Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 8 best playing cards that are up for grabs

Poker night? A game of UNO? Get these playing cards for game night

A deck of playing cards
DD Images / Shutterstock

Is there anything classier than a great deck of playing cards or one of the all-time best board games? As far as a coffee table topper and conversation piece goes, probably not. The right thickness and feel of a playing card can make playing even basic card games better. Unfortunately, most basic decks from a corner store are cheaply made and won’t impress your guests.

Our choices for the best playing cards are high quality and feel great in your hand. Whether you want something classic, an upgrade with great details, or a deck with a little cultural nod, or want to play drinking card games with your friends, our list has you covered.

Best overall: Bicycle playing cards

Bicycle playing cards

These cards offer a classic feeling with a twist. They come in several designs, offering vibrant colors and featuring easy-to-read numbers. They feature an air cushion finish designed to shuffle well and reduce clinging. They come with bilingual English and French text, and the standard card stock is just the right thickness for long-term playability.

Best waterproof option: Sumind PET poker cards

Sumind PET Poker Cards

This deck is built using a PET plastic material designed to repel water and stand up to years of use. The bright black and gold color scheme offers a pop of color, while the classic graphic designs make the cards more straightforward to read. You can wipe them clean to remove smudges, fingerprints, and other grime. The pack includes two decks, so you can keep one deck in your house and one in your car for those impromptu poker games on the go.

Best geek option: theory11 Star Wars playing cards

Star Wars Playing Cards

Are you a Star Wars fan geek? This Star Wars-themed deck features all of your favorite characters from the most famous space opera of all time. They have a traditional style but with a twist — the face cards are all characters that you’ll recognize from the trilogies. The foil packaging is shiny, slick, and reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon, and the backs of the cards feature R2D2. The cards themselves use high-quality, thick paper stock that shuffles well.

Best splurge: KEM Poker-sized playing cards

KEM Poker-sized Playing Cards

KEM’s poker cards offer an ultra-classic design. The deck uses 100% cellulose acetate plastic, a coated card material that features non-fading colors and that won’t show wear and tear. They’re more expensive, but they shuffle well and will last forever. They’re flexible without creasing, allowing you to get the perfect shuffle going to impress guests. The scuff and break-resistant storage box is the icing on the cake.

Best modern design: Hoyle clear playing cards

Hoyle Clear Playing Cards

These fun cards feature a see-through design that hides the numbers while offering a pop of modern design. The waterproof material is strong and durable, while the printing won’t smudge or rub off, even with regular use. They’re a great addition to any playing card collection, especially if you play cards outdoors a lot. These would actually work great for playing a round of poker with your buddies while you’re all floating in a pool. As with most products from Hoyle, they look great and perform well, too.

Best UNO pack: UNO retro edition

UNO Retro Edition

OK, everyone needs an Uno deck. This throwback to the original design features all the bright colors you love in standard card sizes. The cards are flexible for dealing but strong enough to stand up to lots of use. Plus, you’ll have an alternative to classic card games to toss into your game closet for when you need it. These would be great to keep on hand for whenever you’re hosting your nieces or nephews, as Uno tends to resonate with kids better than other card games.

Best for music lovers: Rik Lee Music Genius playing cards

Rik Lee Music Genius Playing Cards
Music Genius

Classic cards with classic musicians — this deck features the faces of iconic names in the world of music. The suites are divided by music genre, and royalty cards feature some of the most famous musicians of all time. Two Joker cards (Bowie and Bjork, of course) round out the deck, and the box features an eye-catching design.

Best jumbo deck: Bee jumbo playing cards

Bee Jumbo Playing Cards

This extra-large print deck offers a classic design from one of the biggest companies in playing cards. The secure back design ensures no one can see through, while the faces feature the designs you grew up with. The letters are extra-large on the facing, which means the graphic designs are reduced to allow room. If your vision’s a little wobbly at the end of a night out with friends, these are the perfect cards to choose for a quick poker game.

A quick buyer’s guide

Friends playing drinking card game
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Purchasing a deck is often just a simple as finding a design you like. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

What is the best brand of playing cards?

Years ago, there were only a few answers (the iconic Bicycle brand comes to mind), but now, playing cards come from many quality companies. Instead of focusing on the brand, think about how you use cards and what feeling you like to have in your hand.

Are plastic cards better than plastic coated?

In some cases, yes. They’re more durable, and they make it harder for your friends to cheat (we know the stakes are high on game night!) However, they can be slippery at times, and some have construction that interferes with a smooth shuffle. It’s best to handle a few plastic versions versus plastic-coated options before you purchase.

What are the best card games to play?

We included an UNO deck here for fun, but one of the most popular games to play is poker. Older crowds may love old-school games like Spades or Bridge. You could even play simple games like Go Fish by matching suits or numbers. Some people even use playing cards as makeshift tarot cards. The possibilities are endless.

Are poker cards different from regular playing cards?

Poker cards have a slightly different size than other playing cards. You don’t have to use poker-specific cards to play the game, and you don’t have to save your poker deck just for poker. However, getting used to one particular size of card can throw off your shuffling if you switch to something else. Keep that in mind for high-stakes games.

How many different poker games are there?

There are dozens of poker games, with new variations emerging all the time. It’s difficult to say exactly how many there are, but here are some of the most popular.

  • Texas Hold ’em: This is the most popular form of poker today. In Texas Hold’ em, players are dealt two hole cards and try to make the best five-card hand using a combination of their hole cards and five community cards dealt face up in the center of the table.
  • Omaha: This version of poker is Similar to Texas Hold’ em, but players are dealt four hole cards and must use two of them in combination with the community cards to make their hand.
  • Five-Card Draw: Players are dealt five hole cards and can discard some or all of them in exchange for new cards in an attempt to improve their hand.
  • Seven-Card Stud: Each player receives a combination of face-up and face-down cards throughout multiple betting rounds. The best five-card hand formed from a player’s seven cards wins.

Editors' Recommendations

Nate Swanner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
The best competitive cooking shows to watch right now – from Pressure Cooker to MasterChef
Let these top cooking shows inspire you in the kitchen
The scene from the show Barbecue Showdown

Food Fight! No, not the messy one of your youth that involved hurling lunch across the room and subsequent detention. We're talking about the competitive cooking show, television's greatest culinary challenge.

These shows have come a long way. From the early days of Food Network to today, we've seen tremendous growth in this food-tastic style of game show. Now, a good showing on one of these popular programs can land you a serious role at one of the best restaurants in America.

Read more
The 12 best sports movies of all time – From The Bad News Bears to Goon
If you love all sports, here's a handful of the best films that feature sport

Patriotism, unpredictability, and drama -- these are the things that make us love watching and playing sports. Movies are an amazing way to celebrate and memorialize these themes, especially their dramatic aspects. In the matter of sports movies, people just want to see incredible stories, and sometimes they want to see someone getting laid out. Today, we’ve brought you a healthy dose of the two. 
With some based on real historical events and some praised for their inventive storytelling, we want to make it easier for you to find many of the best sports movies of all time. It wouldn't take long for massive sports fans to name a few of their favorites, but finding something new and refreshing can really hit the heartstrings on a good day. Combining the visual aesthetics and the inspiring stories of an array of sports, we hope these give you that rising feeling in your throat as a touching moment surprises you with a single tear.

The Bad News Bears (1976)

Read more
The 11 best Clint Eastwood movies (acted in and directed), ranked
Here's a good place to start if you want see Eastwood's best of the best
Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge


If one were to mention the greats from classic Hollywood cinema (especially Western movies), Clint Eastwood’s name would be one of the first to come up. A highly successful actor, producer, and director, Eastwood has developed his own unique style of film that follows a narrative format with a monumental ending every time.
Before his illustrious cinema career, Eastwood worked as a lumberjack, a firefighter, a swimming instructor, and a bouncer to get by. Kicking off his film career in 1955 as a few unnamed extras, Clint has since spent the following over 65 years committing his life to the practice of film and acting. As a director, and unlike David Fincher and his meticulous directing, Eastwood has been known to get what he wants in one take without storyboarding, rehearsing, or changing the script at all. Considering some of the great directorial works he has produced, this is impressive beyond belief but not exactly unexpected from a character like Clint.
Since there are so many Eastwood features to pick from (72 acting credits on IMDB), this list is about the films he has directed and acted in. This means that we will, unfortunately, have to omit some of his greatest performances to date (Dirty Harry, A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Escape from Alcatraz, Hang ‘Em High, etc.), despite them being as great as they are.

Read more