Poker’s four color deck / by kevin murray

For anyone that plays online and especially for those that multi-table, (that is simultaneously playing other poker tables in order to get in more poker hands per hour) the four color deck is pretty much mandatory, as missing the possibility of a flush or misreading the board in such a way that you don’t take into account that you or your opponent may have a flush can be devastating to your bankroll and to your confidence.  Additionally, besides the fatigue on your eyes in which you must discern whether the black card that is displayed is either a spade or a club, or the red card being shown is either a heart or a diamond, there is the mind fatigue of yet another item that you must pay careful attention to, within a split second, when you are playing poker online.


Consequently, I suspect that most players default to using the four color deck while playing online, whether they multi-table or not.  After all, there are four different suits in poker; it only makes logical sense that each of those suits should have a separate color.  Unfortunately, for reasons that I find hard to fathom the four color deck has not transferred to live poker games in casinos around America or for that matter, the world.  It is conceivable, that in today’s world, poker has succumbed to the illogic that tradition knows best, even when technology clearly shows that this tradition should, in fact, change?


Because poker is a game that has few winners, and many losers, I have heard that casinos are reluctant to change the color configuration of their decks because they fear upsetting the clientele that frequent their casino.  I have also heard it reasoned that some players enjoy the fact that their opponents may misread or not see a potential flush on the board and they enjoy having that extra edge.  Obviously, neither of these are good reasons why a four color deck isn’t used, but perhaps like anything, if at first you fail, you should try again.


While I don’t particularly recommend subterfuge, why not, for the sake of argument, introduce the four color deck during tournaments, without any real notice to the players that have signed up for the tournament.  I mean, my goodness, what player or players would refuse to play under such conditions, when the whole purpose of a player’s entry into the tournament is the opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle.  There is yet another way to introduce the four color deck to tournaments and that is to get some sponsorship money from the manufacturer of the deck at hand, or in absence of straight sponsorship money, a substantial discount on the decks, themselves.  I do believe that if four color decks caught on in tournaments, that the transition to live regular poker games would become far smoother.


I am not, however, in favor of the passage of a law, which simply states that on such and such a date, all poker played within a certain jurisdiction, must use the four color deck.  I do believe that sooner or later we will see that inflection point in which live poker games will switch over to the four color deck and put to rest the two color deck.  What is puzzling to me is why it hasn’t already happened.  It’s as simple as arguing this very basic point, which is, if the game of poker was invented today, would the deck of cards which consists of four different suits, be all of one color, two colors, three colors, or four colors to match the four different suits of cards.  The logical answer is that those four suits would be four different colors.


For those that insist on the two color deck, I would say, get over it, the four color deck is an incremental improvement, and is a net benefit for the game and for the incumbent attraction of new players.