If you’re getting into card magic or cardistry, you’ll find the most common cards available are usually Bicycle and Bee.
(You’ll also be able to choose from Hoyle, Tally-Ho, and Aviators depending on where you live.)
The big decision you’ll really need to make it this:
Do you want cards with a white border, or no border at all, on the back design?
What’s the difference between bordered vs borderless cards and which ones are better?
Cards with a (usually white) border are usually the better choice for card magic. They’re easy on people’s eyes and do a great job disguising most sleight of hand and reversed cards in the deck.
For specialty gambling demonstrations and false dealing, not to mention cardistry and flourishes, borderless cards are sometimes a better option.
Now let’s take a closer look.
Best for: Most magic & general card game play
Bordered cards, not surprisingly, have a thin border around the back design.
The exact thickness of the border can vary between designs, but on standard Bicycle Cards the white border is about WIDTH inches wide and wraps around the entire card.
There are a number of advantages to the border, even though it seems like it’s taking up valuable real estate that could be used for a more magnificent back design.
Personally, I like the way the border looks on most decks, but beyond that, it has some practical uses.
When the double lays face up on top of the rest of the pack, the white faces of the double can come slightly misaligned and still blend in perfectly with the white borders below.
On a borderless deck, any misalignment in the double will be much more visually apparent against the contrast of the full border design below.
Decks of cards with borders also hide reversed cards exceptionally well.
There’s no way to tell from the outside of the deck if any cards, and how many, are reversed — because even if the deck shifts a bit, all of the borders and faces are white either way.
This is a really useful feature for performing routines like Triumph or any trick with cards secretly reversed in the pack.
Examples of bordered cards:
Here are a few decks you can get a hold of easily with (mostly) white borders:
- Bicycle Standard or Rider Back
- Tally-Ho Circle Back
- Aviator Standard
- Theory11 Monarchs
- Bicycle Dragon Backs
- And most of my favorite cards for magic
- Borders cover most sleights better, especially double lifts
- Borders cover any reversed cards in the deck
- Easier to tell how many cards have been dealt or a player is holding / easier to quickly and visually count
- Easier on the eyes for casual observers and game players
- Borders get dingy quickly
- Borders don’t hide false deals well
- Fans can sometimes look choppy or awkward depending on the design
Best for: Gambling demonstrations & cardistry
Borderless cards allow the back design to take up the full real estate available on the back of each card.
The designs on borderless cards are usually (but not always) a bit different from those on bordered cards.
They often feature patterns that could repeat forever rather than standalone designs, like the criss-cross honeycomb pattern on Bee cards.
Though they’re dreadful for concealing double lifts and reversed cards, borderless cards have some favorable attributes.
Borderless decks are fantastic for gambling demonstrations. First, they look like the kind of cards casinos use, and second, they hide false deals (seconds, bottoms, Greek, etc.) very well.
The patterns on the back of these cards cause all of them to blend together. It’s very difficult to quickly tell where one card starts and the next begins.
These trippy patterns are also great for cardistry and can create eye-popping fans.
Examples of borderless playing cards:
Good borderless cards are a little harder to find outside of the deck at the top of this list — you’ll usually have to order online:
- Madison Dealers
- Vintage Plaid by Dan & Dave
- Borderless Mint playing cards
- Steamboat cards
- Exceptional at disguising second, bottom, and Greek deals
- Stunning fans and other cardistry moves
- Look like casino cards
- Back design takes up more room
- Terrible for double lifts and reversed cards
- Can be a little hard to look at
- Scuffed edges on a few cards can ruin the whole deck
So are bordered or borderless cards better?
It’s impossible to say! They both have different strengths and weaknesses depending on how you’ll use them.
But cards with a border are more versatile, better for most magic tricks, easier to find, and just make more sense for most people.
For specific gambling-style demonstrations or cardistry moves, you might prefer borderless decks — or if you just enjoy making your double lifts harder!