Complete Guide To Playing Cards (2024 Version)

You can’t do card magic without playing cards!

Here, you’ll find all my best articles, resources, and reviews of popular playing cards.

(I’ll even offer breakdowns and performance tips for trick decks and gimmicked decks that can help take your magic to the next level.)

Explore below and, like a wizard with his wand, find the perfect deck for you.

The Best Playing Cards For…

Collecting and testing out different decks is fun, so I encourage you to experiment with that! And if you’re not sure, just go with Bicycles — everyone knows what a deck of Bikes looks like and no one will question whether you’re using a trick deck.

Some things to consider:

  • How does it handle? Try getting your double lift and performing some false shuffles how does it feel?
  • What does it look like? Do you think it looks cool, or does the deck have some fun design features your audience might like?
  • Does it come with cool extras like a duplicate card or a double backer?

Regular Playing Cards

Bicycles are one of my favourite cards for magic because they’re easy to find, inexpensive, and easily recognisable by everyone.

But there are different kinds of Bikes to choose from.

What’s the difference between Bicycle Rider Backs vs Standard playing cards?

There are few meaningful differences between Rider Backs and Standards, though there are a handful of very subtle design tweaks you’ll notice in these cards.

Most noticeably, the old-style Rider Back tuck box often had a longer tuck or tongue and used different shades of red and blue than the modern Standards. The back of the Rider Back tuck box also shows the back design of the cards and nothing else, while the Standard shows the front and back of a card with some text.

Take a closer look at similarities and differences HERE!

Deck of cards can also usually be broken down by:

  1. Card Size
  2. Standard or Custom
  3. Regular vs Gimmick
  4. Material & Finish
  5. Border Style
  6. Index Size

Take a closer look at each RIGHT HERE!

While each deck is different in its design, every playing card is made up of the same seven components.

The main parts of a playing card are:

  1. The number or value
  2. Suit and pips
  3. Picture or face (for court cards)
  4. Back design
  5. Border
  6. Finish
  7. Stock

Take a closer look at the anatomy of a playing card!

Now, If you’re new to cards, opening a fresh deck can be a little intimidating. It’s all a little chaotic when the deck is shuffled, but there are actually a few different ways to categorize the types of cards in a deck.

Inside the deck, the cards are typically divided into four suits (clubs, hearts, spades, diamonds), two colours (red and black), and face cards and number cards. The four Aces are a category of their own, and each deck comes with 1-2 Jokers and a handful of advertisement cards, as well.

Take a closer look at each RIGHT HERE!

Finally, how much does a deck of cards cost? And what should you be budgeting for good, high-quality cards?

Let’s break it down: Run of the mill Bicycle Standard or Rider Back cards will cost somewhere between $2 and $5 per deck depending on how and where you buy them. If you buy them in multi packs of 9 or 12 you can get an excellent deal on these high-quality cards.

Still, there are cheaper options available if you’re not worried about quality. Walk into any dollar store and you can grab a deck, or maybe even a 2 pack, of generic no-name playing cards for $1.

Common card brands like Hoyle and Maverick can sometimes be found pretty cheap (under $3) in some stores.

Custom or unique decks from brands like Theory11, Dan and Dave, or the United States Playing Card Company will usually cost somewhere between $5-15 per deck.

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.

Take a closer look HERE!

Trick Decks & Gimmicked Cards

The Best Trick Decks

1: Invisible Deck

A specially prepared deck that allows a magician to apparently produce any named card from a deck that doesn’t seem to exist. The spectator names any card, and the magician reveals that the named card is the only face-down card in an “invisible” deck that then becomes visible.

2: Svengali Deck

This deck includes a repeating pattern of two alternating types of cards. One half of the deck is normal, while the other half is made up of shorter cards of the same rank (but different suits). This allows for seemingly impossible tricks, such as changing the entire deck to the same card.

3: Mirage Deck

Similar to a Svengali Deck, the Mirage Deck allows for easy location and control of a spectator’s selected card. The deck can also be fanned to show every card as being different, making it seem like a regular deck.

4: Stripper Deck

Also known as a Tapered Deck, this deck is slightly tapered, allowing the magician to control a card or group of cards by feel alone. It’s used for various card tricks, including forcing a card and shuffling while retaining control of certain cards.

5: Brainwave Deck

A trick deck where the magician can reveal a spectator’s freely named card as the only card that’s upside down in the deck, often with a different colored back as well.

6: Rising Card or Haunted Deck

A deck where a selected card mysteriously rises out of the deck on its own. This effect is often achieved through a mechanical or electronic method hidden within the deck.

7: One Way Force Deck

This deck contains multiples of the same card, allowing the magician to force a specific card on the spectator every time. It’s used in tricks where the outcome appears to rely on a random choice, but is actually predetermined.

8: Marked Decks

These decks have subtle markings on the back, allowing the magician to know the identity of the cards without seeing their faces. The markings can be anything from slight alterations in a pattern to invisible inks visible only under certain conditions.

Complete List of Trick Decks of Cards & How to Use Them

How To Make Your Own Trick Decks

1: Brain Wave Deck

To make your own Brainwave Deck, you’ll need two decks of cards with contrasting colours (Red and Blue Bicycles work best), and a can of roughing fluid, matte finish spray, or other alternative.

How To Make & Perform the Brainwave Deck (with photos)

2: Invisible Deck

To make your own Invisible Deck, you’ll need one complete deck of cards, a can of Krylon matte finish spray (or roughing fluid from a magic shop), and an open space to work and spray the cards. That’s it!

How to Make & Perform the Invisible Deck (with photos)

3: Haunted Deck

To make your own DIY Haunted Deck, you’ll need a complete deck of playing cards, some tough, thin thread, some super glue, a hole punch, and a safety pin.

How to Make & Perform the Haunted Deck (Or Rising Card)

And last but not least, Double Backers.

If you’ve ever purchased a pack of premium playing cards (in other words, not Bicycle or Bee), you might have noticed something.

Your deck may have included a double backer card.

Simply put, these are special cards that have no face — only the deck’s back design on each side — while remaining the same size and thickness as a single playing card.

What should you do with these special gimmick cards? What are the best tricks using double backers?

One of the best things you can do with your double backer cards is to design your own routines and effects.

The possibilities are limitless!

How to Use Double Backer Cards (3 Principles & 4 Tricks)

5 of the best double face card tricks are:

  1. Anniversary Waltz
  2. Stand Up Monte
  3. Wild Card
  4. Strange Travelers
  5. McDonald’s Aces

Double Face Card Tricks & Routine Ideas

Thank you my complete guide to playing cards. I hope you enjoyed it!