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Sitting around around in a small group and wondering what to do? It’s hard to think of a situation in which pulling out a deck of cards is not the right solution, and I firmly believe every household should have at least one or two playing card decks on hand for just such occasions. Classic, novelty, or regulation poker size, it really doesn’t matter as long as the deck includes 52 cards in four suits, from Ace to King (plus two jokers).
What to Look Out for When Buying Playing Cards
There isn’t much that would really disqualify a deck from being a usable option, especially if you just need a way to keep both Great Aunt Alice and your 7-year-old nephew entertained and occupied. But cards are sold in different quantities, quality, and style, so here are a few things we note.
Brand: The card brand that probably comes to mind first is Bicycle, which features the classic upside-down bicycle design in both red and blue. This brand is known to be high quality, meaning the cards won’t soon fray, warp, and disintegrate with lots of use. They also come in a variety of sizes, such as jumbo size which features oversized lettering even hard-of-sight players can easily see.
Quantity: A pack of one or two decks is quite enough for most purposes. But if you’re a frequent player who tends to subject cards to rough usage (lots of spilled beer at the weekly poker night, for example), or if you play games requiring several decks at a time like Canasta, buying cards in bulk might be a good option. Be aware, however, that these cards might be a little less durable than smaller packs at the same price point.
Novelty: Unless you’re going pro, there’s no reason your playing card deck has to be classic in design. There are about as many creative playing card designs as there are combinations of a shuffled deck, so go wild (but maybe save the dirtier illustrations for when grandma isn’t at the poker table).
1. Bicycle Jumbo Playing Cards
If you’re looking for a true classic, you can’t go wrong with Bicycle. These come in a pack of two full decks — one red and one blue — with 52 cards with two jokers The superior quality finish of Bicycle cards make them easier to shuffle and deal, and it also contributes to their lifespan. We like these particular decks because of the jumbo font size, which makes them a bit easier to see.
2. LotFancy Playing Cards
For the bulk-shopping, Costco-minded card player, we like this pack of LotFancy cards, which come in a pack of 12 decks — six red and six blue. People note the good quality of the cards, which are finished in a layer of protective plastic to make them slick, flexible, and durable. They’ll hold up well even after plenty of use. Others simply appreciate that a large quantity of decks is ideal when you tend to go through cards quickly, or need them for a big group game night.
3. Hoyle Waterproof Clear Playing Cards
The beach or the pool seem like obvious settings for card games, except that the constant presence of water and moisture tends to ruin the cards. This is why this deck of waterproof plastic playing cards makes our list. We wouldn’t advise replacing your standard deck with these cards, especially as repeated use and rubbing can cause the markings to fade, but for sunny beach days they are a dream.
4. Medieval Playing Cards
If you have a soft-spot for Medieval Europe (and the viewership of Game of Thrones alone indicates that a lot of us do), we think this set of novelty cards is a particularly enchanting departure from classic American playing card design.
The intricate artwork and replica wax seal are beautifully rendered, while the cards themselves are made of thick embossed card stock, which is durable and smooth when shuffling and playing. Even if you’re not personally drawn to the world of kings and queens and knights and dragons, this set makes a wonderful gift for the person in your life who certainly is.