What Are The Best Playing Cards For Card Magic Tricks?
There really are no “best” playing cards for magic tricks. Any deck will do. Beat up old decks will make certain sleight of hand moves more difficult, but for the majority of beginner card tricks you want to learn, any deck is just fine.
Now, some magic books will tell you that you that a sticky, dog-eared deck is not ideal for magic and in some ways, they’re right. However, there are times when if someone hands you such a deck and asks you to show them something, you really should be able to. Tricks like Out Of This World for example are easily done with a deck of cards in such a condition.
But, all that being said, there are “better” decks of cards for card magic. These are usually made of better quality materials, the finishes are better and they tend to last longer than a dollar deck you get from a drug store.
In this article, I’ll highlight a few decks of cards you should consider.
Bicycle Playing Cards
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most card magicians use regular Bicycle playing cards. They’re quite cheap, simple to find, and - importantly - recognised as “common” everyday cards throughout the United States.
The quality is, literally, guaranteed. If you find a misprinted deck, or have any errors in your deck, if you send it back to the United States Playing Card Company, they’ll send you a new one! You can’t say fairer than that really.
The Air Cushion™ finish on bikes makes them a joy to handle. This finish actually helps makes shuffling and some sleights easier to do.
Another good reason to use Bicycle cards is that most card gaffs and trick decks of cards are made using Bicycle cards. So when you want to use a gimmick it will fit into your deck seamlessly. Equally, if you want to use a gaffed deck of cards, you’ll be able to switch the cards, or “ring in a cooler” without anyone noticing. Because the design will match.
Buy Bicycle Playing Cards
Bee Playing Cards
Bee playing cards have one very clear advantage for magic tricks. They have no border. Why is that important, you might well ask? Well, for any kind of trick dealing, the lack of border helps hide the work. When you’re dealing seconds or bottoms, the movement of the top card is more pronounced when the deck has a border. With Bee playing cards, the removal of the border helps hide these sleights. On the flip side of that, however, moves like a double turnover are made a bit harder, as you have no wiggle room. There’s no margin of error at all. Also, a reversed card will be much easier to see. However, for crooked dealing demonstrations, you can’t beat a deck of Bees.
To be honest with you, after those two brands of playing cards, everything else is a matter of personal preference. We’ve got the largest number of decks of cards for sale online, there’s thousands to choose from. So I ran the numbers and the next cards I’ll talk about are the most popular we’ve sold to date in 2021. The most popular, by far, are regular Bicycle Rider Back Playing Cards, after that, it’s quite interesting a list:
Buy Bee Playing Cards
Bicycle Yellow Playing Cards
These are the same card stock as regular Bike cards, but the backs are yellow. These can be used as normal cards, of course, or to provide a very dramatic contrast for tricks like Red Hot Momma. Also, they’re very affordable.
Buy Yellow Bicycle Playing Cards
Abracadabra Playing Cards
Magician Blake Vogt designed us a special poster with this “Abracadabra” design on last year, we persuaded him to let us use it on a deck of cards too. They’re printed by Cartomundi on their slim B9 stock. So they’re super smooth and soft, very easy to handle and will faro straight out of the box.
Buy Abracadabra Playing Cards
Phoenix Playing Cards
Card Shark launched the Phoenix brand to offer magicians a reasonably-priced deck of cards to compete with Bicycle. They’re very popular, and also have many gaffs and trick decks that match the back design making them a good choice for magic tricks.
Buy Phoenix Playing Cards
The Boy Who Cried Magic Playing Cards
Andi Gladwin cofounded Vanishing Inc. and is a professional magician too. For ten years he’s published magic books for other people, and finally he released the first book of his own card magic. This deck of cards was initially released in the deluxe edition of the book, but demand for the cards was so high, that a limited release of the deck had to happen! They’re printed on the same thin stock as the Abracabra cards and handle beautifully.
Buy The Boy Who Cried Magic Playing Cards
The Feather Deck: Goldfinch Edition
Not to be outdone by the size of Andi’s deck sales, our other cofounder, Joshua Jay released these absolutely stunners in 2021. Timeless, elegant and classy. Again, printed on that same, delicious thin Cartamundi stock.
Buy The Feather Deck (Goldfinch Edition) Playing Cards
Esoteric Playing Cards
In collaboration with AGT star, Eric Jones, we released this gorgeous deck of cards in 2021 too. The secret? They’re marked. Can you spot the marks?
Buy Esoteric Playing Cards
Dead Man’s Deck: Unharmed Edition
A few years ago we released the Dead Man’s Deck. An aged, vintage-looking deck of cards dating back to the times of Wild Bill Hicock. The cards had a hole in them, where a musket ball had been fired. People loved the cards, but the hole didn’t make them that practical for most card magic. So we released a version of the deck without the hole. And it’s proved very popular indeed.
Buy Dead Man's Deck (Unharmed Edition) Playing Cards
So there you have it. The answer really, as I said from the get go, is there is no “best” deck of cards. But, the popularity of a deck does give you some indication what most people prefer to use.