The Biggest Game in Town: Picking the perfect pack of cards

There’s a beautiful contradiction to the sound of cards being played: the gentle riffle of a well-timed shuffle; the soft, slippery slap of a fresh card being extruded from the shoe; the quiet, deliberate murmur of bids; the gentle click – if poker’s your game – of chips being stacked. The whole thing should be as soporific as a game of billiards, but it’s hard to think of an atmosphere more alive than the one that hangs like smoke over a high-stakes game of cards.

It’s a vice, no doubt, but even a Puritan would have to admit that it’s a very civilised one. And the stakes need be no higher than a box of matches to make it interesting, as anyone who grew up playing pontoon with Swan Vestas, England’s Glory or Scottish Bluebells for chips can testify.

Neither does one need to be in a particular setting. Knaves are still knaves and aces high whether they’re at the beach, in a casino or laid out on a bed for a game of patience.

As regular readers may guess, however, we think that there’s more to a pack of cards than four suits, a couple of jokers and that bridge card that nobody has ever used in the whole history of ever.

Aspinal, bless them, can be relied upon for some top-flight specimens:

Then again, a personalised pack of playing cards always makes a good present, displaying as it does a bit of thought, a modest outlay and the fact that you’ve bothered to find out so-and-so’s initials:

One might not want to hand out prized decks from the above, however, in preparation for a game of racing demon. The unbridled violence simmering under the skins of otherwise pacific aunts plays havoc with the cards. We’d suggest investing a tenner in five packs of Waddington No.1’s for such occasions: