custom-designed playing cards for magicians
It may surprise you to know what group of people purchases the largest number of decks of playing cards. It’s not collectors, but magicians. But the good news is that you don’t have to be a magician to perform card magic. Everyone who owns a deck of cards can give it a go. And when learning card magic, or any magic for that matter, it’s important to realize that your goal should not just to be successful. Of course everyone wants to be a success. But when you’re performing magic, you’re part of an ancient art-form that has a long history, and an unwritten code of ethics. You probably already know the often quoted adage “A magician never reveals his secrets“. There’s much truth to that, but without further qualification it can get us thinking wrongly about magic. In fact many magicians reveal their secrets all the time. You only need to look at the wide range of books and DVDs produced by professional magicians, which anyone can buy! And we’re glad that magicians make these resources available to us in this way. Their aim isn’t just to tell you how magic is done, but to share their secrets with fellow practitioners of the art. And they want to promote this art form and ensure that it continues to grow so that future generations can also enjoy it. But it is important for us to realize that when we learn and practice magic, we need to promote magic as an art form. Because in the long run, hurting magic will also hurt ourselves and the people we are performing our magic too. Official magic organizations like The International Brotherhood of Magicians and The Society of American Magicians have even issued ethics statements about this. These prescribe how their members must deal with secrecy. They also cover other issues like intellectual property, commercial rights, and humane treatment of animals. You don’t need to be a member of an organization to think about the unwritten rules of magic. That’s good for everyone involved in performing magic to consider, whether you are a professional or just a hobbyist having fun with your deck of custom playing cards. I began thinking about this when introducing some young teenagers to magic recently, and was teaching them some tricks. What guidelines and advice should I give them about how to approach magic, both as an art-form, and to enhance their own development? There’s no official and globally accepted code for magicians, but here is my attempt to suggest some Golden Rules for Magic. These relate both to the ethics of magic, but also include tips to help improve your magic so that you can perform in a way worthy of this noble art form.

1. Never tell the secret

Most people asking you to show them how a trick is done are merely curious. But this curiosity and amazement is exactly what makes magic so powerful and astonishing! If you tell them the secret, the mystery of the magic will be gone, and whatever sense of astonishment they felt will quickly deflate. “Oh, is that all? That’s easy!” No matter how much they beg, don’t give in to the temptation to share the methods of what you’ve performed. Even if it’s a close friend or family member! Otherwise you will shatter the illusion and destroy the magic. Note that this rule doesn’t count if you are sharing magic with a fellow magician to help each other learn and improve. Just be sure that someone is genuinely interested in performing magic, and not wanting to know how a trick is done.

2. Never repeat the same trick for the same audience

The reason for this is obvious: if your audience has already seen your trick, then they know what is going to happen. You’ve lost the key element of surprise, and any misdirection that may be important to accomplishing your method will be lost. When this happens, there’s a real danger they will figure out how the trick is done. If people do ask you to perform something again, take it as a compliment: they are enjoying your magic! What’s more, it’s a great opportunity to show another trick. A perfect follow up for a request to see something again is to say: “Let me show you something else” and then go into another trick.

3. Don’t announce the end result in advance

This rule follows from the previous one. In most cases the reason people ask to see something again is not because they want to repeat that feeling of astonishment. Instead, they want to deconstruct the magic and figure out the method. For the same reason there is a much greater chance your audience will uncover the method if you tell them in advance what will happen. Keep things surprising, and use this surprise as a weapon to make the final outcome all the more astonishing and amazing.

4. Practice, practice, practice!

There are few things more painful to watch than a poorly performed magic trick. Unfortunately, there’s a good reason why many high school magicians are seen as nerds. Often it’s because they are more wrapped up in their tricks than in entertaining people. To truly amaze, you need to know your trick inside out. That applies not only to your moves and technique, but also to what you say – so practice! Don’t perform a trick until you have practiced it and know it properly. You’ll feel far more comfortable and confident performing, and your spectators will love the results all the more.

5. Don’t pretend you have actual super-powers

There is no such thing as a person who can do real magic. We all know that, so don’t do magic in a way that suggests that you actually want people to think you can do impossible things. Why are people amazed when they watch your magic? Because they know that no human actually possesses the powers you have demonstrated. That’s why they ask: “How did you do that?!” You don’t want them going away thinking you can actually bend spoons or make coins vanish and appear at will. You want them to be astonished at the illusion you created. It has well been said that a magician is only an actor pretending to be a magician!

6. Don’t do magic to show off

Performing magic can certainly be a good confidence booster. But your magic should never be all about you. If you’re using it as an ego booster, or because you have an inferiority complex, the day will come where your magic won’t go well, and you’ll feel crushed. What’s more, your will audience see below the surface, and will detect an undercurrent of self-centeredness and arrogance. So be humble, gracious, and remember that performing magic is about others, not yourself. Use it to improve the day of the people around you, and put a smile on the face of the people you come into contact with, not to make yourself look good.

7. Remember that the aim is to entertain

Sometimes younger magicians can think that magic is all about fooling people. They have the idea that if you fooled them you succeeded, and if you didn’t fool them you failed. The name and premise of Penn and Teller’s wonderful “Fool Us” show can inadvertently reinforce this misconception. The important thing is not whether people were fooled by your performance, but whether they enjoyed it. You might fool someone badly, but if the trick was poorly performed and boring, you have not succeeded in performing magic. On the other hand, a trick performed and presented beautifully by a master magician is highly entertaining, even if you know the method. So work very hard on your presentation!

8. Respect your fellow magicians

You are not the first person in the world to perform magic, nor are you the only person. If someone else is performing magic, don’t too quickly see them as unwanted competition. Should you criticize them publicly, or tell others “I know how he did that“? Then you are only making it obvious that you are misguided, and are seeing them as a threat to your own ego. The world’s population is big enough to sustain more good magic. So be kind to your fellow brothers in magic, offer encouragement and support, and do what you can to make their magic go well. And if you are a better magician than they are, let others say that, not you.

9. Give credit where credit is due

When you are performing magic, you are standing on the shoulders of giants. Many wonderful and creative thinkers have gone ahead of you, and you are benefiting from their creativity and experience. So don’t give the impression that you are the first person in the world to have come up with what you are doing. Instead, gratefully acknowledge your indebtedness to others. What if you are asked if you invented something yourself when you learned it from a book or video? Then it’s perfectly appropriate to say something like “I learned it from another magician.” And if ever you are publishing anything about magic, it’s extremely important to credit your sources very carefully. We all know that magicians hate unnecessary exposure, but what they hate just as much is when a magician passes off someone else’s work as his own. This is especially true when it happens in a commercial context like a published book or a teaching video.

10. Leave them wanting more

Don’t wait till your spectators are sick of what you’re doing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of performing trick after trick, especially if things are going well, and your audience seems to be enjoying it. You could do this all day, right? But make sure you stop before people get bored. Especially if it’s family and friends you’re performing to, you want to save something up your sleeve for another day. There is a natural corollary to this: don’t force magic on people who aren’t interested. It is true that when you start with magic you will need to pluck up the courage to offer to do a magic trick. But over time you want to build a reputation so that people actually ask you to perform for them. So keep these rules in mind and be a good ambassador of the art of magic. Now go out there and amaze!
About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. 


The term playing cards tells us something very obvious about their original intended purpose: Playing cards are for playing card games. This is what playing cards were first created for, and card games are the single reason behind the rapid spread of playing cards throughout Europe from the 15th century onwards. Adding money to the equation only made their popularity increase, courtesy of gambling. But card games aren’t the only thing you can use playing cards for, and even adding card magic and card flourishing doesn’t exhaust their usage. What about arts and crafts that use playing cards as the base building blocks for entirely new forms of arts and crafts? In this article, we’ll instead take a look at some other fascinating and creative ways that playing cards have been used to create crafty novelties. Los Angeles based artist Scott Dyer is at the forefront of this kind of art, and I’ll be featuring a number of his artworks below.


Undoubtedly you’ve heard of origami, which is the art of folding paper into various shapes. It is typically associated with Japan, and the word literally means folding (“ori”) paper (“kami”). The Japanese term for cutting paper on the other hand is kirigami, and is derived from the word to cut (“kiru”). A simple example of kirigami that most people will have tried in their childhood is the creation of a paper snowflake, where you fold a paper in half and then thirds before cutting it, to create a symmetrical pattern. Symmetry is a common feature of kirigami, and most kids will have experimented with making a paper chain of dolls or a Chinese paper lantern.
The development of kirigami into an art-form of its own is somewhat recent. Although technically kirigami can be considered a variation of origami, in the last half a century it has gained its own place, and it is no longer considered by many to be a type of origami. Florence Temko’s book Kirigami, the Creative Art of Papercutting (1962) played a definitive role in the widespread use of the term kirigami. You only need to head to Pinterest to see how kirigami has become increasingly popular. You’ll quickly see a wide range of inspiring examples of beautiful crafts that have been made simply by a process of folding and cutting. A common feature of a lot of kirigami is that it is made out of a single piece of paper, which is then manipulated further by cutting and folding. This is kirigami in its purest form, where no additional components are added. That makes playing cards the ideal building materials for kirigami, since they are effectively single sheets of paper. There are different approaches to the art of kirigami with playing cards, but one universal rule that usually holds true is that even if parts of the card are removed permanently, theoretically you should be able to unfold the card and bring it back to a flat state.

Scott Dyer

If you want to get some sense of the amazing possibilities of kirigami with playing cards, you simply must check the stunning gallery of creations by American creator Scott Dyer. Scott is somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to playing cards, because he also does a number of other things like card stacking. His current best is a tower of playing cards that was 6.25m high, which is really not that far from Bryan Berg’s current world record of 7.87m. The sky is the limit, as they say, but on that occasion the limit was the length of Scott’s ladder. He does have his heart set on breaking the world record someday, but this would require a considerable amount of time, and equally the right building and space.
But what I especially love about Scott’s work with playing cards is his kirigami creations. These have a quality about them that is almost the opposite of card stacking. While the size of a card house is limited only by the space you’re working with, kirigami cards are by definition very much constrained to the canvas of a single playing card. Within these strict contours, it is up to the creator to come up with something unusual and interesting. Scott will be the first to admit that he has been inspired by others who have gone ahead of him. But you only have to look at pictures of the vast amount of different creations he’s produced over time, and it is obvious that he’s a master of his craft. He has spent hours and hours in understanding and mastering this unique art-form, first by refining existing designs, and then going on to create original designs of his own. He considers each of his creations to be a kind of independent “puzzle”, where the final work of art seems mysteriously impossible. With effort you can figure out how they have been made, but this element of mystery and impossibility really adds to their appeal. When you look at the result, the way that this has been accomplished isn’t immediately obvious. And yet with some effort, you can certainly unfold the card and bring it back to its original form as a single playing card. One of the most remarkable things about these kirigami cards is that no gluing is involved, but only cutting and folding. Given the impossible look of many kirigami cards, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that they are alternatively known as “impossible cards”, and “puzzle cards”. You’ll also find them referred to with names like “WoW cards” or “Ian cards”, terms which originate with another popular creator, Ian Rowland. But not all kirigami cards have an impossible look to them; others simply look pretty, and appeal by virtue of their visual aesthetics.

True topological cards

It is not my intention to give an authoritative categorization of different types of kirigami cards. Like Scott, I’m not so much interested in making strict scientific distinctions, as I am in enjoying the visual artwork of these delightful creations. So bear in mind that some practitioners of kirigami may interpret the suggested categories below differently. But these are some categories that Scott suggests, and who am I to argue with him – I just want to enjoy the beautiful art that results!

Trapdoor fold

This is the first of several categories that can be considered “true topological” cards, because they uphold the strict criteria of being continuous pieces, with no detachments or glue or trickery, and they are fully examinable. The trapdoor fold is the bread-and-butter fold for kirigami cards, and is the key element of the cards pictured here.

Cat’s grin fold

A hinge point in the middle of the card is key to many of these, while more complex designs increase the number of crossing points to produce very impressive visual aesthetics.

Folded/woven stems

These typically have long steps of shapes that are folded and interlocked or woven into themselves, often producing an apparently impossible look.

Rotationally symmetric/geometric knots

The way these work produces a very visually pleasing effect, but in most instances they look more complicated than what they actually are, and don’t require the same “impossible” folding techniques used in some of the previous examples.

Braided cards

Now let’s ramp up the difficulty somewhat, at least in terms of how the result looks. These build on earlier techniques, but look more complex and really maximize the number of crossing points for a stunning effect.

Other cards

One-way topological

Unlike the “true topological” cards of all the preceding categories, there is somewhat of an illusion at work here. Even so, these designs still use continuous pieces that rely exclusively on twisting and folding, with no detaching or glue involved.

Topologically impossible

Finally there is some genuine trickery involved – although when you’re examining them you may still find it impossible to figure out how these have been accomplished.
I recommend that you check out Scott’s full image gallery, where you’ll see dozens and dozens of images in these categories. One thing I really admire about Scott Dyer’s work is how he incorporates the designs together with the pips and shapes on the card faces. The colours and designs of the card backs are often chosen carefully as well. This all helps add to the visual impact, and the overall look.

Mystery box cards

Scott also has tried his hand at creating 3D pop-up cards, which he refers to as a “mystery box”. Those who have the Bad Robot deck might recognize what inspired this name. It originates with the Mystery Box decks from Theory11, where a Bad Robot deck was wrapped in plain brown packaging, and advertised by the creator J.J. Abrams as a “mystery box”. But Scott has put his own spin on the name, and in his case it refers to a 3D design created out of a single playing card. For a while he even challenged himself to create a new mystery box every single week, and over time he has produced over 125 different designs.
These are effectively 3D paper sculptures created from a single playing card. You’ll find plenty of this kind of thing by searching for “kirigami pop-up card” or “3D paper sculpture”, but what makes Scott’s work in this area unique is his application of these principles to creations that employ playing cards. The concept is a fascinating one, and you’d be surprised at the mysterious 3D forms that are lurking inside your playing cards, just waiting for creative individuals like Scott to come around and tease them out! Check Scott’s full image gallery to see over a hundred such `mystery boxes’ that he has created over the years.

Give it a try!

Now it is your turn! The basic tools for kirigami are easily obtained. Ideally you want to use some kind of cutting mat, and you will find self-healing mats that work particularly well. In a pinch, there’s always good old cardboard. You’ll also need a sharp hobby or craft knife, such as the popular X-Acto brand. Finally, to help you ensure that your cuts are straight – and also for your own self-protection – a steel ruler will be of great benefit. As for what designs to use, there’s no real secrets here. Just check out some photos of designs created by others, and it is clear where the cuts need to happen. The tricky part tends to be figuring out how to do the folding. But that’s effectively a puzzle you’ll have to solve on your own, and that’s all part of the fun! Scott’s technique is to create the design digitally on his computer first. He then re-sizes it to match a playing card, and tapes the printed template to a playing card for accurate cutting. He recommends printing an oversized design on a full sheet of paper first to help with figuring out how the folds work. A good place to start might be by tackling some of the mystery boxes that Scott has made. To help you out, he’s provided templates in PDF form that you can freely download and use.

Other sources

I appreciate how Scott Dyer makes it very clear that he is standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before him, and he also tries to credit and attribute his work carefully where possible. For his mystery boxes he’s done a lot of research on kirigami pop-up designs, many of which he’s reverse engineered and found ways to apply to a single playing card. For the other kirigami cards, puzzler extraordinaire Angus Lavery is a big inspiration. Angus is considered one of the pioneers and giants of the genre, and many are indebted to him for his brilliant designs. By building on Lavery’s work, Ian Rowland has also done a great deal to popularize kirigami cards, which he initially called “WoW cards” and “Reflexions”, and now refers to simply as “Ian Cards”. Other sources for ideas include Ralf Rudolph, Luc de Smet, and Allen Rolfs. On his links page, Scott includes a long list of others who have contributed to the art of kirigami cards, and there are plenty of links you can explore, including Instagram accounts for other creative designers. Whether you buy a ready-made kirigami card, or try this unique art-form for yourself, I’m sure you’ll join me in marvelling at the creativity and ingenuity of these wonderful creations!
Want to see more of Scott Dyer’s work? ● Official site: cardstories.coKirigami galleryMystery Box gallery ● Social media: InstagramFacebook About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards.  Images courtesy of Scott Dyer, and used with permission.


If you’re passionate about sharing your knowledge and insight through tarot and oracle cards, allow the Shuffled Ink team to print your custom designs.


In addition to tarot cards, we also print oracle, affirmation and healing decks. Truly, the possibilities are endless. You think it, we print it. If you plan to sell the deck that you’re designing, we suggest writing down or sketching some ideas. Think about who your target audience is. What theme would prove most successful? Where is this appeal and why would this attract customers? There is a great rule of thumb for creators. It is often mentioned in relation to novelists. If you are bored or unamused by the content you have created, it’s very likely that others will share the same feeling.

Design something that excites you, from the first card to the last, and everything in-between.

Some Client Examples:

For Tarot Readings:

Add a distinct theme to your deck for readings. Tarot and oracle readings can become quite deep and personal, so consider adding your own original designs to the deck.

Shuffle Up! Tarot

Designing your own tarot deck means applying creative liberties as you see fit. Most tarot decks follow a standard formula: 78 cards with 22 Major and 56 Minor Arcana. Client Latoya Marquez’s Shuffle Up! deck holds 78 hand-drawn, unlabeled cards as well as one dedication, which reads:

For every day we blink and breathe, the sun will always set. And when the sun rises, we have a new day to reset and be better than we were yesterday.

Longmania Space Tarot

Longmania Space Tarot, created by Shuffled Ink’s Creative Art Director, Daniel Longman, is a deck of space-themed paper art pieces designed for intergalactic explorers. The Major and Minor Arcana feature saucer vs. rocket ship battles, explosive shuttle take-offs, daring comet riders and more!

His constantly growing collection called Longmania Cards is available in our client shop.

Showcase Your Art Portfolio:

If your art fits well in the spiritual realm, market using tarot-sized cards. These decks include however many cards you desire, which allows for an endless supply of art concepts to dabble in.

Reinvent, Reproduce, Modernize:

Tarot has an extensive amount of history. Some clients enjoy reproducing decades-old decks. This allows modern tarot designers to reflect on the past and remember where the art form originated. Artisan Tarot’s


Ah, the sweet smell of a brand new deck. There it is, a fresh arrival in the mail, now waiting on your kitchen table. It is taunting you in its shiny cellophane, begging to be opened. Inside, as you know, is the joy of discovery, the smell of newness, the feel of brand new playing cards, and the promise of future experiences. You can hardly wait! But do you need to break in your new deck first? If you want the handling to be smooth, are there any special steps you need to take to get your deck into optimum working condition for peak performance? And if so, what is the right way to do that? In this article, we’ll consider and explore this topic.


Whether or not you even need to break in a deck depends on a number of factors.

1. Are you a professional magician, about to perform a gig?

If so, then it’s not likely that you want your first experience with a new deck of cards to be on stage in the middle of a performance or when you’re on stage. Ideally, you’ll want to have at least given it a short test drive in advance, just to make sure it feels right, and has that gently worn and familiar feeling, so that it won’t cause any issues during your performance. The last thing you want is a couple of cards to be stuck together, or to find some other issue with the deck. Obviously magicians won’t want to perform with a tired and worn deck that is full of grime, because it makes a poor impression, so it is professionally important to use a deck that is brand new or near new. But when using that new deck, you don’t want to have to worry about a less than optimal performance, so you do want it handling as best as it can from the moment your performance begins. You certainly don’t want to be spending precious minutes fiddling with cellophane wrappers, or getting rid of the standard “new deck order”. And are the cards too stiff? Too slippery? These are the two main issues you may find with a new deck, and are the kinds of things that you can address by breaking in a deck. For many professionals, it will be a personal thing as to whether or not a deck performs exactly the way you want fresh out of the box, or whether you prefer the slightly different handling that results from a slightly worn deck. But for the rest of us, unless our first drive with our deck is at some official event, the need to “break in” a deck is much less necessary. It will get broken in naturally simply by using it, so just go right ahead and put it to work. It’s not like some new car that you need to handle gently for the first few kilometers, nor are you like a test pilot nervously taking a brand new plane on its first flight. Little can go wrong, and if you just use the deck for what it is intended for, everything will work out fine.

2. Who is the publisher, and what kind of deck is it?

Decks from some publishers will perform just beautifully straight out of the box, and this can also depend on the card stock that is used. Many cardists like using a deck that feels soft, and typically a deck will become softer by sheer use, as pressure is applied to the cards in the course of shuffling and handling. A USPCC deck with their “Thin-Crush” stock will have this feel immediately from the box, whereas a deck with their thicker and higher grade Casino Bee stock may require some wearing in before the cards feel softer. The B9 True Linen stock from Cartamundi also has a very soft feel from the box as well, and many cardists will just love how this feels from the get go. In contrast, LPCC/EPCC decks with the Diamond/Master Finish will have a much stiffer feel from the outset, and this sense of snap and firmness isn’t likely to change much despite intense use of the cards, given that these are intended to be much harder wearing and longer lasting cards. All this means that whether or not there’s a need to break in a deck can depend on how it handles straight out of the box, which can vary according to the publisher and the kind of deck it is. So let’s talk about the typical USPCC deck a little more, since that represents by far the majority of decks. Decks with their standard Bicycle stock and with their higher grade Casino Bee stock will both become softer over time, so it can be helpful to wear these in if that is important to you. This is largely a process that will occur naturally as you use the cards, so there’s no need to artificially wear them in as such. But if it is very important to you that all the cards arrive at the same degree of softness at the same time, you might want to systematically go through a series of moves that puts all the cards through their paces in the same way. Certain decks will also be more slippery when they are first used, which is a result of the coating on the cards. Some use will see this wear slightly, and the cards won’t quite slide as freely as they did initially, which is another reason some magicians will want to break in a deck first. On the other hand, other decks may perform worse over time, although this will largely be with decks from inferior publishers. These may appeal to spread and fan smoothly immediately from the box, but over time can quickly start clumping and be inconsistent.

3. How do you like your deck to feel and perform?

For most people, a deck will slowly change its feel as it gets used. In some cases, a deck may perform worse as it wears, and fans and spreads that were initially super smooth and consistent may start becoming clumpy or less than optimal. But generally speaking, as a deck becomes slightly softer it can become more pleasant to use, and sometimes this can even mean that fans and spreads can improve. It also can become less slippery, and the cards will actually spread and fan a little more consistently and pleasantly. One thing about USPCC produced cards is that the edges of the cards can be somewhat rough after the cutting process. You can feel this by running your hand alongside the edge of a brand new deck, especially if you compare it to the super clean and smooth cut of a LPCC/EPCC produced deck. This will wear smoother with time, but there are things you can do to speed up this process.


To summarize, a deck that has been worn in slightly will generally perform better than a brand new deck – although there are exceptions. Cards will be less slippery, and spread evenly and smoothly, springs will be easier due to the cards being softer, faros will be more consistent (in both directions), and packets and double lifts can be formed more cleanly. This will happen naturally over time with any deck, so in many cases you don’t need to do anything special – just go ahead and enjoy the cards, and they’ll wear in automatically as you use them. But sometimes you do want to accelerate that process for performance reasons.


So suppose we do want to break in our deck, how should we go ahead doing that? Let’s imagine that our deck is still staring at us from the kitchen table, grinning at us from within its cellophane. So let’s begin right at the start of the whole process, and list some steps that we can do.

Step 1: Preparation

So what do we need to get started? ● Be clean. You didn’t see that coming did you? There you were, with your grimy hands, all ready to rip into your brand new deck, and you almost forgot this important step! Go ahead and wash your hands – and dry them thoroughly! The oil on your hands, and any grime that might be invisibly clinging to it, will quickly transfer to your brand new cards, and before you know it they will start looking grimy as well. So it’s important to get rid of any sweat, dust and dirt that your hands might be carrying, and give your new deck the very best start it can, rather than throwing mud at it on its first test drive! ● Get your tools. Don’t worry, you won’t need a hammer or any heavy equipment! But a sharp knife will come in handy shortly, in order to do a neat and tidy job of opening the seal.

Step 2: Opening the Tuck Box

You didn’t really think that the cards magically pop out of that wrapped box do you? This process involves several steps: ● Cellophane. We begin by opening the cellophane, or shrink-wrap as it’s sometimes also called. Rather than ripping this from the top or bottom, I usually like to pull the tab provided for this around the deck. What this does is divide the wrapper into two halves. I typically remove the smaller top half, but leave the larger lower half on the deck. This provides additional protection to the tuck box, helping it stay in shape, and preventing the corners from becoming dinged up or tearing. But not too much can go wrong when removing the cellophane – unless you’re using a knife, in which case be careful that the sharp blade doesn’t slip and leave an unplanned but permanent tattoo on your skin or on the tuck box! ● Seal. Now for the seal, which is the adhesive sticker on most decks that keeps the deck closed and needs to be opened in order to open the top flap. Again, there are wrong ways to do this. Rather than just tear this in any fashion, I like to preserve the seal as best as possible. With a custom deck, the seal has often been thoughtfully and deliberately designed with unique artwork to fit with the rest of the deck, and it’s nice to preserve as much of that as possible. Cutting it parallel with the top of the deck along the upper flap is less than ideal, because it means you’ll invariably have part of the sticky side of the seal facing inwards, where it will occasionally attach itself to a playing card, and over time accumulate dust and dirt. Instead, it’s often best to get a sharp knife, and cut the seal right along the semi-circle shape. In a pinch, you can use a thumb nail to do this. But the result will be very neat and tidy: when the tuck box flap is closed, you’ll see the two parts of the seal come together in entirety, and there’s the added advantage that you won’t be leaving any sticky surfaces around to attract grime. ● Top flap. Ideally you want to bend the top flap backwards. There is usually a line about 1cm below the top flap, which has been pressed into the deck during production, and that’s where you want to bend the top flap backwards – not at the very top of the deck itself. What this does is reveal the top centimeter of the cards, making them easy to grab. If you don’t do this, and the cards are somewhat of a tight fit in the tuck box, you may find yourself butchering the top of the case trying to get the deck out.

Step 3: Removing the Cards

Wait, do we really need a whole step that explains how to remove the cards from the tuck box, and do I really think you have an IQ lower than an Ace of Spades? I’m sure you’re bright enough – after all you’re reading this! – but the truth is that you can butcher this part of the process as well. ● Take out the cards. If you have pushed back the top flap at the line described in the previous step, you should be able to get your fingers on both sides of the top of the deck. The most natural way to do this is to have your thumb on one side of the deck in the semi-circular thumb tab (another reason for not cutting the seal directly across the top!), while your forefinger grabs the other side of the deck along the top centimeter of the cards that has been revealed when you bent the top flap of the tuck box backwards. Now you can just pull the cards out, but even that can be a little tight at times. Get gravity to help, and tip the box over, so that the cards fall naturally into your hand. Don’t forget to inhale that new deck smell – that’s not something you want to miss is it? Breathe in deeply, and smell those new cards – you know you want to! This is also a good time to remove the ad cards, so that what you’re handling is a 54 card deck without unnecessary extras. ● Smooth the edges. In the case of a USPCC produced decks, the edges of the playing cards of a brand new deck will feel noticeably rough. While this can improve over time, you might want to take your deck and rub all four sides a number of times against some fabric – denim jeans are perfect. This will remove any loose bits and can help reduce some of the roughness.

Step 4: Conditioning the Cards for Optimal Friction

Some swear that there’s a particular order of steps that must be followed when breaking in a deck in terms of how you handle the cards for the first time once they’re outside the box. Personally I fail to see how the order of what follows matters too much – although I wouldn’t begin with a riffle shuffle or spring for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. So here are the moves you should consider doing to make your cards perform better than when you have them in your hands for the first time. First of all, you want to give your cards a workout to help ensure optimal friction. These first moves are geared to ensure that the cards slide smoothly over each other. Cards have a coating that is designed to optimize how they glide over each other, but in the factory the cards have just been produced and never actually rubbed over each other, so there may be some small imperfections. We want to make sure that with the help of some warmth, wear, and pressure, everything is in good order and sliding smoothly and evenly. A helpful way to think of this is that you are polishing the cards by rubbing them against each other. ● Overhand shuffle. Shuffle off all the cards one at a time, to ensure that all the cards move freely, and there are no clumps of cards sticking together. It’s important to make sure that all the cards are properly separated. ● Wash. At this point some people recommend “washing” your cards. No, don’t get out the soapy water! A wash refers to spreading all the cards on the table, crudely overlapping each other, and shuffling them around over each other. The term “granny shuffle” is also used for this method. Personally I think that a systematic series of overhand shuffles accomplishes the same thing, is neater, and does a better job of looking after your cards, but you might find it more satisfying and effective to give your cards a “wash” as just described. ● Fan. A few fans are now the order of the day, in both directions. The idea of this and the previous step is that you get the cards sliding over each other every which way. If you did the above steps face up, now repeat them face down. This ensures that each card has gone through its paces in each and every direction, from both sides.

Step 5: Conditioning the Cards for Optimal Flexibility

But cards don’t only need to slide over each other smoothly, they also need to be able to flex in different directions. If they were stiff and rigid like wooden boards, there’s no way you could handle them at all, so we want to make sure that they are malleable and soft. That’s something that the printing process won’t do for us by bending them in different directions to soften them up, but fortunately it’s something we can easily do, by giving the cards a workout to help ensure optimal flexibility. These next moves are geared to ensuring that the cards flex properly, and return back to their natural shape easily and quickly. I strongly suggest doing these steps after the ones just described to get optimal friction, because when sliding the cards across each other, you don’t want them to be previously bent as a result of riffle shuffles or springs. Although if you find that your deck is warped out of the box, these flexibility routines will help straighten it out, so you may need to adjust the order of things. ● Aeration. This is simple and interesting “flex-ercise” in which you hold the deck similar to the beginning of a spring, squeezing both ends towards each other. This causes the deck to bend into a C shape, and you’ll notice the cards all separating from each other with a layer of air between them. This helps separate the cards, and helps prevent the oil or coating causing them to stick together. Do this in both directions. ● Riffle shuffle. Now it’s time for a good riffle shuffle, since not only do you want the cards sliding smoothly over each other, but you also want them flexing nicely. Do this both face up and face down, completing each shuffle with a bridge, so you don’t end up with bent or warped cards, and so that the cards are flexed in both directions. ● Faro shuffle. Another good move to do at this point is a faro shuffle. Given the new deck order, the central place that splits the deck exactly should be even easier than usual to find – for most standard decks it will be right between the King of Clubs and King of Diamonds. You can complete the shuffle by bridging the cards, or by cascading the cards together if you know how to perform that flourish. A faro shuffle will also tell you immediately whether or not a deck has a traditional cut or a modern cut, depending on which way you need to weave the cards together for the faro shuffle. ● Spring. Just like a riffle shuffle, a couple of good springs will help, and be sure to do these in both directions (face up and face down). To round things off, you might want to conclude with another series of overhand shuffles, just to make sure that the factory coating has had another pleasant polish and final warm up, so that it can behave optimally.

Closing Thoughts

In most cases, for the average person anyway, there’s no real need to artificially “break in” a deck. Just go ahead and use it! How it will handle and feel will change naturally over time, and as long as it’s a good quality deck, often this may make the handling smoother and better. But if you’re a performing professional, it may be important to make sure that a deck is in optimal handling condition ahead of a performance. In that case you will want to put a new deck through its paces before using it for the first time on the stage. Usually the best way to do this is by a systematic series of shuffles, fans, spreads, and springs, as described above, to break the cards in faster, and to ensure that they have optimal friction and flexibility ahead of your performance. It’s not a complex process, and simply spending 10 minutes with your deck in this way should do the trick. For most of us, none of this really matters enough, and wearing in a deck is what happens automatically as we use it. Even so, it is good to be aware of how to treat a deck well, and be familiar with some of the things you can do to help give your playing cards that familiar feel, and ensure that they won’t let you down. Treat your cards right, and they’ll treat you right! About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. 


Cardistry is an art-form with playing cards that have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Originating from magic, where magicians would use fancy moves with the cards to impress the audience, cardistry has now exploded and become a hobby and art form of its own, quite distinct from card magic. For newcomers, cardistry can basically be described as involving fancy ways of shuffling and manipulating a deck of cards to create visually amazing cuts and moves. But there is nothing basic to doing it. This art of card flourishing requires a unique skill and dexterity developed through hours of practice – and a lot of dropped cards!

The uniqueness and creative qualities of cardistry, along with the ability to create a thriving community through shared resources, ideas, and videos via the internet, have resulted in it becoming amazingly popular over recent years. It has truly developed into a performance art, and attracted a fast-growing community around the world.

But there are some big names at the front lines of this development, and anyone who has become a part of the cardistry community will most likely have heard of at least some of the four giants that are featured below. Let’s meet a few of the real stars of this relatively new performing art.

Dan and Dave Buck

Dan and Dave Buck are household names in the world of cardistry, with an insane ability to manipulate playing cards in a creative, visual, and original way. These twin brothers live in San Diego, California, where they run Dan and Dave Industries, a lifestyle brand and design firm that produces luxury playing cards, apparel, and accessories for magicians and cardists.

Now in their 30s, Dan and Dave first made their name as magicians. But not only are they accomplished magicians, but they are also at the front lines of the fast-growing and rapidly-developing art of cardistry. They branched out from magic into the world of card flourishing, where they are considered pioneers and innovators. They believe cardistry is still in a stage of infancy, much like skateboarding was in the 1980s. Its vocabulary is still starting to form, but they are convinced that cardistry will eventually become more mainstream. If that happens, they will deserve a lot of the credit for getting things started.

You can see Dan and Dave featured in a number stunning cardistry videos online, and that is because they are true giants of this rapidly growing and evolving art form. They put together a series of instructional videos called “The Dan and Dave System” (2004) and later “The Trilogy” (2007), which have had a huge impact in growing the art of cardistry. Arguably no single teaching tool has had more impact on cardistry than these series of videos. Dan and Dave also appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster film “Now You See It” (2013), where their most notable card flourishes were performed by them, and then edited digitally to switch in the film’s actual actors.

As a further example of their impact on this growing art-form, they were also the co-organizers of the inaugural Cardistry Con in 2014. This has since become an annual event, drawing an international crowd of cardistry leaders from around the world. The Dan & Dave brand continues to manage the Cardistry Convention’s official website, and is involved in each yearly convention. There’s no doubt that this twosome has been, and continues to be, a massive influence in the world of cardistry.

In September 2017, the Buck twins were featured by Great Big Story as part of their “Human Condition” series, and the result was a three-minute Kings of Cardistry micro-documentary entitled “Inside the Hypnotic Art of Card Juggling”. This superb short video gives a good idea of what cardistry is about, and displays the kinds of crazy moves that Dan and Dave Buck are capable of with a deck of playing cards. The video’s own overview gives an accurate assessment of Dan and Dave’s outstanding skills, and offers some indication of the respect they have earned in the world of cardistry, with these well-deserved accolades: “Cards twirling, knuckles blazing, hands-a-blur—welcome to cardistry, the sleight of hand acrobatic sensation all done with a simple deck of 52. The kings of the cards are Dan and Dave Buck, twin brothers dealing out some of the best moves in the game. Their mesmerizing, seemingly gravity-defying flips and tricks stem from card flourishes originally used by magicians to introduce their tricks. Now, thanks to artists like Dan and Dave, cardistry has spun off as an art form all its own—keeping the magic without the abracadabra.

As well as being highly regarded in the world of cardistry, and having had a major impact on its development and growth over the last few years, Dan and Dave Buck also run Art of Play. This is an online retail outlet which they founded in 2013 with the purpose of embracing the wonders of the world and connecting people through a state of playfulness, and it is also the name of their own playing card label. Seeing an opportunity, they began producing custom decks of their own. The remarkable reception that these published decks received only served to breed further success, and they have continued to successfully produce designer playing cards of the highest quality. In 2016 they produced no less than 16 original decks of custom playing cards, and they have showed no sign of stopping in 2017 and 2018, with a similar number of new and wonderful designs emerging each year, all produced under their Art of Play label, many geared especially to cardistry.

Below are links to some more video clips that feature Dan & Dave Buck, showcasing some fantastic examples of their cardistry. One of these, “Avant Card”, will best be appreciated with headphones/earbuds on, because this video was mixed and delivered in fully-immersive DTS Headphone:X technology. Another video is entitled “The Art of Cardistry”, and is a superbly produced feature from Cool Hunting Video.

The evidence is overwhelming: Dan and Dave are cardistry innovators that are still at the top of their game, and watching them perform gives a strong appreciation for the many contributions they have made and continue to make towards this relatively young and maturing art form.

More video clips featuring Dan & Dave Buck

The Virts

One of the biggest and most well-known names in the world of card flourishing is Virtuoso, or more commonly referred to as The Virts. Virtuoso, or “The Virts”, is a team from Singapore that began with co-founders Huron Low and Kevin Ho. As they expanded they subsequently grew with the addition of other team members like Daren Yeow, Joshua Tan, and Jeremy Tan, as well as Joyce Lee and Roland Lim. When they first started together in 2005, Huron and Kevin were just doing cardistry as a hobby, and it was only in 2009 that they formed “The Virts” as a group. But from these humble beginnings, The Virts would soon become one of the top performing cardistry groups in the world.

These guys are good. Really good. So good that one of their cardistry videos from 2012 went viral, attracting the attention of the Discovery Channel. Being featured on Discovery Channel was a big step forward, and the original video clip, “Test Room”, now has over half a million views. Today The Virts have a YouTube channel with over 110,000 subscribers. Discovery Channel did another feature around the time of the 2015 Cardistry Con, this time following them around and making a 25 minute documentary on the art of cardistry and on The Virts in particular.

The Virts’ popular videos have single-handedly inspired many to take up cardistry. But Virtuoso’s success also inspired the team to embark on a new venture themselves, by creating a deck of cards designed exclusively for cardistry. And so in 2012 they turned pro, and embarked on a quest to produce a special deck of cards dedicated exclusively to serve card flourishers around the world. It was quite a risk, since the playing card market was already well established, and at that time was geared mainly towards magicians and card collectors. Would it really be feasible to create the first and only deck designed for the art of card flourishing? And was there really a market for this kind of niche-like deck? The typical trend in recent years had been to create decks that add exotic features like gold foil and ink, whereas the Virtuoso deck was stripped down of all such bling, and was deliberately designed to be much more minimalist, so the outcome was quite uncertain.

Yet the response to the first Virtuoso deck was overwhelming, and even beyond what Virtuoso had ever imagined. They have continued to produce a new edition of their self-referential deck almost every year, usually featuring a different colour scheme and slight changes to their signature geometric design. The Virtuoso deck has unquestionably played a huge role in advancing the art of cardistry much further than it was 2012. At that time card flourishing was still somewhat in its infancy as an independent art form, and the label “cardistry” was yet to be coined. The Virts’ Virtuoso Deck has been a real factor in this growth. Its eye-catching design has inspired many newcomers to the art, while experienced card flourishers quickly fell in love with it and spoke very highly of it. The result is that the cardistry community has continued to grow steadily as the word gets out. Furthermore, the Virtuoso deck also inspired many other designers to produce decks that were visually optimized for card flourishing, and that has helped spawn a very healthy custom playing card industry as we know it today.

The Virts are not only unique because of their mad skills at cardistry, but because they were the first in the world to create a company that focused exclusively on cardistry, and to successfully produce a deck of playing cards designed purely for card flourishing. Their success has grown from their own love for the art, and remarkably there has been enough demand for them to turn it into a profitable business. As one of the team says, with a sense of ongoing gratitude and amazement, “I shuffle cards for a living.

More video clips featuring The Virts

Jaspas Deck

Jaspas Deck (real name Justin Ye) is the Creative Director of the New Deck Order, and has been involved with card flourishing since 2003, when he was just 15 years old. The New Deck Order was formed in 2013 by Jaspas and Loretta Sze, with a dedicated web-site that aimed to be a hub to help bring cardistry fans from around the world together.

The achievements, qualifications, and skills that Jaspas brings to the table at The New Deck Order are many. He has an unconventional and creative style that immediately sets him apart from most other cardists. His impressive credentials include being crowned as the World Kardistry Champion for 2013-14, and the winner of many other cardistry competitions. He has also given lectures on cardistry internationally, and has a strong following of enthusiastic fans and students.

But his wide range of skills includes academic qualifications in Fine Arts in Digital Film Making, which has been a real boon for the art. An important element of modern cardistry is the ability to showcase it with skills in technology and media, and the fact that Jaspas has these credentials serves him well to create high quality and inspiring cardistry videos. Jaspas put his skills to good use in 2013 when he created the New Deck Order’s popular YouTube channel, School of Cardistry, which provides free instructional videos on cardistry. This really established the New Deck Order’s credibility in the world of cardistry, and put them on the map.

But Jaspas Deck is not only a skilled cardist, a well-known speaker, and a gifted videographer, but has also created several decks of playing cards. In 2014, the New Deck Order team took things to the next level, by producing their own deck designed completely for card flourishing, and since then they have created several versions of their School of Cardistry deck. This deck is described as “fifty-two non-standard playing cards“, and is what the New Deck Order considers to be cardistry’s new standard: non-standard! The revolutionary aspect of the School of Cardistry decks is that the card faces are all identical. The abstract design on the card faces means that displays have a very unified and different look, and that not only the back of the cards, but also the faces can be used for neat presentation. Even fans, spreads, and twirls can capitalize on the face designs. With a deck like this, there is no chance that cardists with a deck in hand will be confused for magicians or poker players! The identical cards immediately become a point of interest, and set the card flourisher apart as someone dedicated to this new art form. This is definitely a deck made entirely and only for card flourishing, and its unique design helps cardistry enter a new phase of development and evolution.

Jaspas has also produced several self-named decks, typically in limited editions. The first of these was described as follows: “Designed by Jaspas Deck, the Jaspas Deck features rotationally-symmetrical pips that have been repositioned to enhance spinning moves.” Unlike the NDO playing cards, and despite the radical design, these do have traditional suits and numbers – although the pips are positioned and shaped to optimize how they look when rotationally twirled. Many of his are featured on his own YouTube channel, and his popular cardistry vlog makes him an important voice in the world of card flourishing.

With his flamboyant personality, original style, stunning videography, and unique decks, Jaspas Deck is an inventive and respected legend in today’s cardistry community.–X5af3k

More video clips featuring Jaspas Deck

Zach Mueller

Zach Mueller is the perfect poster boy for the kind of results that cardistry can produce, having first piggy-backed on the success of his cardistry videos to create a popular deck of playing cards, and ultimately a successful brand, Fontaine Cards.

YouTube proved to be the ticket to fame for Zach. His own YouTube channel has been around for a while, but he really went viral when Kuma Films featured him on a video with the click-bait title “Hypnotic Cardistry Kid”. It now has over 2.5 million views, and single-handedly was responsible for introducing a whole new audience to cardistry, and putting Zach himself on the map.

Zach’s own interest in cardistry began the same way as it did for many: childhood dabbling with card magic. He was good enough to make instructional videos for Theory11, and to make his own tutorials on YouTube. Inspired by legends like Dan and Dave Buck, he began transitioning towards cardistry, inventing his own flourishes along the way. He is especially noted for his isolations, which are very unusual moves that require a lot of practice – it is hard to believe how these are humanly possible when you first see them performed!

More video clips featuring Zach Mueller

Final Thoughts

Certainly there are many other names that could be added to this list. The number of skilled cardists is growing constantly and rapidly, and you will find stunning videos on Instagram, YouTube, and many other places online where enthusiastic disciples of this exciting art form hang out. It is not uncommon to see relatively unknown young cardists bursting onto the scene with new moves and jaw-dropping creativity, so the future of this maturing art-form of cardistry is bright.

So what are you waiting for? If you are at all into card flourishing, or even just enjoy doing a basic spread or fan, then a good cardistry deck will instantly turn even elementary moves like these into visual art. Grab yourself a nice deck, and give it a shot! You may not reach the heights of the Buck twins, The Virts, Jaspas Deck, or Zach Mueller, but everyone has to start somewhere. And you may just surprise yourself with how flashy and fun this new art form can be!

Want to try some of the cardistry decks produced by the big names featured in this article? The range at PlayingCardDecks includes playing cards created by all four:

Comment below and let us know what your favorite flourish is!

If you’re interested in learning the art of cardistry also make sure to check out our page of Cardistry Tutorial videos.

Other articles you might find interesting:

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. This article first appeared on here.



Pair this holiday season with a festive-themed card game for every family member to enjoy. There will surely be no shortage of laughter and joy when you lay these cards on the table, especially because you can tailor the game to suit your family’s style.

Custom Game Ideas:

1. Holiday Trivia

Trivia games have reigned in popularity for decades. During TV shows like Jeopardy (1964 – present), we act as a contestant, mustering as much vivacious, competitive energy as we can. We feel the stakes of losing and the triumphs of winning, even while sitting on our living room couch, miles and miles away from the actual set.

These games allow us to test our knowledge on any and all facts, both outlandish and common. This is why these games are so appealing. We like to show off our intelligence when confident of an answer, but we also find the thrill in demonstrating our process-of-elimination abilities if uncertain.

With Shuffled Ink, every ounce of your game is customizable, from the questions and answers to the card design and size. Whether you have every single detail sorted out from start-to-finish or aren’t quite sure what you want to create, the SI team is with you every step of the way. Our project managers and graphic designers are readily available to assist you on the phone or through email.


  • [Insert Your Holiday] Trivia Questions: Create questions that pertain to your holiday of choice (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year’s). It’s important to know your audience, so if you’re printing decks for your family, then list questions that are personal to them. (Example: Where did we go on vacation during Dec. 2017?) Now, if you’re trying to sell the game to the public, then come up with a theme such as questions about the history of Hanukkah.

2. Objective Games

Your game should always have a clear objective whether it’s trivia- or reindeer- themed. This example is actually from a client of ours who based their card game off of the novel, Hershel the Jewish Reindeer.

During this game, Hindu Elves, Jewish Reindeer and Muslim Gnomes all work together to help deliver all the Christmas presents. This is family-friendly game is available for purchase on Amazon.

The Setup:

In the same way reindeer pull a sleigh, you will arrange your cards: place six cards face-down and put them side-by-side. To begin, all players must look at their bottom two cards and memorize them.

The Purpose:

The numerical values on the cards symbolize the amount of gifts each character carries. The score is determined by adding up the value of all cards in front of you.

Point Values:

Cards are worth their face value with the following exceptions:

  • King / Santa Clause = 0 points
  • Joker / Tooth Fairy = -1 point
  • Ace / Hershel the Jewish Reindeer = 1 point

(take photos of the deck)

3. All Hands On Deck

For those who aren’t the biggest fans of single-player games, then here’s a better choice for you!

Like all things, there are upsides and downsides to this gaming experience. Your teammates are working toward a common goal (and in this case, eternal glory, of course). So, it’ll either bring you all closer together or tear you apart. Really, it depends on the different types of players you’re dealing with and whether you’re winning or losing.


Picture this for Christmas: similar to the popular game Pictionary but with added festivities. All you need are holiday-related words written or printed onto flash cards. You can even include an hourglass timer, a personalized notepad to keep score and any other accessories you think will work well (dice, spinners, game tokens, etc.). This team game is extremely fun but can be quite frustrating if your teammates aren’t the best at drawing or guessing. The main tip I can provide is to choose your mates wisely.


5. Holiday Mystery Game

Surrounding the central question, “Who done it?” there are lots of options for holiday mystery card games. But remember your audience. If there are kids playing, then you may want to create a light-hearted game. Here are a few examples to spark some ideas:

  • The Case of the Missing Reindeer
  • Murder Mystery Party-Type Game (Insert the slayed holiday character of choice)

6. DIY

Of course, there’s always the option to start from scratch and design your own card game with a customized objective and set of rules. In one of our previous holiday articles, we suggested that instead of using utensils in the rapid-paced card game Spoons, go with candy canes for a festive and delicious feel.

Our DIY style products allow clients to put forth original ideas to create games that have never been seen before. If there’s a card game that you really want to play and think others will enjoy, but it doesn’t exist yet, then you must create it. That’s how anything and everything in this world comes to fruition. Games found in nearly every household are UNO and Monopoly, were once simple ideas that turned into classics.



Playing solitaire with a traditional deck of playing cards is a pastime that goes back a couple of hundred years. But the birth of the personal computer injected new life into these classic games, and the digital revolution has helped bring solitaire card games to a whole new audience. Chiefly responsible for this development is software giant Microsoft, who began including versions of solitaire along with their Windows operating system in the early 1990s, much to the relief of bored office-workers around the world.

But not all solitaire card games are created equal. To begin with, this is a very large family of games, and its family members aren’t all kissing cousins that are merely small variations of the same thing. While many solitaire games do share much in common, there’s also a surprising amount of differences between some of them. They can offer very different challenges, some of which require real skill, strategic placement, and careful card counting, while others can be played almost on auto-pilot in a very chilled and relaxed frame of mind. Whether or not you can complete them in some cases just comes down to stupid and pure luck, but there are many excellent solitaire games that take real skill to play well, and will prove to be a rewarding and satisfying experience to come back to often.

So what are some of the top solitaire games you really should know about? I’ve done some scouring around to try to figure out what solitaire games have proven most popular, to help you get started with the very best, rather than waste time with mediocre or less-than-satisfying games. As I covered in a previous article, the three most played solitaire card games in the world are KlondikeSpider, and FreeCell, courtesy of their inclusion in Microsoft’s solitaire software. But following closely on their heels are two other favourites: Pyramid and Golf. Even today versions of these two solitaire games are included in Microsoft’s digital collection of five solitaire games along with the holy trinity of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, and it’s one reason why they are so well-known.

But another reason for the popularity of Pyramid and Golf is their simplicity. They are widely considered to fall into the category of matching games, or adding and pairing games. Typically, solitaire card games in this family have the objective of matching two cards, either by pairing ones of the same rank (e.g. two Aces) or adjacent ranks (e.g. an Ace and a Two), or by adding two cards together to reach a certain value. It’s a common genre, and some of the most popular solitaire card games of all time are among them, including the two included in Microsoft’s standard base suite of five solitaire games: Pyramid, and a variation of Golf called Tri-Peaks. Games of this sort have typically less complicated rules than builder-type solitaire games, making them an ideal starting point for children and first-timers.

NB: You can play these games on many websites, but I’ve chosen to use Solitaired, simply because it’s free and easy, so the accompanying screenshots below are of games I’ve played on their site.


Overview: The name of Pyramid gets its name for the triangular shape in which the cards are dealt at the start of the game. Pyramid hit the big time when Microsoft started including it (and another solitaire game called Tri-Peaks) in their Microsoft Solitaire Collection in 2012, which is when they added it to the existing trilogy of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell already included in previous versions of Windows. An earlier variation of Pyramid under the name Tut’s Tomb had already been included in Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 that was released in 1991, so Pyramid has been on many personal computers almost as long as Klondike.

Game-play: This game is a classic example of the “adding-and-pairing” genre of solitaire card games. You deal 28 face-up cards in an overlapping fashion to create a pyramid, starting with a row of one, then a row of two, and so on until a row of seven cards. With Jacks counting as 11, Queens as 12, and Kings as 13, any two available and unblocked cards can be removed if their combined value adds up to 13. Cards are turned up from the stock one at a time, and may be used as part of these pairs. You win if you clear the entire pyramid.

Variations: There are many common variations on Pyramid, many to make the game easier, such as by allowing multiple passes through the stock, or by dealing the final row of 7 cards as a separate reserve that’s available throughout the game. Less common variations that simplify game-play include adding a free storage cell, allowing a card to make a pair with the one immediately underneath it, or by keeping the top-card of the stock pile face-up at all times. In Apophis, three waste piles are used instead of just one. To make the game harder, some variations also require all the cards in the stock to be removed before counting the game as a win, and removing this requirement is described as “Relaxed Pyramid”. In King Tut (which corresponds to Microsoft’s “Tut’s Tomb”) you deal the stock in sets of three, which also makes for a harder game, even though it allows unlimited deals.

My thoughts: Pyramid is an excellent game that can help children learn basic addition, and playing this game is one way to make them quickly become comfortable with all the pairs that add up to 13. It’s also a relaxing game for adults, who are looking for something that involves easy decisions and yet remains satisfying. The odds of clearing the pyramid in a single deal of the stock are only around 1 in 50, so you are often dependent on the luck of the draw. This is why some variations give you access to more cards, by adding a reserve, extra waste piles, or enabling you to redeal more times; these typically are more rewarding and less frustrating to play.

Related games: In Giza, a creation of Michael Keller, the entire stock is dealt face-up into a tableau of three rows of seven cards that are available as a reserve from the outset. This reduces the luck and increases your chances of a win by making it an open game. Thomas Warfield created Double Pyramid, which is essentially the same game as Pyramid, but uses two decks, and starts by adding two extra rows to the initial tableau, so that the final row consists of 9 cards. Alternatively, in Pharaohs you deal three pyramids. There are also games like Triangle, which invert the Pyramid for a much harder game.


Overview: If you’re skeptical about your ability with solitaire card games, you should at the very least try Golf, which commends itself because of its simplicity and speed. The game owes its name to the sport, and each deal can be treated like a golf hole. The aim is to remove all the cards of the tableau, and every card remaining counts as a stroke, with a par of four cards per hole. You can play nine consecutive holes, if you wish, keeping a running score and with the goal of trying to get a par score of 36.

Game-play: Begin with a tableau of seven columns, each consisting of four overlapping cards, all face-up and visible, while the remaining cards form a stock. The first card is dealt face-up, and any available card that is one rank higher or lower than it can be removed, with suits being ignored. You continue to remove cards in this way, proceeding either up or downwards, ignoring suits, until you can’t remove any more cards, at which point you deal the next card from the stock and repeat the process. You win the game if you successfully remove the complete tableau in a single deal of the stock.

Variations: Officially a game of Golf doesn’t allow you to “wrap”, by turning around the corner from Ace to King. In fact, under the strictest rules removing a King ends a running sequence, although you can continue a sequence from an Ace by playing a 2. Common variations (e.g. Putt Putt) adjust these rules to allow Aces and Kings to be removed in sequence, which increases your options and enhances your chances of a successful game significantly. Even allowing Queens to be played on Kings helps prevent you from becoming stuck too easily.

My thoughts: Due to the simple rules and game-play, you can often speed through an entire game of Golf in as little as a minute or two, and that makes it an ideal low-stress filler. The ease of game-play also makes it very accessible for first-time players. There’s definitely some luck of the draw that plays a role, but the fact that the entire tableau is face up means that you can look ahead at your options and plan the optimal series of moves, so it’s not entirely without strategic choices. Whenever there is a fork in the road of decision, a good sense of probability can help you make the right move.

Related games: The basic game-play of Golf lends itself well to many variations, simply by changing the initial set-up, while preserving the concept of play. Golf Rush uses the same rules but starts with a Klondike style arrangement of cards. Two others which apply the same concept to different starting set-ups include Black Hole and Eliminator. For a real-time two-player game in the style of Golf, take a look at Spit.

Tri-Peaks: By far the most popular game inspired by Golf is called Tri-Peaks, which owes its success largely due to the fact that it was included in the solitaire set of games that comes with Microsoft Windows. This has a starting arrangement of three adjacent pyramids (hence the name) of six cards each, and a lower row of ten cards. It was created by Robert Hogue in 1989, and his own statistical analysis of his game suggests that the vast majority of games are solvable. While it’s much easier to solve than usual Golf, some will also find it less interesting due there being less decisions.

Multiplayer Golf: Many books suggest playing Golf competitively, by each playing a “hole” simultaneously, and cumulatively keeping track of your scores, just like a round of the actual sport. There are even ways of playing head-to-head match-play, or a four player game in partnerships, where each player has their own deck and the team score uses the lowest achieved by each pair.


Many other fine matching games that require pairing or adding cards exist, some of which I’ve already mentioned above under variations and related games. If you enjoy games of this sort, some others you should take a look at include NestorThe WishMonte Carlo, and Beehive.

While the Microsoft Solitaire Collection deserves a lot of credit for popularizing Pyramid and the Golf-inspired Tri-Peaks, the reality is that these entry-level solitaire games were already popular, and have been favourites for a long time. They don’t burn much brain-power, making them ideal companions for a relaxing hour on the couch, or to while away time when there’s some spare moments to kill. Even children can enjoy playing them, so they are an ideal place to start if you’ve not had much experience playing solitaire before.

But be warned: even these simpler solitaire games can prove quite addictive!

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. This article first appeared on here.


Playing cards really started blossoming more than six centuries ago, after arriving in Western Europe in the late 1300s. So what was the huge catalyst that was key to spread throughout Europe and eventually around the world? Card games. Solitaire card games, however, only began making a lasting mark after experiencing a boom in development some two hundred years ago in France.

Two centuries is still plenty of time for solitaire card games to become entrenched into playing card culture. But despite this long history, the solitaire card game really only came into its own with the birth of the personal computer, and when these began to enter workplaces and homes in the 1980s and early 1990s. The arrival of Windows 3.0 in the year 1990 brought with it Klondike Solitaire, and in a short space of time, this digital diversion became a staple activity for bored office-workers and for billions of others around the globe.

So it really is the digital revolution that has fuelled the success of the solitaire card game and helped bring it to the modern audience, giving it the enormous popularity it enjoys today. So what are some of the reasons for this enormous success? And why should you explore playing Solitaire card games with the help of software? Before we take a look at some of the best digital resources available for playing solitaire (in another article), here’s an overview of some of the advantages of playing solitaire on your personal computer or portable device.

12 Great Reasons to Use a PC, Tablet, or Phone for Playing Solitaire

1. It eliminates the hassles of handling cards.

Solitaire card games are great fun, but there can be a lot of practical challenges associated with playing them if you’re using a physical deck, simply in view of the extensive handling of the cards necessary to play them. You need to shuffle the deck, or sometimes two decks, often multiple times. Then you need to deal out lots of cards. During the game you typically need to move large stacks of cards from one place to another, all the while keeping the cards carefully in order. It is all perfectly doable, but a digital version removes all the headaches of this administrative book-keeping, and allows you to focus on enjoying the game itself. While solitaire games that involve a large amount of manipulation of the cards are a pain to play in real life, they are a breeze to play in a computer version.

2. It enforces the rules.

Software manages all aspects of the game for you, and as a result you don’t have to worry about making an illegal move. An accidental rules error might completely invalidate your whole game, or perhaps turns a potentially winning hand into one that proves impossible. For example, it is easy to forget how many times you’ve cycled through a deck, and so you could easily make the mistake of doing this once too often, or perhaps erring on the other side by accidentally stopping short of the final deal. A digital version will take care of this for you, ensuring that you won’t make game-killing mistakes like these.

3. It makes games easier to learn.

This follows from the previous point, because if the software takes care of enforcing the rules for you, it also makes it a whole lot easier to learn the rules of a new game; you can simply count on the computer taking care of most things for you. If you’re not sure what to do, just start clicking and trying to move cards around, and you’ll quickly discover what moves are permitted and what ones are not. In my youth I tried learning solitaire games numerous times, and had to rely exclusively on printed descriptions in books. It was very challenging, and I often gave up. In contrast, learning a new solitaire game on a computer is a piece of cake.

4. It makes games quicker to play.

With less handling to worry about, along with automatic rule enforcement and scoring, combined with the absence of set-up and space requirements, you can jump into a game without any preparation, and zip through an entire game in as little as a minute, or perhaps five minutes, depending on what you are playing. Playing the same game firsthand would require a significantly larger investment of effort and time. And if you’re the kind of person that likes to use the optional features of some programs which highlight the cards that are legal moves, you can play even more speedily.

5. It makes games easy to customize.

The best solitaire games software will give you options for each different solitaire game, so that you can play with the variations or house rules that you prefer or that you are used to. Some programs even take this a step further, allowing you to customize individual games entirely, and effectively build your own solitaire game, tinkering with the rules in ways that are immediately applied to your next game.

6. It eliminates set-up and space requirements.

Unlike a physical game, you don’t need to set up a large tableau, or require a large working area like a kitchen table. You simply fire up your app or computer program, and within 5 seconds you can be playing your favourite solitaire game. This makes the thresh-hold for entry much lower, and makes solitaire games a whole lot more accessible.

7. It gives you easy access to many different games.

Most decent solitaire programs offer a good choice of solitaire games as part of their package. Often these are well organized by types, making it easy to find solitaire games that suit your own preferences, or to try games that are similar to ones that you already like. The range of solitaire games is enormous, and it is easy to build in a large number of these within a digital version. Most apps and programs will typically also allow you to create and maintain a running list of your favourites, to make these easy to find.

8. It makes it easy to find similar games.

Found a particular solitaire game that you really like? Many software programs have features that let you group games by categories or families. This lets you easily find a similar game that is related to the one you already enjoy, or plays somewhat like it. And as mentioned already, being able to “favourite” your preferred games enables you to quickly return to them in the future.

9. It adds visual beauty.

It is hard to argue with the visual aesthetics of a physical printed deck, and the tactile feel of actual cards. A digital version can never substitute that on a screen. But it can add elements that are just not possible with a physical deck. With the click of a mouse, you can change the whole look of your game in remarkable ways. Most good programs will have extensive options for customizing your graphics, so that you can play with different decks of cards, and enjoy varying graphic designs and artwork, including different card backs and background artwork. Personally I love tinkering with these, and I occasionally play with different looking decks, just to mix things up and change the experience of a favourite game that I’m playing for the umpteenth time.

10. It lets you undo moves.

An “undo” button comes standard with most solitaire software, and what it lets you do is track back large sets of moves, and explore different paths and options. This means that if you arrive at a dead end or make a mistake, you have a fool-proof way of retracing your steps, and trying another pathway. Making games fully trackable helps turn some games that would otherwise be frustrating and impossible into fun, because now you can safely back-track and explore another path. Is an “undo” considered cheating? Not necessarily. In many cases you can turn this option off or on, so if you really feel strongly about this, you can always disable this feature.

11. It tracks your statistics.

It can be fascinating to see what your win percentage is for a particular game, and be able to access a precise record of how many games you’ve won and lost. Software implements these kinds of things automatically and easily. Being able to compare your stats with other players gives you even more ways to challenge yourself. I especially like the option to track your time, and programs which record your personal bests. Some programs come with built-in “high score” charts for every individual game or variation, and this gives you additional incentives to return to a game.

12. It gives other special features.

With technology, all kinds of possibilities can be explored, and some software developers have come up with some very creative and useful ideas that can help make your solitaire playing experience even better. Besides the above-mentioned features like “undo” and statistics, other examples of special features you can find in some programs include the ability to save games, mark available moves, achievements, challenges, and more.

Final Thoughts

While playing a digital version of Solitaire can never substitute for the tactile feel of holding actual cards in your hands, it does offer many real advantages above playing with a physical deck. So it is no real surprise that digital implementations of Solitaire are a big reason why so many people are familiar with Solitaire today.

Microsoft in particular deserves a lot of credit for popularizing solitaire card games via the digital versions that entered our homes via their Windows operating systems. Granted, Microsoft wasn’t the first to digitize solitaire card games and they wouldn’t be the last. Ever since the PC arrived, programmers with an interest in card games saw the potential for using these new devices in exciting new ways for playing solitaire, and were already creating versions of their favourites. But it was Microsoft that really brought these to the everyday user, and made them familiar on a global level, turning them into bread-and-butter time-killers.

This wide reach meant that digital games of Solitaire would appeal to a very wide cross-section of people, and this enabled other creators to expend effort and resources into developing impressive software platforms for playing even more versions of Solitaire. The arrival of the handheld digital device has only opened up more possibilities, along with the ability to play via web browsers.

So what are you waiting for? Check out some websites, apps, or other software, and discover what millions of people around the world have been enjoying for over 30 years – but now with the benefit of terrific implementations that have features and possibilities like never before! And just maybe playing solitaire on your PC, phone, or mobile device, might encourage you to pull out an actual deck of cards for a game or two as well!

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. This article first appeared on here.  



This article is the next installment of a two-part series about how playing cards were used in different ways in previous centuries. Before our modern deck obtained its traditional look, playing card decks were often highly customized, and used for a variety of different purposes. The previous article covered how playing cards were used in more typical ways: for playing card games, for art, and for education. But the past has also witnessed playing cards being commonly used for other purposes, like the ones described here.

For Fortune Telling

Fortune telling, or cartomancy, has a long history and association with playing cards. While a traditional deck is rarely used for fortune telling today, the connection between playing cards and cartomancy continues, even though playing cards were used for playing games long before they were ever used for fortune telling. Especially in some cultures, there continues to be a close relationship between cards and fortune telling, which is why in the popular mind gypsies are associated with fortune telling cards.

Despite what some people think, the origin of our modern deck does not lie in the fortune telling Tarot deck. Tarot cards appear to have been a separate and later development from a standard deck of playing cards, and rather than pre-date the traditional deck, the 78 card Tarot deck actually came a century or two later. In fact, historical evidence suggests that the additional 22 cards common to a Tarot deck originated as trump cards for more advanced games, and at some point the addition of these cards to a standard deck led to a larger Tarot deck. This was first used for more complex trick-taking games, but later began to develop a life of its own in the hands of cartomancers and occultists.

The rise of divination eventually did see the use of playing cards for fortune telling and cartomancy, and the earliest known fortune-telling deck is by John Lenthall and dates from around the late 1600s. While the legitimacy of fortune telling will be dismissed by most modern secularists today, it cannot denied that it has made an important contribution to the history of playing cards and also had an impact on its artwork. This is particularly the case with the larger Tarot deck, which soon became a tool of choice for cartomancers, and is still commonly used as such today. Many Tarot decks were created with all the cards having colourful images that depicted all manner of disasters or good fortune. Many different Tarot decks exist, and these often feature wonderful artwork, and continue to be popular with collectors worldwide.

For Magic

As we’ve seen already, playing cards were first used only by the aristocracy that could afford them, and it was only with the arrival of mass production that playing cards found themselves in the hands of the general public. Along with this welcome development came a less welcome one: gambling. Gambling soon became a real problem, especially because this is what the lower class chiefly engaged in when playing card games. It’s for this reason that the church frequently and strongly denounced card playing. And along with gambling came another dark activity: cheating.

But what about if cheating techniques are used to create illusions which are designed purely to amuse and entertain? That’s effectively what magic is all about, and so playing cards became an obvious tool for magicians to use, using similar techniques used by crooked gamblers. Magic as a performing art has a much longer history, of course, and sleight of hand existed long before playing cards, whether it was intended to cheat or to entertain. But playing cards did lend themselves very naturally to magicians looking for ways to create illusions, especially because they were a familiar item for the masses who used them for playing card games.

18th century Italian magician Giovanni Giuseppe Pinetti is often credited as being a pioneer that paved the way for playing card magic. His charismatic popularity made him a popular entertainer, and he was one of the very first to include card tricks in his official theater performances, and he even entertained royalty. Prior to this, the only place you could expect to see card magic was on the streets or in private rooms, and it didn’t have any real respect or credibility. Many famous magicians followed in Pinetti’s footsteps, such as the 19th century icons Robert-Houdin and Hofzinser, the latter being considered by some to be a father of card magic. From this time onwards, magicians began to include card tricks in their repertoire more and more, and card magic became a growing art form. Names like Dai Vernon, Charles Bertram, and Erdnase, are well known to magicians today, but these magicians played an important role in popularizing and shaping card magic as we know it.

Today we are building on the work of these pioneers, and magic with playing cards is often one of the places that beginners now start their journey in magic. Almost everyone has a deck of cards and is familiar with them, so they are an ideal starting point, requiring no real investment. Magicians tend to use cards extensively for practicing and performing, and the production of playing cards for working magicians represents one of the biggest shares of the playing card market in our modern era.

For Souvenirs

Playing cards have long served as an ideal souvenir, particularly when each individual card is used for a different picture. This turns a deck of cards into a mini photo album of 50+ individual works, making it perfect for depicting places or events. Souvenir decks started emerging in the 1890s, coinciding with the growing popularity of photography, which was at that time a very expensive undertaking. In contrast, a deck of souvenir playing cards allowed you to own a mini photo album of an exotic place or country you visited at a relatively low cost.

Special events have long provided a rich source of material for playing card artwork as well. Notable events such as various wars led to the production of commemorative decks of playing cards, to serve as memorials of the Napoleonic Wars, American Civil War, and many others. Royal occasions and other special state events have been commemorated in a similar fashion. Royal coronations and weddings have often featured on playing cards; so too anniversary celebrations of important discoveries or conquests.

Current events have also been a catalyst for new decks of playing cards, the First World War being a prime example. Some of these decks were used for the purposes of propaganda, with decks in Germany printing court cards that gave places of honour to the Kaiser and other leaders, while war scenes were depicted on other cards. Meanwhile playing cards reflecting Allied sentiments were produced in the United States, some featuring court cards depicting generals, officers, and other ranks. During the Second World War, a pro Allied deck produced by Van Mierle Proost included Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and de Gaulle as Kings, while the Aces had outlines of Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and the Kremlin.

But souvenir decks aren’t limited to events, with many decks created that depict colourful images of towns, countries, and cultures, geared to serve the tourist industry in particular. This, too, doesn’t exhaust the potential, since playing cards can depict almost any hobby or interest under the sun, and so we have seen the production of playing cards with images of anything from house-cats to antique furniture. Decks have been created to commemorate all kinds of unique interests, from ancient mythology to modern bull-fighting. A good example of this is a deck that was produced to honour the medical profession, featuring doctors, nurses, chemists, and research workers in hospital gowns, along with the expected equipment of stethoscopes and medicines.

The scope of souvenir and hobby decks is limited only by the imagination of the creators. Today’s custom playing card industry continues to benefit from this, and decks that celebrate popular films, celebrities, or sports, have a ready market. And virtually anywhere you travel, you’re bound to find a deck of cards with pictures that you can take home as a souvenir of the place you’ve visited.

Other Uses

This list by no means exhausts the many ways that playing cards have been used. For example, an important secondary usage of playing cards in previous centuries was as a source of writing paper. Early playing cards didn’t have artwork on the card backs, and were simply blank on the reverse side. Given that paper was often expensive to produce, this made a deck of playing cards a valuable source of paper. Individual cards became a very handy resource, and could be used for writing notes or lists, and were even used more formally as invitations, calling cards, coupons, or as a record of financial transactions, debts, or currency.

Playing cards no longer have blank card backs, so that particular secondary use has all but vanished. But today we are seeing new uses for playing cards emerge, the most notable one being for card flourishing. Cardistry is a thriving industry, and since cardists tend to wear out their decks even faster than magicians, and because of the importance of visual aesthetics, there’s a growing demand for colourful and creative designs.

The Standard Deck Today

Our historical overview demonstrates that playing cards have been used for a variety of uses across the ages besides playing cards, and so it comes as no surprise that in the past there has never really been a “standard” deck as we often imagine it today. Customized decks have existed for centuries, and there are many fine examples of playing cards created especially for the purpose or art or education. This means that the typical Bicycle style card deck as we usually think of it is in reality by no means “standard”.

Even today there’s actually a great variety of different types of decks used around the world, not just in terms of style, but also in size. Most of these are localized in their usage, but you will find places where 32 card decks are very common, or 48 card decks, and even 100+ card decks. In many cases, the size of the deck is closely connected with games that are popular in a specific region, and these games can’t even be played with a deck of a different size.

And not only is the size of a deck non-standard, but so is the artwork. Given the multiple uses for playing cards across the centuries, it was inevitable that there would be a diversity of artwork and styles. In that respect the modern custom playing card industry is hardly new, and customized playing cards have existed for centuries.

Yet despite all this rich variation throughout the history of playing cards, there does remain a commonly accepted “standard” for playing cards today. This standard is primarily based on the French suits that swept Europe and spread across the globe in previous centuries. Today’s court cards largely go back to printer Thomas de la Rue of London. Mr de la Rue was granted a patent for printing playing cards by letterpress and lithography in 1832, and subsequently took control of the playing card market due to his enormous success. With prices and taxes dropping, his production and sales increased significantly. Smaller designers that produced custom decks simply could not compete with him, and slowly disappeared, leaving de la Rue with a monopoly.

For better or for worse, it was the fact that de la Rue effectively cornered the market that led to cards becoming more or less standardized. In his book Playing Cards, Roger Tilley gives this very unflattering assessment of this development: “To add insult to injury, the very expressions of the cardboard court have been crystallized in commercialism. The kings’ looks have become those of company directors, strained and indicative of ulcers, while the queens and knaves have taken on the air of the attendant secretaries: the personal are pawky, and the company ones circumspect … Thomas de la Rue was without doubt a very great printer; yet that very genius proved calamitous to this small branch of the graphic arts … it might be said of Thomas de la Rue that he found a small quantity of marble and left a great quantity of brick.

Certainly there have been attempts from time to time to create new designs that break with tradition, by designing and producing playing cards that are more easily recognized or with fresh or more contemporary patterns. But these have always failed to receive any serious degree of general acceptance. Of interest is the fact that the De La Rue Company itself promoted a competition in 1957 for new playing card imagery for the court cards to help celebrate the company’s 125th anniversary. But while the prize winning efforts of Jean Picart le Doux were beautiful, they were a commercial failure.

So it could be argued that the history of playing cards has become somewhat stale in the last era, since there have been no significant alterations to the “standard deck” of playing cards for a long time. The dominance of the USPCC has also led to the Bicycle rider-back design becoming somewhat iconic, and its success has also stifled other designs somewhat. Perhaps that is changing given the enormous success of the custom playing card industry, and the gradual acceptance of custom playing cards in the world of professional magic. But for now, at any rate, it seems that custom playing cards will continue to remain somewhat of a novelty rather than becoming a new standard. Even cardistry demands and encourages constant novelties, rather than the adoption of a new accepted standard.

A Lesson from the Past about the Present

We are fortunate to live in a new era of history, which has witnessed the explosion of custom playing cards, and also a growing acceptance of these by the general public. It remains to be seen what future generations will consider to be our contribution to the ongoing history of playing cards. I believe that the increasingly high standards of modern printing techniques, and the ability of the internet to connect creators and consumers, means that we are living in a time that is unprecedented. Highly imaginative and attractive playing cards are being produced, the likes of which have never been seen before. Perhaps today’s biggest contribution to the history of playing cards lies in new abilities to produce high quality decks, and to connect creators with backers and buyers, while ensuring that the entire enterprise remains affordable. The result is a marketplace flooded with new and exciting designs. Not only are we witnessing some very imaginative designs, but we are seeing incredible innovation in the area of tuck box designs, with the use of unprecedented techniques that allow boxes to be created with embossing, metallic foil and inks. The final product of the custom decks we can buy today is often a real work of art, and no wonder collectors love them.

Perhaps for now the lesson of history is this: to consider ourselves privileged for the luxuries we enjoy today. The future will undoubtedly look kindly on what our era has been producing. May we have a real eye of appreciation for the rich heritage that has produced this wealth, and respectfully tip our hat to those who have gone before us, and to the designers, printers, and middle men that help get these works of art into our hands and onto our game tables today.

About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, and collecting playing cards. 



Poker is played virtually anywhere: in casinos, at home and on the internet. While the game of deceit has been around for as long as we can remember, it’s tough to pinpoint who exactly invented poker.

Poker is descended from various card games. Each one helped evolve the iconic game that we love to play today. Let’s take a look at how the game has evolved.

The Roots: Theories

  • During the 10th century, Chinese emperor Mu-Tsung often played a domino card game with his wife. Sources say it is similar to the tile-based game Mahjong Poker.
  • Poque was a French bluffing and betting card game that was brought to New Orleans in the 15th century.
  • The Persian game As Nas may have inspired some of today’s poker hand rankings. It rose to popularity in the 16th century and was played with 25 playing cards and 5 suits.

To this day, theorists disagree on who created poker. Perhaps, all three games contributed in different ways to its invention. But one thing that’s certain is how much poker has evolved.

Poker Relatives

There are several games that are referred to as cousins of modern poker. More or less, you’ll find common ground in how these card games implemented rankings, betting and bluffing.

  • 18th-Century Brelan Card Game: Played with a 20-card deck, it is considered a descendant of Texas Hold’em. While not played anymore, this was once a quick-paced game that required betting.
  • Mid-19th Century: The use of 52 playing cards emerged during the American Civil War.

Current Poker Variants

  • Texas Hold’em: If you’re not too familiar with poker, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve at least heard of this popular variant. This betting game is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards (excluding jokers). For a basic run-through, check out our beginner’s guide to Texas Hold’em.