Playing cards has been a traditional pastime for hundreds of years. However, many people do not realize that during the last century, the design of playing cards has diversified. Players now have a wide variety of options when selecting the deck they use. It’s worth looking at what’s on the market rather than just settling for the first pack of cheap cards you see at the grocery store.
Ever since card games became popular, cards have been printed on paper. Originally this was nothing more than heavy paper, sometimes with rounded corners to avoid damage. In the early 1900s, manufacturers began applying plastic coatings to their cards to extend their life. The plastic also provides a slippery surface, making them easier to mix and spread. To further enhance the feel of the cards, some manufacturers send them through a process to print a linen finish to their surface.
Even with plastic liners, paper cards still have several shortcomings due to their porous nature. A drink spill, of course, will totally ruin a deck of cards. The natural oils from the skin of the players’ hands gradually seep into the cards over time, making them sticky and difficult to handle. The paper cards are also easy to fold and tear. Unscrupulous players can mark paper cards simply by pressing a fingernail to the surface in a particular spot.
To solve the problems inherent in paper cards, manufacturers began offering cards printed on plastic. These cards are plastic through and through, with no card stock core. Therefore, they are not porous and can be washed. If someone spills a drink on plastic cards, you can simply blot them up with a paper towel. You can easily wash the sticky cards with soap and water.
The main disadvantage of plastic cards is that they can cost much more than paper cards. However, the additional expense is justified by the long lifespan of plastic cards. Paper cards are usually the best option only if the cards are to be used once and discarded later.
Playing cards come in two standard sizes: poker size Y bridge size. Poker-sized cards are approximately 63 millimeters wide, while bridge-sized cards are only 56 millimeters wide. Both sizes are the same length, 88 millimeters.
Which width is best for you largely depends on the game you are playing. The narrower width of the bridge-size cards makes them a better choice in games where players must have a lot of cards, such as Bridge and Hearts. However, when it comes down to it, the choice of size is primarily a personal preference. Some people find bridge-sized cards easier to shuffle and deal. You can even find bridge-sized cards in use in Texas Hold’em games, where players only have two cards in hand!
Originally, the cards did not have any text to identify the rank and suit of each card. Towards the end of the 19th century, manufacturers began adding a label to the corner of each card to make it easier for players to identify the cards when they held them in a fan. This tag is called index.
Not all indices are the same. Indexes come in two main sizes. The smallest size is called standard index, which can be comfortably read from a player’s hand. The largest index size is called jumbo index, which, in most cases, is large enough to be read from across the table. Giant chips are best for games where players have to look at the cards from a distance, such as Texas Hold’em. In games where players have to have a lot of cards in hand, standard index cards work best, since players don’t have to fan them as much to see the contents of their hand.
There is another index size, called magnum index. Magnum index cards have indexes that take up the vast majority of the face of the card, leaving little room for the other illustrations you would expect to find on a card. Magnum indexes are really useful only for those with poor eyesight who require large print. Otherwise, it is a good idea to stick to the standard or giant tiles.
Now that you know the different options available, all that is left to do is choose a deck! Experiment with the different material, size, and index options to find a combination that works well with what you’re playing and who you’re playing with. A well-chosen deck of cards can help make a good game night great.