The 3 Best Quality Playing Card Brands

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When hosting a poker game, the quality of the deck of playing cards you employ is an important key to the enjoyment of your players. Flimsy, low-quality cards are to be avoided at all costs. There really is no reason to be a cheapskate on this front, since even high-end casino quality decks of cards are really not that expensive. Take my advice, spend the extra few bucks, and purchase some good looking quality playing cards.

Types Of Playing Cards

There are basically two types of construction used in making playing cards. There is vinyl, sometimes plastic coated, decks of cards and 100% plastic cards. The former is the cheap kind of cards that you find in any typical department store. While they are inexpensive, they are generally constructed of cheap materials and subject to being bent or torn easily. The most common brand associated with this type of card is Bicycle. Avoid these cards at all costs! To this end, this article will focus on my favorite three brands of high quality, durable playing cards. Without further delay, here are the top 3 playing card brands when it comes to quality.

The Top Playing Card Brands

#1. KEM Playing Cards


The most expensive brand. The preferred card used at the WSOP & WPT. Extreme durability, the brand that all other cards are compared to.

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#2. Copag Playing Cards

A less expensive, a bit lighter, high-quality card. They are a bit more slippery but are the best alternative to KEM. My personal favorite.

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#3. Modiano Playing Cards

The least expensive of the three. A very nice option if you like a bit more weight or heft to your cards. A bit different than the other two, but Italian quality makes them worth a look.

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Reviews

1. KEM

The most expensive brand of the three. Manufactured out of 100% Cellulose Acetate, KEM playing cards are the most common quality deck of cards in the world. In fact, most casinos and card rooms employ this brand.  This is also the card used in the WSOP and WPT.
These cards are a bit thinner than their competitors, but not so much as to cause a problem. They are not “slippery” at all and the top cards do not slide off when you set them down. This is one of the most noticeable traits of any good deck of playing cards. KEM cards are also are known to have legendary durability. There’s a reason casinos use these cards, they last a long time! You would likely go through 10 or more decks of Bicycle cards before wearing these out.
Get these KEM cards (Click see them on Amazon) if you want to play the cards “seen on TV” or in casinos. Also available jumbo index, which I highly recommend due to their enhanced readability.

2. Copag

Copags are my personal favorite and reasonably priced as well. The flexibility and thickness just seem to strike the right balance. They are slightly more slippery than the other high-end brands, but not in an annoying way.  There is not much in the way of texture to the surface and they have an overall lighter weight to them, which I find appealing. In my opinion, these cards shuffle the best and just exude quality and are perhaps the favorite of top players around the world. My advice is that if you are unsure of which brand to try, go with Copag. Try these black and golds, my favorite deck color. Or, if this is your first time purchasing Copag cards, I recommend that you buy the dealer’s kit, which comes with nice buttons for the button, small blind, and big blind. Also available with jumbo index.

3. Modiano

As the least pricey quality brand, Italian made Modiano cards are thicker and heavier than all of the other brands of high-end playing cards, with a more “hefty” feel to them. It takes some getting used to these cards if you have been using other high-end brands. They are not as smooth and many variations have a sort of light texture to them. Often, people either love or hate Modiano playing cards, due to their noticeable differences to what most people may be used to. I advise that you only try this brand out if you like cards with a bit more weight to them. Overall, these are awesome decks of cards. I recommend trying out the Da Vinci Ruotes regular or jumbo index, I think you will really like them.


Playing Card Specifics & Variations

When it comes to purchasing the best playing cards for hosting the perfect poker night, here are a few things to consider.

  • Playing Card Size
    There are numerous different sizes of playing cards, but the vast majority of non-standard sized cards are just manufactured for novelty cards. When it comes to quality playing cards, you have two basic options; poker size (2.5″ x 3.5″) or bridge size (2.25″ x 3.5″).  Unless you just happen to like slightly narrower cards, I would just stick to the standard poker sized cards. Otherwise, your buddies might tilt their heads slightly on the first hand of the poker night and say, “something isn’t right here.”
  • Glare
    Having meticulously compared all 3 brands, I don’t feel glare is an issue on any of them. However, if you just go by how shiny the cards are I would say that KEM reflects light the most, with Copag having the dullest sheen of them all. Modiano cards fall somewhere in the middle. If you play with a lot of bright lights in your poker room and glare is a genuine issue for you, I would go with the Copags. However, I am fairly confident that glare should not be an issue with any of the three. To put things in perspective,  tons of casinos use KEM cards and I haven’t ever heard anyone complain about the glare on them. It’s just not a huge concern.
  • Readability
    When players discuss the size of the playing card, they are sometimes talking about the index. What that basically means is the size of the numbers or letters on the face of the card. It’s all about personal preference, however, casinos and a lot of professionals prefer the jumbo index size, due to how much easier they are to read further away. Nothing is worse than being at the end of the table and having the flop, turn, and the river being spread out at the opposite end of the poker table. For most people, trying to read regular index would be next to impossible. Therefore, I recommend erring on the side of purchasing jumbo index.

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Regular Index

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Jumbo Index
  • Feel, Texture, & Thickness
    This is another thing that is all about personal preference. KEM cards are the thinnest of the set and Modiano is the thickest. Copags are the most slippery and Modiano the least, generally due to their heft and slight texture on the face of the cards. KEM feels lighter with almost a “papery” feel to them but still doesn’t have issues sliding around when the deck is set down. Long story short, if you want the feel of cards from the casino, get some KEMs. If you like more heft and texture, try Modiano. Personally, I prefer  Copags since they bridge the gap between the variations. Overall, all 3 brands shuffle smoothly and handle very nicely when being dealt.
  • Graphics & Back Designs
    As far as the design, graphics, and general look of each brand, KEM, Copag, and Modiano, are all beautifully made cards with a sophisticated and professional look. They all look high quality in every way. I don’t think anyone at your poker game is going to be disappointed, no matter which you choose.

4 Color Options

For you online poker lovers who love four-color decks, you have a few limited options. Copag does have a 4 color option for you on Amazon. The deck even comes with a leather case! Or, if the quality of the card isn’t that big of an issue for you, there is also Hesslers Playing Cards, made by Bicycle.

Summary

Having a poker night is all about the poker and playing cards are the tools of the trade. They are an investment in the fun factor of your home game and should not be overlooked when planning the event. Please, for the love of the poker Gods, do not show up with cheap Bicycle playing cards at your next poker night.  You playing partners will thank you for it and think you are the classiest guy around.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to browse my other articles for more poker information.