Best Playing Cards for Poker

A good quality deck of cards is the backbone of any poker game. Yet, not all poker decks are created equal. For example, many of you might be shocked to learn that Bicycle Playing Cards are actually some of the worst playing cards for poker. Read on to learn why and discover how to find the best playing cards for poker games.

100% plastic casino playing cards for poker at a casino

Best Types of Playing Cards for Poker

Many of the most popular playing card brands in the world, like Bicycle Playing Cards and Bee Playing Cards, are paper cards with a vinyl or plastic coating. While they are usually inexpensive and easily accessible, paper cards are not ideal for poker games.

Plastic coated playing cards are prone to being bent, creased or torn which, besides potentially interrupting your poker game, also makes them susceptible to the secret markings of a card cheat. While they are OK for casual card games like Go Fish and Crazy 8s, these decks of cards are not designed to withstand the heavy usage of frequent poker games.

When it comes to the best types of playing cards for poker, 100 percent plastic cards are the preferred choice. These high quality, professional playing cards are the same type you can find in casinos around the world. While they are slightly more expensive than plastic-coated cards, 100 percent plastic cards are also more durable, can be easily cleaned, glide across the table with ease when dealt and are significantly more difficult for cheaters to mark. They are also the only type of playing card built to work properly in an automatic shuffling machine.

What Size Playing Card Should you Use for Poker

Standard sized playing cards (also known as “poker size”) measure 2.5in x 3.5in, and are the most commonly used by poker players. However, for particular variations of poker and home games that require you to hold a large amount of cards in your hand, you may want to consider using a skinnier card like a “bridge size” playing card (2.25in x 3.5in).

Best Poker Deck Designs

Despite the custom playing card community growing larger with each passing day, standard indexes and face designs continue to be the most popular for poker players. Using playing cards with dark backgrounds or different colors than red and black for the suits can be confusing and difficult to read.

There are some design variations though that avid poker players may consider:

  • Super or Jumbo Index Playing Cards - These cards use a much larger print that is quickly recognized and easier to see from a distance.

  • Peek or Dual Index Playing Cards - This style of playing card is typically used by the most serious poker players. In addition to the standard faces, there are also small fine print pips in each corner that allow players to discreetly peel up their cards and peek at them.

When it comes to the back designs of poker decks, you have a bit more freedom. You can use a deck of cards with a fancier back design. However, it’s important to use clearly contrasting designs or colors so they don’t get accidentally mixed together when using multiple decks (see below).

How Many Decks of Cards Should Be Used in a Poker Game

When hosting a poker game, you always want to have multiple complete decks of 52 cards available (the Jokers are typically not used). This ensures you don’t have to worry about a spilled drink or bent card ruining your card game night.

Using multiple decks of cards is also the casino standard for poker games. Most casinos will use two decks of cards for every poker game, with one being used for the active hand and the other deck being shuffled by the automatic shuffler. Both decks will be continuously alternated in and out of play - typically either every hand or every other hand. Since many automatic shufflers can detect missing or damaged cards, this also helps prevent cheating.

This is why most poker sets come with two decks of cards featuring different colored backs. One set of two poker decks should be enough for a casual poker game. But, if you’re planning a more serious poker night or poker tournament with a significant number of players, and maybe even multiple tables, you might want to consider buying a few sets and having 2 to 3 decks per table.

Top Brands of Poker Playing Cards

Kem playing cards are perfect for poker playing and poker games

Kem Playing Cards

Manufactured by the United States Playing Card Company, KEM Playing Cards are considered to be one of the best decks of cards for poker and have been used on the World Poker Tour.

Manufactured with 100 percent cellulose acetate plastic, these playing cards are typically thinner than their competitors. They have a light, paper-like feel that closely resembles what any casino table game player would be accustomed too. KEM cards are also not very slippery, ensuring they don’t slide around when placed on the table.

While they are slightly more expensive than other brands, the durable plastic construction of KEM Playing Cards ensures they’ll last for countless poker games.

Blue Copag playing cards for poker playing and poker games

Copag Playing Cards

One of Cartamundi’s signature playing cards, Copag Playing Cards are the official playing cards of the World Series of Poker. Most notably, the 100% PVC plastic Copag 1546 line of playing cards are considered to be a direct competitor to KEM Playing Cards.

While some poker purists have voiced concerns about their slippery feel and duller graphics, Copag cards are one of the highest quality and most affordable poker decks you can buy. They are an ideal choice for most poker players.

Modiano playing cards

Modiano Playing Cards

Made in Italy, Modiano Playing Cards are some of the thickest and heaviest decks of cards on the market. While their sturdier stock is quite noticeable at first, many poker players believe that, once you get used to their weight, Modiano Playing Cards have the best feel of any high-end poker deck. They also offer a large variety of options like the standard index and jumbo index Da Vinci Ruote Playing Cards.

Green Gemaco playing cards are a great alternative for poker playing


While they might be the least known of the group, Gemaco Playing Cards are an amazing budget alternative poker deck. They are a bit thinner than most plastic playing cards and offer a high quality solution at an affordable price.

Final Thoughts

With so many different playing cards available, ranging anywhere from $2 to more than $30, it can be overwhelming trying to choose the best deck of cards for your poker game. The most important thing you can do is determine your personal preferences and budget, and then carefully weigh your options.

Armed with the information you just read, pay close attention to everything from the design to the readability and feel. It's important to also think about how you are storing your playing cards to increase their longevity. We’d even suggest purchasing a few types of playing cards and testing them until you find the perfect match.

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