Top 10 Best Playing Cards In The World (2020)

Looking to buy playing cards? Ideally, the best playing cards should have great durability, easy handling, and just feel good in the hands. In truth, there are many playing cards on the market, but many are just not worth the price.

But there are only 2 types of playing cards. And depending on what you plan on using them for, you may want to get one over the other. For instance, paper cards may be better for magic tricks whereas plastic cards may be better for long-term use. Regardless, you’ll find more information on the differences between the 2 in this article.

With this in mind, here are the factors we used to assess each playing card brand:

  • Reputation, durability and handling
  • Top or unique features of the cards
  • Reliability or long-term usage

Our Top Picks

To save you time, here are our top picks based on the best feature.

High Quality Playing Cards
BrandOverall RatingBest ForPriceSee
KEM Arrow KEM Playing Cards in their case
(5/5)
Overall – The KEM Arrow cards have a solid reputation for having some of the best handling, quality, and durability. Really, you can’t go wrong with them.$$Check Price
Copag 1546 Copag 100% plastic playing cards
(5/5)
Value – Quality and performance at a low cost. The Copags are made of plastic but are considerably cheaper than the KEMs.$Check Price
Aristocrat 727 Red and blue decks of the aristocrat playing cards
(5/5)
Magic Tricks – These paper cards offer the best snappiness and handling for magic tricks$Check Price
Monarch Monarch playing cards in a dark blue box
(4.5/5)
Elegance – If you are looking for something that screams luxury then look no further. In fact, the Monarchs are probably the most exquisite cards ever made.$Check Price
Da Vinci Ruote Da Vinci Ruote cards featuring the red and blue backs as well as their hard case
(4.5/5)
Italian quality – Manufactured in Italy using high quality plastic$Check Price
Theory11 Artisan Luxury playing cards
(4.5/5)
Luxury – The artisan cards are aptly named for their excellent craftsmanship$$Check Price
Ellusionist Bicycle Shadow Masters Ellusionist Bicycle Shadow Masters cards showing off their red and black color scheme as well as their tuck box
(4.5/5)
Artwork – A literal contrast to the standard artwork, but with red highlights to make the cards pop to life$$Check Price
Elephant PRISM PRISM cards featuring their black box with a rainbow color palette
(4/5)
Design – Colorful and vibrant, these cards captivate your eyes with their unique look.$$Check Price
Bee Premium Bee playing cards in red and blue with an ace
(4/5)
Iconic – One of the oldest cards still on the market today, they are a classic.$Check Price
Bicycle Standard Bicycle standard playing cards featuring a red king and an ace
(4/5)
Value – Quality and performance at a low price, these cards are great for being disposable.$Check Price

Types of Playing Cards

There are 2 basic types of playing cards:

  1. Paper cards – Often have a custom finish
  2. Plastic playing cards

Paper Cards

These are playing cards that have been printed on some type of paper. Some manufacturers use special types of paper to produce a more durable product. In addition, paper cards often have some type of finish applied to them. Usually a plastic coating, linen coating, or in the case of Bicycle cards, an air-cushion finish.

The coating typically improves handling, durability, and the overall feel of the cards. Moreover, it also protects the cards from damage and stains, to a certain degree.

For most uses, paper cards offer exceptional quality at a great value. But their handling is often superior to plastic cards. And for this reason they are a popular choice for magic tricks and fancy deck shuffles.

However, you should be wary of paper cards that do not have a coating applied to them. Without a coating, the cards are unlikely to last a long-time. Plus, they’re very likely to handle poorly thus making shuffling much more difficult than it needs to be.

Pros
  • Easy to handle
  • Have that classic paper snap
  • Don’t slide around thanks to not being slippery
Cons
  • Harder to shuffle than plastic cards
  • Get beat up quite easily
  • Can’t be washed

Plastic Cards

Plastic playing cards are more commonly used by the professionals and those who have been using playing cards for a long-time. As with paper playing cards, they can range from low-end to high-end.

The low-end plastic cards are great for playing with friends and family, but are a poor choice for a professional setting. This is because they are made with a cheap plastic material that makes the cards prone to fracture. In fact, they can easily chip or snap in half if dropped, slammed, or even if you mess up a shuffle.

On the other hand, the high-ends are made of high quality plastics like cellulose acetate plastic, which are much less prone to breaking or chipping.

Regardless, plastic is usually the best material for playing cards. In general, plastic playing cards are better than paper playing cards in almost every regard.

Plastic cards are also waterproof meaning they can easily be washed. Paper cards cannot be washed as they soak up water which degrades their quality.

Pros
  • Resistant to scratching and bending
  • Can be washed thanks to being waterproof
  • Easier to shuffle and pitch
Cons
  • Prone to breaking
  • Don’t feel as snappy as paper cards
  • Usually more expensive

Paper Cards vs Plastic Cards

When it comes to handling, paper cards are usually better than plastic cards. For this reason, they are often used for magic tricks or fancy deck shuffles.

On the other hand, plastic cards are much more durable. They can last much longer than paper cards. In addition, they are resistant to scratches and can be washed. Because of this, they are commonly found in professional poker settings. Some plastic cards, like the KEMs, can last almost indefinitely if well-taken care of.

The bottom line is that paper cards are better for personal use and plastic cards are better for professional use.

Top 10 Playing Card Brands

1) KEM Arrow Plastic Playing Cards

KEM Playing Cards in their case

Overview
Overall Rating (5/5)
DurabilityExcellent – These cards should last a long time with little wear and tear
HandlingExcellent – They have the snappiness of paper cards while not being slippery
ReputationExcellent – The KEM Arrow cards are famous for their excellence
Material100% cellulose acetate plastic
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$30 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

Arguably the best plastic playing cards ever created, the KEMs are well-known for their durability, ease of handling, and having the best of both worlds.

  • They handle like paper cards, but feel like plastic cards

Plastic cards usually lack the classic snap and feel of paper cards, but the KEM’s have changed that. Also, plastic cards tend to be slippery but these cards don’t slide around much.

In fact, these cards are so good that 2 of the world’s most popular poker tournaments regularly use them. They are the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the World Poker Tour (WPT). Furthermore, many casinos also use this brand of cards. And this is all because of their unparalleled durability.

Indeed, they last a long time. And they can last even longer if well taken care of. This is especially true considering they are 100% waterproof. In other words, you can wash them thoroughly without having to worry about water damage.

Still, they are not flawless. In particular:

  • They can sometimes suffer from warping problems.

In other words, they may bend slightly. Nonetheless, this is a minor issue and can be easily fixed.

One last thing is that these cards come in jumbo index for better readability.

2) Copag 1546 Playing Cards

Copag 100% plastic playing cards

Overview
Overall Rating (5/5)
DurabilityExcellent – The PVC plastic ensures these cards are resistant to damage
HandlingExcellent – Stiff and snappy, with a nice feeling texture
ReputationExcellent – The Copags are remarkable for their value
MaterialPVC plastic
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$11 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

The Copags are one of the best plastic cards on the market today. In essence, they:

  • Offer virtually the same features as the KEM plastic cards but at a much lower price

Specifically, they handle very easily, are resistant to chipping, and have a solid reputation backing them up.

One of the reasons why they are much cheaper than the KEM cards is that they are made from PVC plastic. In contrast, the KEMs are made from cellulose acetate plastic. In truth, the quality difference between these materials is not very significant.

Still, it does affect how the cards feel. In particular:

  • Some people find them a bit stiff compared to the KEM

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people prefer the stiffness of the Copags over the KEMs, which they find are too flimsy. In addition, the texture of the Copags may feel better for some people.

Nonetheless, the feel of the cards is purely subjective. As such, you really have to try them out to know if you like them or not.

For the most part, they are one of the better playing cards on the market today. Plus, they come with a hard plastic storage and carrying case as a bonus. And as with the KEMs, these are one of the best poker cards ever made.

3) Aristocrat Bank Note 727

Red and blue decks of the aristocrat playing cards

Overview
Overall Rating (5/5)
DurabilityGreat – They last longer than the average paper cards
HandlingExcellent – Snappy, crisp, and smooth
ReputationExcellent – The Aristocrat cards are a classic and have a solid reputation
MaterialPaper with Linen Finish
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$12 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

The Aristocrat cards feature a stunning back design and some impressive handling. In particular, they have been described as smooth, light, and feathery. And this is evident in their ability to fan out.

In truth, their handling is among the best. Notably, they are:

  • One of the snappiest paper cards on the market

Namely, many people find them crisp and springy. For this reason they are a great choice for magic tricks and fancy deck shuffles.

That said, their back design alone is enough for most people to buy. As you can tell from their names, they have the same thin lines found on banknotes.

However, a small percentage of people find:

  • The back design is too busy or complex

Also, their box is nothing special and can feel a bit cheap for some people.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with these cards. They handle amazingly, feel great in the hands, and have a solid reputation.

4) Monarch Playing Cards

Monarch playing cards in a dark blue box

Overview
Overall Rating (4.5/5)
DurabilityGreat – Their heavyweight paper composition is a lot tougher than standard paper cards
HandlingGreat – Soft and smooth, but not very snappy
ReputationExcellent – The Monarchs are notable for their elegance
MaterialHeavyweight paper
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$15 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

Quite possibly the most elegant playing cards ever made. The monarchs will leave you speechless with their back design. Plus, their case is also beautiful and feels great.

Not only that, but they handle very well. Namely, they’ve been described as being soft and smooth.

However, they lack the classic snappiness of most paper cards. This is likely due to their heavyweight paper material. Because of this, they’re not the best choice for magic tricks. But, they still perform very well with cardistry.

On the other hand, the heavyweight paper composition makes them much more durable than the average paper playing card.

Altogether, if you are looking for a luxurious set of playing cards then look no further as the monarchs define excellence.

5) Da Vinci Ruote

Da Vinci Ruote cards featuring the red and blue backs as well as their hard case

Overview
Overall Rating (4.5/5)
DurabilityGreat – The Da Vincis are solid in their toughness
HandlingGreat – Often described as being paper-like
ReputationGreat – Almost as popular as the Copags
MaterialPlastic
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$14 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

As with the Copags, these cards are also a great alternative to the KEMs. They too are made with plastic, but they don’t seem to disclose the exact type of plastic used. In contrast, both the KEMs and the Copgs specify this.

That said, their quality appears to be great. They rival the KEMs in most areas and some people even say they are superior. In particular, the KEMs can sometimes warp, but the Da Vincis appear to not suffer from this problem.

Also, some people find the KEMs to have a chemical smell and find the Da Vincis don’t have this problem.

That said, they handle and fan quite well, but not as well as paper cards. In fact, some people find they are too slippery while others find them just right.

Still, their main feature is their design. Namely, they have a refined vibe going for them and have vivid colors.

However, some people have found their colors to fade with time. Though, they come with lifetime warranty so you may be able to return them if this happens to you.

Really, these cards are great for most uses. You can’t go wrong with them especially given their lifetime warranty. And like the Copags these too come with a hard case.

6) Theory11 Artisan Playing Cards

Luxury playing cards

Overview
Overall Rating (4.5/5)
DurabilityGreat – Their virgin tree fiber composition helps them last a long time
HandlingGood – They handle quite well for most uses
ReputationGreat – The Artisan cards are known for their fine design
MaterialFSC-certified paper
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$20 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

As with the monarchs, the Artisan playing cards are the definition of luxury. Thanks to their stunning back design, they are sure to impress your friends and family. And their tuck box is no exception which features a shiny metallic ink on it.

Handling-wise, they are fine for most applications. But they’re not very special in this regard. In fact, if you’re looking to do magic tricks then other paper cards may be better.

Really, the best reason to get these cards would be for games like solitaire or even poker.

That said, one unique feature these cards have is that they are made from FSC-certified paper or virgin tree fibers. Because of this, they are eco-friendly. However, this doesn’t really affect their durability. In fact, they are like most paper cards in this regard.

In short, because of their stunning back design and elegant ace of spades, these cards are an excellent choice for games.

7) Ellusionist Bicycle Shadow Masters

Ellusionist Bicycle Shadow Masters cards showing off their red and black color scheme as well as their tuck box

Overview
Overall Rating (4.5/5)
DurabilityGreat – Bicycle makes some of the most durable paper cards
HandlingExcellent – Easy to slide, fan, and shuffle
ReputationExcellent – Bicycle is a well-known company and these cards are no exception
MaterialPaper with air-cushion finish
ArtworkCustom
Average cost$10 per deck
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

If you’re looking for cards that pop with style then these may be for you. Diverting from the standard color scheme, these cards are literally a contrast to most playing cards. This is because each card is printed with a white font on a black background.

And if their art isn’t good enough these cards also handle beautifully. Thanks to their air-cushion finish, they glide effortlessly. Of note is the ease in which they fan out.

Because of their amazing art and great handling, they are ideal for magic tricks.

However, overtime they begin to lose their black color on the edges. In particular, if you hold the deck tightly you may see white marks on the edge. Of course this is an indication of damage, which is expected from paper cards.

But, overall their durability is what you’d expect from paper cards.

All in all, these cards offer a unique experience and are great for magic tricks.

8) Elephant PRISM Playing Cards

PRISM cards featuring their black box with a rainbow color palette

Overview
Overall Rating (4/5)
DurabilityGreat – Solid and stiff
HandlingGood – They slide around easily, but may be too stiff for cardistry
ReputationGood – Not popular, but not unknown either
MaterialGerman Black Core Paper
ArtworkCompletely custom
Average cost$13 per deck
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

Most playing cards come with the same standard artwork, but not the PRISMs. If you’re looking for a unique deck of cards then these may satisfy you. While some cards have custom artwork, they’re often partial in this regard. In other words, they may change the color scheme of the art and nothing else.

But not the PRISMS. In fact, these cards have completely custom artwork. From the labels to the background to even the art of the King, Queen, and Jack cards, they are all unique.

What’s more is they in 3 different color schemes: Day, Dusk, and Night. Though, the night version is probably the best.

However, the joker in these decks isn’t very refined. In all honesty, some people find it lacking in charm.

Also, some have found the cards to be a bit too stiff for their liking. Of course, this means they’re likely not very good for magic tricks. On the plus side, this makes them a bit more durable than the average paper deck.

Still, they slide around easily and fan well.

Regardless, there aren’t many custom cards as good as these. Overall, they’re good for changing things up, but may not be ideal for magic tricks.

9) Bee Premium Playing Cards

Bee playing cards in red and blue with an ace

Overview
Overall Rating (4/5)
DurabilityGreat – The Bee cards are known for their durability
HandlingGreat – Smooth and slipper
ReputationExcellent – The Bee brand was founded over 100 years ago in 1892
MaterialPaper with air-cushion finish
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$7 per deck
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

The bee playing cards are one of the oldest paper cards on the market. In fact, they were first made in 1892, more than 100 years ago. Because of this, they’re considered a classic by many people.

But that’s not to say they’re generic in any way. Their unique back design makes for some amazing fans. And this is mainly due to the honeycomb pattern. What’s more is the back is borderless. As such, the Bee cards are great for magic tricks. In particular, they’re good for tricks requiring sleight of hand.

Furthermore, they also feel great in the hands because of their smooth texture. Plus, they slide around effortlessly thanks to an air-cushion finish. But, they’re not overly slippery. You can easily pick up a bunch of cards and hold them in place.

However, they don’t really have anything else going for them. In fact, most people buy these cards simply because they’re iconic.

10) Bicycle Standard Playing Cards

Bicycle standard playing cards featuring a red king and an ace

Overview
Overall Rating (4/5)
DurabilityGood – Not the best, but not bad either
HandlingGreat – They handle quite well thanks to their air-cushion finish
ReputationExcellent – One of the most popular brand in the world
MaterialPaper with air-cushion finish
ArtworkStandard
Average cost$4 per 2 decks
Where to buyAmazon
eBay

The Bicycle standard cards are undoubtedly the most popular and commonly used cards in the world. Thanks to their low price and overall good quality, they offer an unbeatable value.

Despite their low price, they’re actually not bad. In fact, these cards are perfect for those who are just starting cardistry and/or magic tricks. And this is because newbies often damage the cards when attempting to learn tricks.

As such, you want a deck that’s cheap enough to be disposable. But not so cheap that the handling is terrible. And these cards deliver beautifully in this regard.

Thanks to their air-cushion finish, they’re easy to fan and shuffle. Plus they feel smooth in the hands and glide around easily. In fact, they may be too slippery at first but as you break them in they start feeling better.

However, they don’t really offer anything special. So if you’re trying to perform magic tricks you should only consider these for practice and not for practical use.

Still, at their price point you really can’t go wrong. And most people will recognize these cards instantly because they really are a classic. In fact, Bicycle was founded in 1867, more than 150 years ago. So a lot of people are familiar with them.

FAQ about Playing Cards

What is the best playing card brand?

In general, the KEM arrows are widely regarded as being the best playing card brand today. In fact, they excel in many uses, including poker and magic tricks. Plus, they are regularly used by casinos thanks to their outstanding durability.

Are plastic cards better than paper cards?

This entirely depends on what you want to use the cards for. But in general, plastic cards are better than paper cards when it comes to durability. In other words, they are usually resistant to scratches and wear-and-tear. Also, they can usually be washed. Because of this, plastic cards are the best for large groups of people. In contrast, paper cards may be better for magic tricks and fancy shuffles.

How long do playing cards last?

Plastic cards can last a very long time if they are well taken care of. This is especially true for the high-end plastic cards like the KEMs, which can last indefinitely under the right circumstances. In contrast, paper cards tend to get beat up quite easily. Furthermore, they cannot be washed. Because of this, paper cards tend to not last a long time.

Are plastic playing cards waterproof?

This differs on a case-by-case basis. In general, most plastic cards are water-resistant, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are waterproof. In other words, it may be okay to get a little bit of water on them but they may become damaged if they become soaked with water.

For instance, the KEM plastic cards are completely waterproof and can be washed thoroughly. In contrast, the Copags are not fully waterproof and can only be cleaned with a wet cloth. In short, you have to check the manufacturers page for each plastic card to know if they are waterproof or not.

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