Your Turn, or Mine?

Have you ever really considered playing cards?

Small and unassuming playing cards have made significant impact on the lives of many people throughout the years, although the cards often go unnoticed. Consider, for example, how cards have been a central theme for eight women who’ve gathered monthly for more than 10 years at a card club, and how something they don’t ever really think about—the cards themselves—are key to major enjoyment.

“We’re all getting to a point, especially us older ones,” says Carol Jackson, card club member, “where we kind of forget whose turn it is, or whose deal it is. We forget, and that makes us laugh! And once we catch our breath, it’s like, ‘Now, whose turn is it again?’ And then we laugh some more!”

The card club members, friends for many years, are well known to giggle and hoot and holler. The game they play is euchre, and these ladies pair up for evenings of simultaneous, four-person card games, winner-and-loser brackets, and strategy. It’s all for fun, of course, and the central focus of the card club is playing cards.

While these women have attended more than 400 card clubs together, it’s fair to say that not a single member has ever really contemplated the highly engineered pieces of paper that facilitate each and every one of the evenings of entertainment.

For example, as member Kathy Gonzalez shuffles cards, she’s likely not considering that every playing card is an engineered product comprised of two pieces of paper glued together with a water-based, liquid adhesive. But paper used to make playing cards must be strong enough to withstand the liquid adhesive and the intricate drying step of the production process, wherein water from the adhesive must be able to escape the paper without blowing the card apart, says Doug Wakeland, key account manager for Glatfelter’s Specialty Papers Business Unit.

“There’s a huge difference between copy paper and the paper used to make playing cards,” says Wakeland. “It’s a very complex paper, a proprietary combination of hardwood and softwood fibers, fillers, starch, and other additives.”

Although card club member Shirley Turrill has opened innumerable 52-card boxes of playing cards, the caliper, or thickness, of the cards inside is not something she notices. However, noting that a caliper range for quality casino cards is 11.5 mil to 12.0 mil (1 mil equals 0.001/inch), Wakeland describes the importance of the precision of the specifications of playing cards.

“Too thin, [and] the deck may not shuffle properly,” Wakeland says. “Too thick, [and] you can’t get them (playing cards) in the tuck case.”

As Brenda Isasi, card club member, carefully considers her best card to play in the game of euchre, the opacity, or lack of transparency, of the cards in her hand is simply assumed. What good would cards be if opponents could see through them? And as Rhonda Thomas, another card club member, slides the winning card across the table, she’s focused on the game of cards and not the compressibility characteristics of the paper that ensure how easily her winning card glides.

“High-end cards are embossed—not raised but indented,” Wakeland says. “A flat card will drag, but embossing adds peaks and valleys that create less of the card in contact with the surface [and more glide].”

As card club member Christie Savage deals the euchre hand at card club night, her mind is no more on the lay-flat characteristics of the cards she’s dealing, or the paper’s lack of curling due to its rigidity, than Marion Lewis’s mind is considering the printability characteristics of the paper that allow her to easily distinguish between the jack of spades and jack of clubs.

In truth, although these ladies have gathered to play cards monthly for more than 10 years, and have likely played euchre with cards made out of paper from Glatfelter, a global supplier of specialty papers and engineered materials, that has sold approximately 250,000 tons of playing card paper converting to 2 billion decks of cards, the topic of paper never really arises.

And that’s OK. Rather, when discussing cards, the most frequented topic among these ladies at this card club is: “Now, whose turn is it again?”