‘Which decks of playing cards are the most durable? I want these for practice, as my Bicycle Playing Cards get ruined after about an hour of practice. I practice at least three hours a day. Any help?‘
Awesome question Liam, and it’s great to see you are really putting in the commitment to practice!
Make sure you have plenty of breaks in your practice sessions, and stop if you ever get aches or pains in your hands. Wearing out your deck of cards is a real drag, but it’s an unavoidable part of regular intensive practice.
I’m surprised that the cards are only lasting you an hour. A deck should last much longer than that, even with intense use. Many magicians tend to change their decks of cards for each gig, but even then, the cards are going through several hours of use. At the end of the day, good quality playing cards are made from paper stock, so their life span is limited. Your hands pass on oils, moisture and dirty that plays havoc with a deck.
You really have two options for durability: Regular ‘paper stock’ playing cards or plastic cards.
Plastic Durable Playing Cards:
Although there are some decent durable plastic playing cards on the market, they don’t have quite the same feel, or handle as well as the paper stock versions. You will also be limited in the gaffs or gimmicks you may want to introduce into the decks as they will generally not be produced in plastic.
Regular ‘paper stock’ playing cards:
We would recommend that you stick to regular ‘paper stock’ playing cards for your practice. There is a huge range of styles and designs of bicycle playing cards.
A common misconception about quality.
Many people think that the handling of a deck of bicycle playing cards is much more customisable than it really is.
Most producers of playing cards tend to use the same finish for their cards. Some brands then market them to appear different from their competition.
Finishes are simply the coating on the surface of the playing cards. The finish does not ensure the existence or prevention of “dimpling” on the cards.
There are only two kinds of finishes primarily used today: The Air-Cushion finish and the Magic finish from USPCC.
Some decks are labeled as ‘smooth finish’ but really they are using the standard Magic finish from USPCC.
Cambric finish, for example: on bee decks, is just Air Cushion. This means that every deck of playing cards you buy that has Air Cushion finish is just like all the others.
There is no such thing as a Linen or Linoid finish. These finishes were discontinued some time ago.
What really defines how a deck of playing cards handles and lasts is the stock. There are many kinds of stock, but the main ones are Aristocrat, Bicycle and Casino.
Aristocrat is a very thin stock. Bicycle stock is slightly thicker than Aristocrat, and Casino stock is heavy. Bee playing cards, for example, use Casino stock.
Which durable playing cards to use.
Liam, we understand that it can be annoying and expensive to keep replacing your decks of cards so often, but to be honest, that’s the ‘price of learning card magic’. It’s better to practice with the same type of deck you intent to perform with, so you become accustomed to the feel and responsiveness of the deck over time. You could switch to a heavy card stock, such as the Bee brand, but the difference in durability, although present, is very small. Regular Bicycle Playing Cards are the most popular decks for magicians and are the most versatile. There isn’t really any significant advantage between the different types of Bicycle cards.
It may be worth buying cards in bulk for a discount if you are getting through a lot of decks. Most magic shops will be happy to offer some kind of price break for a large batch order.
You may also want to double check your technique. Are you holding the deck with too much tension? That can often happen during practice as you are concentrating on technique. Are your hands getting too hot and creating too much moisture while you practice?
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