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First Look: Hessler's Enhanced Playing Cards by Matt Hessler

There’s always been that discussion of what makes a good “working deck” as opposed to a deck that, while functional in all its bling and design, isn’t really what someone would sit down at a poker table with or be readily used by a magician or card manipulator in their routines. Matt Hessler decided to dig deep into the Bicycle tradition and develop something very functional, familiar and unique.

The Hessler Playing cards utilize a classic Bicycle design with improved paper and enhanced full color faces.  We had a chance to chat with Matt about himself and this project.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a nonstandard IT Professional who plays card games instead of video games. I work for a company in Portland Oregon, but work out of my home closer to Seattle, in Olympia Washington.  I enjoy most of the Pacific Northwest stereotypes like hiking, craft beers, and locally roasted coffee. I'm also somewhat of a history buff so I’ve always been drawn the history that playing cards have. I would say that I’m a casual collector who enjoys playing with the cards more than collecting them.

In a time where crowd funding is so prevalent, what factors made you decide to self-fund this project?
That’s a great question. I definitely considered doing a Kickstarter campaign for this deck.  I have certainly helped fund a few campaigns and I would consider crowd funding in the future. The main reason that I chose to self fund this project is because it was a more casual approach. I was able to work at my own pace and get the project done right without having to set a timeline or a funding time window.  I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about campaigns that don’t fund on time, or get a lot of backlash because unrealistic promises couldn’t be followed through with.  I also didn’t want to worry about the logistics of shipping decks all over the world. This deck may be slightly more expensive than some crowd funded decks, but no one has to wait for the product or wonder if it will ever be available. If you like the deck you can simply buy one get it in the mail in just a few days.

Decks with completely custom eye popping artwork have a huge market and following, why did you opt for a more standard fully custom “Working Class” deck?
There are some beautiful decks out there with unbelievable custom artwork, but most of those can never be used in serious games for a number or reasons.  For example the artwork often makes the different cards hard to differentiate from each other, or the dark card edges easily scratch and become marked. Often times I think people buy a new deck and they’re impressed by the custom ace or really amazing custom backs, but shortly after opening them they just put them on the shelf with the other cards and never look at them again. I didn’t want to create a deck like that. I wanted to make a deck that stands out in quality and playability.

What was your goal for the Hessler Enhanced Playing cards?
My goal was to make these cards of a good enough quality for magicians and people who handle cards every day to practice with, and also beneficial for the people who play card games regularly. I tried to give this deck the most visually playable design possible while also keeping the traditional Bicycle standards that everyone loves. I wanted this deck to look as if the design could have been introduced a hundred years ago, while also making it a cutting edge deck. I would like to think these are cards that people will want to go back to time and time again to actually use.  I hope that they’re unique enough that people are excited to shown friends who aren't card collectors.

Can you tell us a bit about the playability, enhancements and quality of the deck?
The two games I personally play the most are Texas Hold’em and Hearts. Since there still seems to be some controversy surrounding four color Poker decks I decided to make my first deck lean toward the game of Hearts.  My personal go-to decks have always been decks made by the United States Playing Card Company. These guys have been making playing cards in the United States since 1867.  Specifically I prefer the classic “bee” decks with casino quality paper, and a design that has for the most part remained the same since the 1800’s. While I was working with the USPC on this project they informed me that they only have two different printing options, the standard “Bicycle Paper Card Stock/Air Cushion Finish”, and the more expensive “Bee Paper Card Stock/Air Cushion Finish”. They also verified what I had heard about all of the other various paper and finish names used on USPC decks. Excluding a few options from the past all of the names are just marketing for the same product. I was really happy when I found out I could print “Bicycle” cards on “Bee” paper. The UPSC doesn’t allow mixing brand names however, which is why this deck is labeled as “Superior Casino Grade Paper and Finish”. The second deck I’ve always really enjoyed using is the Bicycle Multi Colors (Fragment X) Deck which was a great deck, but had some serious flaws, for example the yellow ink was almost impossible to see in low light. In my opinion four color suits (or pips) speed up game play and work better for almost every game. Four-color decks are used with almost all online Poker websites and are the norm for most games in Europe. From what I understand the two color red and black decks only became the industry standard because of the lower cost of printing them centuries ago. Some long time playing card enthusiasts may remember when professional poker player and pioneer Mike Caro introduced a four color deck during the World Poker Finals in 1992. That campaign didn’t end up going very well, most people blame this on poor card printing quality and the fact that the gambling industry will always be slow to change, not to mention that superstitious players naturally blame losses an anything that’s different. It’s seems logical to me that four color decks will replace two color decks at some point in history, but maybe not for another 100 years.

Most common poker decks have a set of Jokers, I noticed they were missing from the Hessler’s, was there a reason behind that?
The reason I chose to omit the jokers is because I’ve never used them. The only games I know of that require Jokers are Euchre, and Canasta, both of which have special decks available from USPC made just for those games. There is also one random bonus card that simply features positive quotes.  I felt like this was a good opportunity to put some positive energy out there. We all know the world can be pretty negative these days. I also didn’t want to fill this deck with marketing info and web addresses that may not work in the future.

We want to thank Matt for sharing not only his time, but a few of his decks with us. I have to say, the decks feel really nice. From a handling standpoint, they’re exactly what you would expect from a Bee Casino grade deck from USPC. I spent some time handling the deck with some shuffles, dribbles, fans, etc… and the deck felt perfect, it was hard to put down.

In terms of a deck for playing Card Games, the deck is just as pleasing. The four color suit markers do make it really simple to ID a card quickly. The color palette used on the courts is pleasing and give the deck a Classic look and feel and the script on the sides, surprisingly, fits really well without being distracting.

The deck also features a four color version of the Maiden Backs and I have to say that little splash of color really works for me. You’ll also receive a few Bonus cards with your pack, the “Black Maria”, The “Omnibus Knave”, as well as instruction on playing the game of Hearts and a nice inspirational card from Matt. Overall I like the deck for what its design and quality were intended, the look and feel of the deck are just added bonuses. There are a few things that won’t appeal to everyone, more so out of the reluctance to change and something out of the “Norm”. Sometimes stepping out of that comfort zone is just what you need to appreciate something different. The Hessler Enhanced Playing Cards can give you that opportunity.

You can visit Matt’s Website to get more information on the Hessler Enhanced deck as well as any future projects coming along or follow him on Facebook.

The Hessler Enhanced deck will be available today on and for this weekend ONLY will be at an introductory price of $10.95! Sale starts Friday January 15th and ends Sunday January 17th so take advantage of the savings!

First Look: Hessler's Enhanced Playing Cards by Matt Hessler Reviewed by highlite23 on 1/15/2016 Rating: 5

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