Best Playing Cards for Poker

Hand Holding a Full House With Casino Chip Background

At any casino you go to, one thing you will notice about the cards at the poker table is that they’re not the kind that you would find at the dollar store.

Casinos print their logo on some of the highest quality playing cards available. There are many reasons for this. The most obvious is that they look amazing. Having nice looking cards at the poker table can help keep players at the table for hours on end, believe it or not.

Another reason is that having quality cards makes it easier for the dealer to shuffle. I don’t know if you have ever tried to shuffle a cheap deck of cards—it’s like trying to shuffle together pieces of printer paper. It’s an unpleasant experience.

If you’re wanting to host a poker game this weekend in your garage then I suggest investing in a decent deck of playing cards. They’re inexpensive and well worth the extra couple of dollars.

There are some pricey decks of playing cards out there, but you can get the cards that you would find while gambling at the Texas Hold Em’ table at just about any Target, Walgreens, or WalMart in the United States.

Black and White Photo of Playing Cards

You shouldn’t worry too much about spending money on cards, to be honest, because you can get high-quality cards for a price that makes sense for any budget. Plus, it’s not like you throw the cards away after the game is over. Higher quality cards are going to last longer, so you’ll be able to use them over and over for poker games that you host at home.

If you don’t think it makes much of a difference to the people you’re playing cards with, I can promise you that you’re wrong. People will notice if you have cards that look and feel nice. Even if you’re just playing with friends and not playing for money, they’ll be happy that they have the look and feel of a professional poker tournament’s cards.

You’ll also find that high-quality cards are good to have around the house for other reasons. If you have small children, the cards are going to be harder to destroy, but they’ll also work well for magic tricks. If you want to have some fun and wow your kids, you’ll be able to do some simple magic tricks more easily and more effectively with a high-quality deck of cards.

There are some decks that you’ll only find online, but purchasing a deck online is not necessary if you’re planning a poker tournament. I’ll go over some of the best decks of playing cards that you can use for any style of poker game.

KEM Playing Cards

I am putting KEM on the list not because they’re my personal favorite, but because they seem to be a go to brand that many casinos around the world use at their poker tables. KEM playing cards have been around for a long time.

First manufactured in 1935, KEM playing cards are different than most decks of cards I would put on this list. The reason for this is that KEM cards are made entirely out of cellulose and acetate and are completely waterproof.

The United States Playing Card Company, the company that manufacturers most decks of playing cards here in the United States, bought KEM playing cards in 2004. If you were to ever compete in the World Series of Poker, then KEM playing cards would be the deck that you would be using at the poker table.

KEM has been the official deck of cards for the World Series of Poker since 2007. If you’ve ever watched the World Series of Poker, you’ve almost certainly seen these cards, though you may not have realized it and may not have been able to tell the quality of the cards from looking at your TV.

Like most decks of playing cards, KEMs come in various colors. These cards are not too thick, but thicker than your normal set of playing cards. What a lot of people like about this deck is that they’re not too slippery.

I personally love cards that are slick and fan like butter, but that can be an annoyance for a lot of people at the poker table.

I think one of the reasons a lot of players like this trait is that when the deck is set on the table, the top cards don’t slip off the deck and fall onto the table.

Another trait that KEM playing cards is known for is having exceptional durability. They’re probably the most durable deck of cards on this list. This is one of the biggest reasons casinos love this deck so much. They can use these cards for poker games over and over and not have to replace them too frequently.

One thing about land based casinos is that they’re all about their money, meaning if there is an area where they can save, then that is a bonus.

Bicycle Playing Cards

Unless you live under a rock, you have most likely heard of one of the most popular brands of playing cards in the United States: Bicycle playing cards.

Since 1885, the Bicycle brand of playing cards has been manufactufactured by the United States Playing Cards Company. The United States Playing Cards Company makes more brands of playing cards than I even care to mention.

If you purchase a deck of playing cards, look for a seal on the deck that has to be cut in order to open the cards. You won’t be able to miss the United States Playing Cards seal, and that is usually a pretty good indicator that the cards that you have are going to be a pretty decent deck.

If you have purchased a deck of Bicycle cards, after you take off the clear plastic, the seal is going to be the very first thing you notice. It’s a little frustrating trying to get them open, and many people will accidentally tear their card box while trying to open the seal.

Try to use a letter opener, or even a kitchen knife (if you’re being very careful). There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a brand new deck of Bicycle playing cards and then tearing the box after trying to get it open.

Once this immaculate deck of cards is finally open, you’re in for one of my personal favorite experiences—holding a brand new deck of Bikes in your hands. If it’s your first time, then be warned that the cards are going to be pretty slippery fresh out of the box.

For some poker players, this aspect of the cards can be a little frustrating, especially if they’re wanting to play poker with the cards fresh out of the box. If you set the deck on the table, you will just want to be mindful of how you handle them, while still being a little gentle.

Picture of Vintage Playing Cards

The top cards of the deck can have a tendency to slip off of the deck, and it might reveal cards that you want to keep hidden. As I mentioned, the United States Playing Card Company prints and manufacturers many different brands of playing cards. The brand “Bicycle” is actually their signature brand of playing cards.

At the end of the 19th century, when the company was still a baby, the name Bicycle was chosen for the brand name of the playing cards due to the popularity of the actual bicycle during this time period. Bicycle cards come with 54 playing cards per deck, and each deck normally has red or blue backs.

Over the years, Bicycle has added numerous designs to their inventory, from black, pink, dragon backs, arch angels, green backs that are recycled, and dozens more unique and cool designs. The two extra cards in the deck are two jokers, which is standard with most decks.

Fun fact—a deck of cards that has the two jokers with the rest of the 52 cards is known as a french deck.

Like just about every other deck of playing cards, you can typically find the logo of the brand of cards on the Ace of Spades. The current logo on the Bicycle has been the way it is now for as far back as I can remember, but it has changed dramatically throughout its history.

Not too long ago, Bicycle released a 125-year anniversary deck, and I got one. It was really cool to see how much the design for the face cards (jack, queen, king) and the Ace of spades has changed.

Have some more brands of playing cards that you think reign supreme above the rest? Let me know your favorites for poker in the comment section below.