Should You Use Poker Card Guards?

By David Huber
February 02, 2024

Poker card guards – often referred to as poker card protectors – are a common accessory that live poker players bring to the table when competing against their opponents. A truly glorified paperweight, a poker card guard can provide comfort for certain players, personal identity for others, and protection against having your playing cards accidentally mucked by a dealer.

Below, we’ll take a look at the different styles of card protector poker accessories, why they are used, and whether you should use one yourself at your next poker home game, cash game or tournament.

poker card guard

The Case for Using a Poker Card Protector in Live Games

Poker playing cards are relatively light in weight compared to other accessories such as poker chips or peripheral items that can include dining plates, beverages, and players’ arms/hands.

A player’s hand can physically stick to playing cards – especially if they are greasy from eating food at a live table or contain moisture from drinking beverages while playing. All it takes is a very slight movement to inadvertently reveal a face-down poker card. A strong wind current from a home game standing or ceiling fan can also cause your face-down poker cards to fly from their intended placement.

A card protector that weighs a bit more than a few playing cards can greatly reduce the risk of these things occurring – at least for some players. As mentioned above, poker card guards may be nothing more than glorified paperweights, but they CAN serve a vital purpose.

In rare cases, a dealer may mistakenly muck your cards in a live setting; something that is much less likely to occur if your face-down holdings have a card protector on top of them.

Also remember that if an air current somehow happens to move one or more of your hole cards into the muck area, then your cards are automatically folded – even if the result was clearly unintended.

The Arguments for Not Using Poker Card Guards

Perhaps some of the most compelling arguments against using a poker card protector come from professional poker player and founder Jonathan Little – who explains numerous reasons why he doesn’t personally use one in this article.

Live poker tells are something that the most highly skilled poker pros as very good at exploiting, and you might want to take a look at that write-up if you’re looking for insight into information that players might provide their opponents in a live setting.

Since I’m not a poker pro myself (far from it), I would personally recommend against using a poker card guard if the act causes you some form of discomfort.

You can probably receive more detailed information that makes a plausible case for and against the practice of using a poker card protector by consulting content that is routinely published by premium poker training sites.

Poker Card Guards and Popular Culture

A card protector in poker games that occur in person can say as much about an individual’s personality as a dating app questionnaire.

In some cases, poker players massively identify with the esoteric element of their personalized card protector. It can be a token that represents some feat or achievement. It can display the birth month of the owner. Or it can relay the user’s favorite sports team. A personalized card protector can remind the owner of one or more fond memories, and it can even communicate to others some preferred brand.

One day, poker players might want to get together in a non-competitive environment and have a heartfelt Show & Tell explaining why they hold their own poker card guards in such high regard.

Due to the emphasis that many individuals place on personal identity, the use of poker card protectors will likely remain prevalent in the foreseeable future.

As far as giving advice on what the best poker card protector is for you personally, that is a question that is best answered by each individual. The same goes for the decision of whether or not to use a poker card guard in the first place.

Poker Coin Card Guard Options

There are plenty of options available on the internet (or available to you as pocket change) in terms of selecting a poker coin guard.

Do you have a silver dollar? Do you own a coin that is encased within a verified, sealed compartment? What about pocket change?

In general, I would recommend using a large coin for card protection purposes. It will stick out more, it will weigh more, and it will be easier to identify by dealers (if you happen to be concerned with having your cards accidentally mucked).

A coin that is encased in plastic will also work well… just make sure that the coin itself is not of significant value. It would be a shame to have a high value coin lost or stolen while participating in a live poker game.

A quick Google search will render plenty of options for a poker coin card guard. Metals commonly used in coins include silver, gold, copper, nickel, lead, steel, and platinum.

There are also souvenir coins available at most tourist-facing points of sale in the greater Las Vegas area. Check out a novelty store within Las Vegas casinos to see their selection of coins that can be used as a poker card protector.

Poker Chips: Card Protector Options

A poker chip protector is equally as common as poker coin card guards, and the options are just as extensive. Moreover, players can use souvenir poker chips from their favorite casinos as card guards, even if their real dollar value equals one dollar.

This safeguards against having a high-value poker card protector stolen, and a poker chip protector will work just as well as a coin as long as the chip is a standard casino size. You can even encase a poker chip into a heavier, plastic cover that is bulkier and less likely to go unnoticed (again, if you’re concerned with a dealer inadvertently mucking your hole cards).

All you need to do is perform a quick Google search if you’re seeking out poker chips that can be used for card protection.

Ideal Weight and Size for Poker Card Guards

If we go by the American measuring system, consider one ounce (the weight of many collector coins) to be close to an ideal weight. As mentioned above, you’re using a glorified paperweight to protect your cards. You want enough coin or token weight to protect against any accidental card reveals – whether by your own hand or by the dealer.

As far as poker card guard size is concerned, something that takes up roughly one-fifth (20%) of a professional playing card surface should be more than enough. A traditional U.S. silver dollar is about 1 inch in diameter, while the half dollar coin is about 1.2 inches in diameter.

Most casino playing cards will be about 3.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches in width.

Quick Solutions for Poker Card Guards

If a casino’s central air current or a home game ceiling fan is causing issues, here are some quick solutions that you can use as a poker card protector.

  • Cigarette lighter (just don’t light the cards on fire)
  • Ring of keys or keychain (be sure to put the keys back in your pocket when leaving the game)
  • Unopened, bite-size candy bars (don’t let any of the contents smudge and mark the cards)

Of course, a large coin or a casino poker chip will probably work better.

And here are a few things that you should NOT use as a poker card protector.

  • Beverage cans (spillage and moisture may mark the cards)
  • Drinking glasses and/or cups (spillage and moisture may mark the cards)
  • Glass in general, especially shot glasses (breakage risk)
  • Anything that touches food (forks, spoons, small plates – the grease may mark the cards)
  • Anything that can be fumbled or is cumbersome when someone is inebriated or otherwise under the influence
  • Any item that covers more than half of the face-up/face-down playing surface of the cards you are using
  • Jewelry (risk of getting lost or stolen)

Where Can I Find Unique Poker Card Guards?

Looking for a unique poker card protector that will impress your friends and opponents?

There are a few places where you might be able to pick up a unique poker card guard that others will have to make a dedicated on-location search in order to find.

If you’re not interested in the common poker chip or poker coin card guard, consider visiting some of the following places to look for your perfect card protector:

Large truck stops: These places have just about anything you can think of in terms of novelty items and collectables. If you’re inside a truck stop store that’s located along a major thoroughfare (like an interstate highway), you may find quite a few token items in the gift section that reference a specific state, route, or location.

Gift stores inside large malls: One of the most established American mall gift stores is called Spencer’s. Here, you’ll find a LOT of small gifts and knick-knacks that might be perfect for a personalized poker card protector.

Novelty and seasonal stores: These outlets can often be found in small “strip” malls. They offer everything from birthday party props to Halloween trinkets. If you happen to find yourself inside one of these novelty stores, it might be a good idea to browse through some of the smaller items and shop around for a new poker card protector.

Casino Shops Are a Quick Fix for Finding a Poker Card Protector

If you’re in Las Vegas, you can probably find poker card guards easily. This is especially true for casinos located on or near the Las Vegas Strip or on Fremont Street downtown.

Some of the items for sale may come across as a bit pricey (expect to pay MUCH more than $1.00 for a $1 souvenir poker chip), but these shops will provide a relatively wide range of options for someone looking to use a poker card protector in a pinch.

If you play online poker a lot, some of the sites may occasionally include an option to purchase poker card guards directly from their online shop. In this case, you will need to cover the purchase with loyalty points that can be accrued through actual real money online poker play. These items may include the online poker site’s brand name prominently displayed on their metal or plastic surface.

The Esoteric Value of Poker Card Guards

Although poker card guards have a very practical use for many poker players (which is actually protecting hole cards), a poker card protector can also have a large amount of esoteric value for individual players.

If this is something that is important to you, try to choose a card protector that you identify with personally. If you prefer to think of some item as “lucky,” then you might want to consider using that as your card guard – if only for the sake of esoteric, mental comfort.

Most importantly though, the item should be something that you are extremely comfortable playing cards with. If you get a poker card guard, try to get into the habit of always double-checking after you stand up from a table to ensure that the item is back on your person before you leave.

Have fun and impress your friends at your next home game with a poker card guard. Whether you’re using a coin, token, chip, or a novelty item, a poker card protector is a prop that is generally welcomed in all poker games.



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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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