I've heard that casinos never reuse a pack of cards for some anti-cheating reasons I was never quite able to figure out. Then they do various modifications to mark them as "used" cards (e.g. punch a hole through them, burn the corners, or mark them with permanent ink) and sell them for about a buck apiece. They had about the same look and feel as a pack of air-cushioned Bicycle cards, but lasted only about half as long when I played with them.

So here's my question - does this lack of reuse factor into the build quality of the cards? Does anybody know how long those cards were built to last? Or does it vary from casino to casino?

  • 2
    They do not reuse cards because even a small bend on a cards corner is enough for someone to know what the card is. Also I've heard stories about cheaters marking cards with 'invisible' ink.
    – Colin D
    Feb 26, 2013 at 19:41
  • And what I'm asking is whether this non-reuse factors into the quality of the cards being made.
    – Joe Z.
    Feb 26, 2013 at 19:43
  • 1
    I understand your question. I just do not have an answer. I was addressing only the 'anti-cheating reason I was never able to figure out'. Hence why I left a comment, not an answer.
    – Colin D
    Feb 26, 2013 at 19:45
  • Perhaps it's the other way around: since they plan on discarding the cards on a regular basis, they only need cards that'll last that long. More durable cards would cost more, but wouldn't have any advantage.
    – SQB
    Aug 14, 2014 at 6:27

1 Answer 1


Ultimately, it's going to vary on many more factors than the casino, but I think I can sort of answer the question

does this lack of reuse factor into the build quality of the cards?

First I should note that as I started Googling around for an answer to this, it is abundantly clear that there is not a definitive answer on this. This answer will assume you're talking about plastic playing cards since paper playing cards have such a short life span that they probably couldn't be resold.

There also is a lot of discrepancy on the length of time a casino even uses a pack of cards before retiring them. I have seen references that the Bellagio uses a deck of plastic playing cards for poker for 2 months, but this isn't official or even supported. That same page has a user saying they saw on a TV show that cards are used between 2 and 24 hours depending on what game it is and how they are shuffled, a claim that is impossible to check. This probably refers more to games like blackjack, where the house's money is on the line and they'd want to ensure that no money would be lost because players could identify cards.

The best information I could even find relating to casino cards was on the COPAG Cards website. In talking about use of their cards in casinos, they say

The primary use for 100% plastic playing cards in the casino is in the poker room. Since poker is a game where the players handle the cards extensively, plastic cards are preferred due to the durability and additional security that they provide over their paper counterparts. COPAG cards are used in casinos throughout the world and are dealt in many of the finest poker rooms across the United States.

Later in that same FAQ, there is this question and answer:

How long will COPAG cards last?

The longevity of your COPAG cards differs depending on how they are handled during play. Therefore, we can not give an accurate length of time that they will last. However, 100% plastic playing cards will last significantly longer than paper playing cards.

This is where I'm going to do some fuzzy logic. Given that on the same website they a.) talk about their cards being used for poker in casinos, and b.) they talk about the length their cards will last as if answering anyone that could buy their cards (and you can buy COPAG cards from their website), I would think that the used cards you buy from a casino are not qualitatively different than the cards you could buy new from a store, except that they've already been used.

I'm unsure how long a pack of plastic cards normally lasts since this also varies on how much it's used and how rough it's shuffled and myriad other factors. If you knew that, you could guess that any used pack you buy from a casino will have either 1.) months of almost constant play reduced from their life if they were used for poker, or 2.) a much smaller amount of time, potentially only a few hours of play, reduced from their life if they were used in games where the house's money was at stake.


Figures that just after I post this, I noticed that there are separate tabs for purchasing on the COPAG website for retail and casinos, so some clarification is needed. On the retail purchasing tab, the plastic poker cards are measured at 63mm by 88mm. On the casino tab, the size of plastic poker cards is 63mm by 88mm. They are the same size.

Additionally, I would think there is no qualitative difference between the two for economic reasons. It wouldn't be cost efficient to have separate machines for different qualities of plastic for different cards, but changing the pattern on the back would be pretty simple.

  • "First I should note that as I started Googling around for an answer to this, it is abundantly clear that there is not a definitive answer on this." I didn't google as extensively as you did, but I noticed this too.
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 7, 2013 at 15:53
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    I can't believe how many ways there are to Google "How long does a casino use playing cards." And how horrible the results every permutation of that returns.
    – SocioMatt
    Mar 7, 2013 at 15:55
  • Isn't "63 mm by 88 mm" the same both ways?
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 7, 2013 at 15:57
  • Ya - that was my point. They're the same size.
    – SocioMatt
    Mar 7, 2013 at 15:58
  • Well, now it's clear. :P
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 7, 2013 at 15:59

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