Playing Cards – Paper vs. Plastic

R Mongoose asked:

The same common supermarket question exists in the poker world as well. When it comes to playing cards there are two choices, paper or plastic.

Paper Playing Cards

Paper cards are the cards most people use growing up. They are cheap, easy to find, and most people are accustomed to their texture, thickness, and flexibility.

Paper cards are usually made of one to three plys of card stock covered in a varnish. This coating protects the cards, but it is not able to withstand everything.

The coating wears off as cards are shuffled and handled. Eventually the coating becomes thin enough that the cards are too difficult to comfortably handle and they need to be replaced.

The coating does not stand up to liquids well. Spilling a drink on a card will most likely ruin it. And, paper cards are not washable, so soap and water is not an option for removing cheese puff residue or any other dirt that the cards might attract.

Paper cards are not very flexible either. It is not difficult for a player to, either accidentally or on purpose, leave creases or marks on the cards. This immediately ruins the card for serious play, and often requires a new deck to be brought out.

Plastic Cards

Plastic cards do not suffer from the same drawbacks as paper ones. First of all, they are very slick. That slickness does not wear away in the same manner as it does on paper cards. They will shuffle and slide easily for tournament after cash game after tournament.

Plastic cards are incredibly flexible and will snap back to form after bending. This means that they can endure more player abuse and not become creased or marked.

And finally plastic cards can be washed. If they become soiled in any way, soap and water will clean them, not ruin them. Of course that means they stand up to wet picnic tables and spilled ice teas as well.

Many makes of plastic cards do not have a texture or feel that resembles paper cards. Often they are too slippery for less than nimble hands to shuffle. They can also feel flimsy when compared to paper cards.

Since many people are accustomed to the feel of paper cards, they are uncomfortable handling plastic cards and would prefer to replace decks more frequently than to make the switch. The truth is that because plastic cards last so much longer than paper ones, they are a much cheaper option per play than paper cards.

As in all things, there is give and take in deciding which type of card is best for you. Purchasing a deck of premium plastic cards is more of a commitment because they cost more and last longer. Paper cards are for many a comfortable short-term solution.

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