I don’t often ask “why” anymore. Some things in this world defy explanation so much that even daring to question them tends to induce migraines. Why is the sky blue? Why has this celebrity continued to get press when they’re clearly irrelevant? Why would anybody make a deck of cards that is larger than a ream of printer paper? I can’t fathom the reasoning. A favorite King Crimson song of mine, Facts of Life, says that “It doesn’t mean you should, just because you can.” And yet, the makers of the three decks I’m examining today…very much ignored that sage prog-rock advice.
The first of these three decks is the somewhat aptly named Gigantic Playing Cards. Originally retailing for $5.99, I found my pack for a mere 99 cents at Goodwill (a treasure trove for abandoned decks, as long as you check that all the cards are present first). The Gigantics are at least twice the size on each axis as a regular poker deck. If you recall the really small cards I looked at before, I spoke of just how impractical they are for regular play – the lack of flexibility and diminutive size made them difficult to shuffle, pick up, and deal.
If you’ve a basic sense of cause and effect, you might imagine that the bigger the card, the easier the handling. Sadly, this is not the case. The Gigantics, despite being only as thick as a regular playing card, are exceedingly difficult to shuffle in normal ways (even the “52 Pick-Up” method I tried with the tiny ones). They’re just not playable. You’d be lucky to find a surface large enough to deal a hand of Klondike, let alone Canfield. You might notice that my photograph was set up on top of my bed. That’s the length to which I must go for proper documentation of these ridiculous things.
The second of today’s decks is not that much larger than the Gigantics – only by about half an inch – but these giants are also significantly thicker, being printed on laminated cardboard instead of the coated paper of the other deck. This extra thickness makes them impossible to flex, making them even harder to handle.
And yet, somehow, the cards having actual mass to them makes them much more entertaining to play. Never mind the fact that you’d need an entire dinner table to run a decent game; these are the kind of cards with which you’d play a hand of Crazy Eights with your pals. The kind of cards that you can smack on to the table, mimicking Chico Marx while proudly declaring, “Ace o’ Spades!” And they’d also make a decent makeshift fan during the hotter months. So they’re surprisingly practical compared to the Gigantics, even if not for solitaire.
And finally, we have the most ludicrous deck ever. In a world where there are decks of cards decked out in SPAM® livery, decks plated in 24-karat gold foil, decks made from brushed aluminum plates, decks etched in bamboo…I think it’d be safe to say that this, the most impractically-sized deck in the known world, takes the cake. These Jumbo playing cards (available at Amazon.com for the paltry sum of $21.79 USD) measure 10.5 inches by 14.5 inches, making them significantly larger than the average sheet of legal paper (regardless of region). If Douglas Adams had written about this deck, he might have said, “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” It is so huge that I almost could not fit the whole thing in a photograph. I had to raise my phone above my head to take the above picture. That’s right – an aerial photo. If a small game of Canfield takes up this much space, a game of Freecell might require your entire back yard.
With all that in mind – never mind the fact that these cards are effectively unplayable at this size – why was this deck invented? Because they can? To turn the World Series of Poker into a literal spectator sport, with cards readable from stadium seating? No, actually – these cards were designed to be used as placemats. And they just happened to decide that, if you’re buying placemats designed to look like playing cards, you might as well get a full deck of 52 plus jokers. Which, okay, makes them the last cards you’d ever want to use for any card game, but on the other hand, does allow you to use these cards as a surface on which to play a game of cards with another, smaller deck of cards.
In short, I’d really like to see one of those David Blaine-esque street magicians do card tricks with these things.