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Kem Playing Cards Review

Playing card Trident Cards Kem banner Kem Playing Cards are the longtime standard by which all other playing cards are measured. They existed for decades as the Kem Plastics Playing Card Company but have been sold to The U.S. Playing Card Company, the same company that manufactures Bee, Bicycle, and many other playing cards. The original Kem Plastics company now supplies the cellulose acetate (plastic) to The U.S. Playing Card Company, who manufactures the cards. New Kem cards have "Kem Cards by USPC" printed on them whereas the original Kem Plastics cards have "Original Kem Cards" printed on them.

Defective Kem playing cards can be replaced by mailing the defective card(s) and the ace of spades to Kem. The phone number for Kem replacement cards is 800-863-1333 x5719.


Kem 2007 WSOP Poker Peek

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Kem 2007 WSOP Poker Peek Playing Cards Review

Kem WSOP back These are the Kem Poker Peek cards that were used during the first two days of the 2007 World Series of Poker tournament before they were replaced due to numerous complaints from players. Players complained that the dual index (Poker Peek) was too difficult to view and that there was too much confusion between the 6 and 9 cards. In addition, the WSOP Commissioner's name is spelled incorrectly (Jeffery instead of Jeffrey) on the back of the cards.

Poker chip The back design is the traditional Bicycle 'Rider Back' with the WSOP logo. The cards have the familiar slickness of a Kem playing card but these particular cards feel especially small and light, although the weight and measurements prove otherwise.

The price from ApachePokerChips is $24.95 per setup which consists of one deck of red and one deck of black cards in bridge size. The cards come is the same Kem paper box that is shown in the photo for the Kem Select playing cards.

Make sure that you watch my video review of dual index playing cards.

Keep in mind that these cards are no longer in production and it will be very difficult to replace lost or damaged cards. Since you cannot obtain replacement cards, this is more of a collectible playing card set rather than an everyday-usage set. Due to the controversy about these cards at the 2007 WSOP and the spelling mistake of the commissioner's name ... these cards should be a hot topic of conversation for many years to come! August 2007


Kem Arrow

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Kem Arrow Plastic Playing Cards Review

These cards are the best and are the standard by which all other cards are measured. They are made of cellulose acetate (plastic) and will normally last at least 30 times longer than a paper card. They look different and feel different and resist scuffing and smudging. Because they can be cleaned and re-used, they are less expensive on a per-play basis. They should normally last for at least a year or two of weekly home tournament play.

If your card does get damaged, it will probably chip at the corner or crack. Take note that replacement cards are no longer available since the sale of Kem to The U.S. Playing Card Company. Kem continues to manufacture and supply the cellulose acetate but the cards are now printed by the USPC. It is the cellulose acetate that gives Kem cards their unique feel and quality. No other playing card is made from this type of plastic and Kem's will remain in a class of their own because of this.

Cardboard box of KEM playing cards Single-deck Kem cards come in a sturdy cardboard box. The box has no problems remaining closed and is very durable. Kem cards have a tendency to bow and/or warp. It is advisable to store your cards with a cut card and weight on top. This will help prevent warping. Make sure to store your cards in a cool, dry environment. Do not expose your cards to direct sunshine or place them near a heat source.

The date of manufacture of your Kem cards is printed on the ace of spades, just to the left or right of the spade stem, using one of two methods. If you have three or four numbers, the last two numbers represent the year and the first two numbers represent the month. My Kem cards had dates of 202 (February 2002) and 503 (May 2003). The second method uses a letter for the year (A=1998, B=1999, C=2000, D=2001) followed by the month.

Kem and Copag cards are of similar thickness but the Kem's feel slightly thicker and stiffer than the Copag's. The Gemaco's feel even thinner and the A Plus and Dal Negro feel thicker. The thickness of all 52 Kem playing cards is 16.12mm. Ten cards weigh 22.0 grams.

Kem cards have been the standard in playing cards in North America for many decades. It is getting difficult to find good deals on Kem cards. The going rate was $20 and up for a set of two decks but as of the summer of 2004, the Kem Card manufacturing plant was temporarily shut down. This means that Kem cards were in short supply and much harder to find, resulting in higher prices. Wide size Kem Arrow cards are somewhat rare and high-priced. EBay has some of the best deals on Kem cards. Probably the most sought-after poker playing card available today would be the Kem Arrow Wide Regular Index in either red or blue (that's them in the scanned images).

Kem cards has been sold to The U.S. Playing Card Company, the same company that manufactures Bee, Bicycle, and many other playing cards. Kem Plastics now only supplies the cellulose acetate (plastic) to The U.S. Playing Card Company who manufactures the cards. Kem cards are once again in production (spring 2005) but only in bridge size. Poker (wide) size cards are rumored to start production in several months. New Kem cards have "Kem Cards by USPC" printed on them. Original Kem Plastics cards have "Original Kem Cards" printed on them. Only Arrow and Paisley bridge size decks are available. It is rumored that only a couple additional styles of decks will be manufactured.


New USPC Kem Cards Review

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I was sent two decks of the new Kem Arrow bridge size playing cards. These are the cards manufactured by the new United States Playing Card Co.. Only bridge size cads are being produced at the moment but poker size are rumored to be coming within a couple months. The new Kem cards are available in either Arrow or Paisley styles.

KEM box The cards came in the same familiar plastic case but there was no little tab that clips on to the middle divider. There was a plastic/vinegar smell to the new deck but not nearly as strong as the old Kem's. The lot number on the back of my red deck is G6904, the blue deck is G6294. The lot number is important since it seems that some earlier lots of cards had problems. The lot number is printed at the bottom of the ace of spades and can also be viewed through the plastic wrapping of an unopened deck. You can just barely see it at the bottom-left of the image to the right. There are reports that lot number 6285 has problems with corners that are cut slightly different and an unscrupulous dealer could take advantage of this. There are reports that some red decks are thinner than blue decks and, in general, the red decks seem to have more problems than the blue decks. The problems were probably with the first few runs of cards through the new manufacturing plant and will hopefully be just a thing of the past.

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Old KemNew Kem

The new cards are the same brightness of white as the old Kem's. The black ink is the same as the old Kem's, perhaps a bit darker and deeper. The red is a bit more orange, not quite as 'bloody' as the old cards. The detail of the graphics looks as good, and perhaps even a bit better than the old cards. The typeface is identical.

Both my decks were in perfect condition, no blemishes or uneven corners and both decks were the same thickness. The cards do not seem any thinner or feel any different than the old Kem's. The texture on the card and feel of it sliding across the table and against other cards seems the same.

One nice thing that I've noticed about all my Kem decks is that they tend to slide off each other less than other brands of cards. With some decks of cards, especially new decks, some cards tend to slide off the top when stacked on the table. Kem cards don't do this, they do slide about 1/4-1/2 inch but none of the cards slide completely off the deck.

I had my worries about whether or not the change in manufacturers of Kem cards would ruin, what are arguably, the best cards on the market. It hasn't, the new cards seem pretty well the same as the old cards. The look, but most importantly the feel of the new Kem cards is the same as the old cards. Hopefully they will soon start producing poker size cards ...


Kem Select

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Kem Select Plastic Playing Cards Review

These bridge size cards are slightly brighter than typical Kem playing cards. The white is a bit brighter and the colors are a bit deeper. You might not notice this unless you hold the cards side-by-side and do a comparison, the difference is very slight.

KEM cards These cards have the same thickness, weight, size, cut, typeface, and graphics as other Kem cards. They do however, seem to feel a bit thicker and shuffle slightly better. They have a bit more of a plastic feel to them. Even so, the top cards slide less off a deck than a normal deck of Kem's.

These cards come in a cardboard box that is similar to the Kem plastic boxes. This is the type of box that you see used in most casinos. There is a cardboard separator between the two decks. You have to turn the box upside down to remove one or both decks of cards. The cardboard is fairly sturdy and the box should last a lifetime if not abused. I don't mind these cardboard boxes, they are not plastic and will not last as long, but they do a fine job.

The cards have much less of a smell to them than other Kem cards. They hardly has any smell at all. A different deck of Kem's that were two months old still had a much stronger smell than a new deck of these cards.



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Kem WPT Plastic Playing Cards Review

This is a poker size, regular index, World Poker Tour version of Kem Playing Cards. These are the familiar high-quality Kem cards with the WPT logo on the back design. The Kem WPT cards come in a black and a grey back design - the colors are very similar and it would be a little bit too easy to accidentally mix one card into the opposite color deck.

Sample deck provided by
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10% off code:homepoker

The deck includes 52 cards, 2 jokers, a poker guide, and an information card in the standard black plastic double-deck box. I still like the Kem boxes, they are simple yet effective but they no longer include the little tab that clips onto the separator between the two decks.

I like these cards - they are high-quality Kem's with a bit of a different back design. I haven't reviewed a new deck of Kem's in over one year and I had partially forgotten what it feels like to hold, shuffle, and deal a deck of Kem's. They are still the standard by which all other plastic cards are judged!


Playing Card Reviews

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