FOUR POINTS: These are the biggest hazards that threaten your new cards

December 30th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

So, you got some cards for the holidays. And not just any cards, but some of the custom playing cards designed by Ellusionist. You were awed over the art and amazed at how they glided and snapped — definitely a step up over those cards you bought at the big-box retail store.

Whether you spoiled yourself or got a thoughtful gift, chances are you’re going to be packing a deck with you everywhere you go — if you weren’t already. Who are we kidding — OF COURSE you’ve been packing a pack. You’ve been carrying around those boring red-backed cards for weeks, and now you have some world-class design to show off. Besides, you know you need to practice, and you take every chance you get to do so. You’ve already learned some incredible things, and that practice can be thrilling and addictive in the pursuit of a new move.

That means you’ve likely learned some hard lessons about taking care of cards.

How did you lose your first card? Did you drop it in some liquid? Get food on it? Did some goobsmack bend it like Beckham trying to keep you from spying its identity, leaving it looking like an Ozarks hillside? Whatever that was, you learned an important lesson about keeping decks together. You learned that even the best cards are still made of paper, and that there is much more deck-buying in your future.

Don’t fret: There’s plenty of things you can do with an incomplete deck, and we’ll cover that in a future blog post. For now, you’re probably interested in keeping your new deck alive as long as you can, while carrying it as long as you can out in the field. It’s a noble goal: You can get so much more out of our decks when you care for them properly. And the best way to do that is to always keep an eye out for these four hazards to playing cards. Spotting these red flags will keep your deck golden.


Sure, that nearby soy sauce for sushi or barbecue sauce for everything else is an obvious threat. But more commonly, you should be worried about the food on your hands that you can’t see. We’ll cover more about hands in a few paragrahs, but for now, just a little bit of grease or sugar can cause problems for the long-term condition of your deck. So if you feel any bit of stickiness or slipperyness on your hands, take care of it before picking up your cards. Give those paws a wash, and make sure to dry them well, because…


A card is not a sealed object. Think of a single card as a layer cake. The face and back are plastic, but the middle includes layers of paper and glue. That’s why even a drop of water can be bad for a card: The sides are open doors inviting water to rush in and make a home. The faces and backs can handle a splatter, but once that liquid hits the side, game over. You can dry it out and find it somewhat usable, but there will be staining and warping. That’s why hidden food and grease on the hands can be so deadly, too: The sides af your deck are sponges.


For the same reason, the invisible liquids of humidity can jack with cards — or the lack of
it. Excessively humid environments will cause warping as the cards absorb more of the atmosphere. A lack of humidity can cause the paper inside to shrink, causing the infamous click-bend. Changes in temperature can also change humidity, so going back and forth between warm and cold environs can cause problems. Usually plenty of dribbling, springing or shuffling can get rid of the problems after a while, but the best solution, if you find the deck just completely useless, is to leave it alone for a bit.


The things that make cards do wonderful things are also their single greatest danger. Any damage that comes from practice or performance is necessary and noble. And while we’re all different, we all have naturally forming oils on our hands that we may have to deal with. It’s the accidental or sloppy stuff that makes us cringe. Keep your nails in good condition and your hands as clean as possible throughout the day. Always wash them, and after drying, let them air out naturally before picking up your cards again.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to

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