Poker card protectors have become very popular over the years and are used by many players as a branding item.
A famous example would be WSOP champion Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, who used to bring fossils from his personal collection to use as card protectors.
So if you’re looking to get more involved in the live poker scene, you might want to get one for yourself.
Whether you’re looking to build your personal brand and make a statement or just want one for convenience, I’ve got a few ideas that might help you decide what to use.
Let’s talk about poker card protectors, why they’re used, and how they can help – or hinder! – you at the poker tables.
What are card protectors?
A card protector is anything you bring to the table to protect your hole cards during hands.
In the most basic sense, a card protector can be used to prevent your hand from accidentally folding, which can sometimes happen in live poker if your hand or an item is not above the cards.
To avoid constantly keeping their hand close to their cards, some players choose to use a card sleeve, or simply use one of their chips.
However, these objects have other purposes than just protecting the cards.
In fact, they are more often used as talismans and good luck charms than anything else.
Poker players are on average a fairly superstitious bunch of people, with many recreational players believing that luck has more to do with poker than skill, so any favor from the poker gods is welcome.
In reality, a poker card protector usually won’t help you much, but it won’t hurt you too much either and is often a great talking point.
Not everyone agrees, however. Poker champion and trainer Jonathan Little thinks there’s a strong case for not using them at all – but later).
For now, let’s look at some ideas to inspire you.
1. Poker Chips
The most common card protector is for poker chips. Many players do not bring a particular card protector but instead use the chips they are playing with to protect their hands.
Using a single chip of the lowest possible denomination is quite common, although players use other denominations and even groups of chips to protect their cards.
A word of warning: if you are going to use poker chips as a card protector, make sure you always use the same chip denomination and use the same number of chips to protect your cards.
The reasons are pretty obvious, because you don’t want to give away your hand value and announce that you have a premium hand or an average hand in different situations.
Alternatively, some players use poker chips from other sites or a particular poker chip as a card protector throughout their career.
Most casinos and poker rooms won’t care if you bring a chip that has nothing to do with their chips and use it as a card protector at the tables.
2. Personal good luck charm
As we saw with the example of Greg Raymer, some players like to use their own lucky charms at tables that have nothing to do with poker.
He used fossils, but I’ve seen other players use things like small rocks, toys, and other items of sentimental value that they think bring them good luck.
Religious items aren’t excluded either, as some players believe that religion and poker go hand in hand, and who’s to say they don’t?
Whether you got your lucky charm from your wife, priest, or shaman, you can use just about any small item you think is lucky as a card protector.
Items like coins, small jewelry and other small items that will not cover your cards are fair game and will not be prohibited in any card room.
It will only start to have problems at the casino when you start bringing in larger items that completely cover your cards or that could be used to interfere with play in any way.
3. Animal figurines
Small animal figurines are another popular choice for card protectors.
Some players just think they’re cute, while others have a more superstitious view of things and want to channel energy through their spirit animal.
Either way, watch out the next time you take part in a major poker tournament, and you’ll find there’s no shortage of pandas, dragons, and dinosaurs on players’ cards.
Again, the only thing you should worry about is that the item isn’t too big, because you won’t be allowed to use a card protector that covers and hides your hole cards.
4. Cartoon characters
Like animals, various cartoon character figurines can be used as card protectors, sometimes having a purpose beyond superstition.
If you can find one funny or silly enough, you might start to gain some notoriety on the playground, which is always a good thing.
If you are tagged “The South Park Guy”, players will want to play with you and in most cases will play them less optimally than they would if you were an anonymous player.
Things like props and card protectors can certainly serve a purpose in live poker, and you can supplement your poker skills with a bit of fame and fuss.
After all, players like Phil Hellmuth and others who have built their mark on their behavior receive all sorts of unsolicited actions, so why not try to do the same?
5. Metal chips
Let’s move on to metal chips, an element specially designed to protect cards.
Card protectors have become so popular that companies have started making items for this particular purpose.
If you look on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, you’ll see a variety of silver and gold card protectors with different designs.
They are usually slightly larger than your average poker chip and quite heavy in the hand, making them ideal for keeping your cards from folding.
LEGO isn’t just for kids. You will often see people using LEGO minifigures as card protectors in poker.
The reason is that LEGO offers so many different sets, allowing fans of any franchise to get a minifigure that represents their favorite fictional world.
that you like star wars, game of thronesWhere Harry Potteryou can easily buy a LEGO set with your favorite characters and show your classmates what you’re passionate about.
7. Classic lucky charm
We’ve already covered personal lucky charms, but if you don’t have any, there are a number of things that are widely considered lucky charms in different cultures.
It’s no wonder then that you see a number of four leaf clovers, horseshoes or joker faces used as card protectors at the poker tables.
Having a horseshoe on your cards might seem like a Wild West cliche, but the game you’re playing is Texas Hold’em, after all, so why not!
An Argument Against Card Protectors
So, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is an argument against the total use of card protectors.
Jonathan Little is one of the best coaches in poker and he strongly advises players against using them.
His reasoning is that using a card protector adds another physical element to the game of poker, which can be used to exploit you and gain information about your hand.
He even shared an example of this, where he noticed a player on a final table commenting on using a different way to protect his cards when he had premium hands and when he had medium strength holdings.
This must obviously be avoided at all costs.
However, even if you’re not so transparent with it, you could still give things away with your card protector.
For example, many poker players look at their cards before it’s their turn to act. If they have a hand they want to play with, they will place their card protector on top of the cards.
This alone is enough to tell players in previous positions that you have a decent hand, which can prompt them to make plays that directly exploit that fact, like folding the hands they wanted to play or trapping you with monsters.
While I’m not sure card protectors should be eliminated from the game entirely, Little definitely makes a strong point.
If his argument isn’t enough to put you off, I hope this article has given you some good ideas on what you can use and where to start.