I was never a great skill card player growing up. I was quite excellent at War, and at 52 Pick-Up, but other than that, my mastery in card games was more in my mind than in my hand. I never played a dime or a nickel flush where I won any type of pot, but I always enjoyed holding the actual playing cards. The designs were a fascination to my young mind, and today, when I happened upon the Bicycle cards website, I was taken back to a time when a deck of cards lasted for years of regular use around the kitchen table with nickel raises and dime bets; but these cards, these new Bicycle cards, had a right life of their own. The opaque card box was gone; replaced by a lovely translucent plastic that was more welcoming to both hand, and eye.

Here’s what the cards look like from that translucent foil Rider back pack. This is the new standard deck in look and feel — at least in my amateur experience — and I just love looking at the artistry of which way the faces are looking and their expressions. They’re always having a conversation!

Here’s another Bicycle deck — foil decks — in both blue and red! The opaque box is back, but this time it is foiled and embossed!

Here’s what the cobalt and crimson decks look like — oh, the foil backs! The face cards look like the standard Rider back, but the foil backs change in the light. Mesmerizing! I appreciate the look and feel of a common card with an uncanny shine.

Now we’re getting into a more hardcore artistry from Bicycle. These two decks — Shadow Masters and Black Ghost — are great for cardistry, but I can’t imagine a game of poker breaking out from these decks, only because the emphasis is not on functionality, but on alighting the eye in space.

The Shadow Masters deck looks as if the Face cards are appearing out of the shadows in smoke and mystery. The shock of seeing all black cards with spots of red is arresting because you just never really get used to seeing the effect. The cards appear to glow in your hand. Who knew there were so many colors of “flat black?”

The Face cards for Black Ghost feel like the reverse of the Shadow Masters. The effect isn’t a true reversal, but it’s close enough that you have to look a time or two to notice the differences between the two competing decks. It would be fun to play with both decks — half and half of each other — and get a true “Shadow Ghost” haunting!

Here’s the Bicycle Dragon cards. The paper box design isn’t quite as interesting as the cards inside.

The Dragon cards design is my favorite aesthetic style so far. There’s a lovely grace and inevitability of rising in the rings of these cards. You are enticed, and delighted by, the experience in beauty. I would not be able to use these cards for games, or for fun, because I’d spend all my time looking at the Face cards. These suits are suitable for framing!

The Aureo box is gold foil. Impressive. I appreciate the style of learning and education.

However, when you dig into the box of Aureo cards — you become a little disappointed, because the Face cards are a bit ordinary, and there’s no foil on the back design!  Sure, the overall look is fun and different, but not really unique, or as inspired, as the other decks before you.

I know there are all kinds of card decks out there that look great for both play, and cardistry — but the fact the historic Bicycle brand is so committed to changing the look and feel of their established business is inspiring, and a good lesson for us all: We can never be too old, or too rigid, or too successful — to not consider changing up the bits of the games we play for bygones!

Here’s my Human Meme podcast episode that mentions cardistry, and includes the great lesson I learned therein: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.”