In Part One, we discussed the impact your choice of poker chips has on your home game. In Part Two, we talked about the furniture element, or the thing that catches the players’ eye immediately upon entry– the table. Now in Part Three, we get down to the nitty-gritty: the playing cards.
Poker and cards go hand in hand as all you need to do is to draw a poker from a deck of cards and whoever has the biggest hand is the winner. It is a popular pastime that you can enjoy with your friends and they too will have the time of their lives with this excellent game that requires both focus and strategy.
Playing cards are probably the thing that gets the least attention in home games. Players will spend all kinds of time and money to get the best chips, the nicest table, and all kinds of snacks, and then spend a dollar or two on the cheapest deck of Bicycle cards they can find, usually on the impulse rack at the grocery store. Why would you want to skimp on the one item that defines the game you’re playing? Poker is a game of cards, and choice in playing cards should be of utmost importance.
When you go to a casino, take note of how long a deck of cards stays in play– it’s rarely more than an hour or two. The main reason for this of course is security, but shuffle a deck of casino cards for more than an hour, and you’ll begin to feel a noticeable difference in how they feel.
You can buy casino cards for super cheap ($1.00/deck or less!). If this is the way you’re going to go for your home game, which I’ve done plenty of times, buy lots of decks, and plan on switching them out a few times in an evening. This always ensures the cards are crisp, easy to shuffle, and there are no bends or creases from the shuffling or playing.
The best option, however, are to get high-grade, plastic playing cards. Not the plastic coated, and not the paper cards, but plastic cards by Gemaco, KEM, or Copag. The first thing you’ll notice upon a cursory search of the internet is the price. These cards retail at $30 or more for a pack of 2 decks. Why would you spend $15/deck when you can get casino cards for a dollar or two? It comes down to simply durability. Not only do the paper cards tend to bend and crease easily, but the edges begin to fray and wear.
Since your typical home game could run a couple hundred hands, with a deck shuffled 5 times per hand, a deck gets worn out fast. I’ve run 20 player games before, and gone through upwards of 10-15 decks of casino cards. The plastic cards, though more expensive, simply last longer. They slide nicely across the felt, they stand up to the constant bending of being peeked at by lifting up the corners (typical in flop games like Hold-em or Omaha), and they can withstand thousands of shuffles without any discernable difference in look or feel.
So while the expense of the best cards on the market can be shocking at first, once your players get used to the feel of the plastic cards, they won’t want to go back. You can get the cheaper cards, and they’ll do you just fine for the occasional game, but if you’re serious about putting the best quality gear on the table, and plan on holding regular games, the investment of some nice plastic cards will be worth it.