card manufacturing.

These cards won't scuff or tear and you can rely on them to hold firm even as you bend and curl to check out what you're holding. They're even washable, just in case the game gets particularly down and dirty. KEM offers a wide variety of back designs and colors for every taste, be it traditional or modern and they've got the different sizes associated with games like pinochle. You're going to spend more on these cards but if you take good care of them, you won't need to buy another deck for quite a while.

Copag Poker Size Regular Index Playing Cards

Featuring a wide range of pip and back designs from the traditional to the post-modern to the downright ugly in some cases, Copag has a long line of playing card decks to suit every taste in both poker and bridge varieties. Their Texas Hold 'Em deck has a retro, old Las Vegas aesthetic while some of their bridge decks have everything from images of their company's native Brazil to abstract art on their back designs.

Copag's card are made of 100 percent PVC plastic, which makes them durable enough to withstand countless games. They're tear-resistant and can handle all the repeated bending that comes with players peaking at their hands to decide how to wager. This also means they can't be creased or marked either, so you can be sure you're playing a fair game with Copag's cards. Shuffle these cards and you'll just feel the quality in your hands, and the slight raised texture on the back of each one makes them easy to deal around the table.

Bicycle Ghost Playing Cards Deck by Ellusionist

The first time you learned how to play go fish or were introduced to the game of solitaire, it's likely you were holding Bicycle cards in your hands. They are, by-far, the most popular playing card intended for the mainstream consumer. These are inexpensive cards that are great for a friendly game, but they're also the card of choice for some of the best magicians and cardistry experts out there, with names like Ricky Jay and David Blaine employing them in their acts.

Combine the tried and true reliable of Bicycle with the design team of Ebullient and you have a set of cards that feature a smooth which are easy touch by way of Bicycle's air-cushion finish. This allows each card to absorb bounce while providing a sure snap on the card for presentation in tricks. This also helps in the service of card games; as the dealer slides cards to each player at the table, there's less likelihood the card will bounce face up and ruin that card for the player's use in the game. The design on each card is what really makes this set stand out, featuring sharp black and white contrast with deep red accents.

Marc Gottlieb
I'm a rabid sports-aholic who's been to Super Bowl XXI, the Indy 500 and witnessed Doug Flutie's hail mary pass to Gerard Phelan live in Miami. Sundays are sacred in my household and I'm a two-time back to back champion of my fantasy football league. I played a lot of sports in high school; football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and I was on the school ski team. I even tried my hand at racquetball in college. I've jumped out of two perfectly good airplanes and bungee jumped off a construction crane. Since then I've worked for one of the top product placement companies in Hollywood, coordinating with most of the major sports apparel labels to get their products featured in films and TV. But it's a life-long obsession with music and film that has given me years of experience with the latest technologies and innovations in electronics. If they've built it, I've tried it and likely bought it. Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray players; I own multiple units that cater to all of these formats and more. A misspent youth immersing myself in pop culture meant I craved the hottest devices through which to enjoy it all, and at the highest possible quality. What I learned over time though, is that the most expensive items aren't always the best.
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