Poker Card Protectors – Do You Need a Card Protector When Playing Live?
Last Updated: July 6, 2022
Live poker is often about more than just playing a game of cards. Players come to poker rooms to have some fun, and there are many things that come into play.
Poker card protectors certainly fall into the area of having fun.
Most players use card protectors as a way to entertain themselves and others, not just to protect their cards.
Of course, poker card protectors do also have a practical function, and you may want to have one with you when playing poker in certain situations.
If you are new to live poker, you may not be sure about what’s right in regard to card protectors, so I am going to explain how they work and whether or not you should be using them.
Let’s start out by explaining what a card protector is, what’s its main function, and whether you need one the next time you play live poker.
What Are Poker Card Protectors?
If you have ever been in a live poker room, you have probably noticed players holding their cards, their chips, and sometimes unusual items that don’t really have a clear function.
These items are known as card protectors. They are used to keep the player’s hole cards safe from getting mucked by the dealer, looked at by other players, etc.
When playing live poker, you are obligated to keep your hole cards on the table and are not allowed to keep them in your hands.
The reason for this is to avoid confusion and players acting out of turn.
However, with your hole cards sitting on the table, there is a danger of the dealer mistakenly thinking you have folded and taking your cards, or another player looking at your cards thinking they are his.
For all these reasons, players are asked to protect their hand at all times, even if it is required to stay on the table.
While some players protect their hole cards by gently holding them with their fingers, keeping them exposed to other players, some prefer to use a card protector.
Poker card protectors can be anything from one of the chips used in play to custom poker card protectors that come in all shapes and sizes.
In fact, in most poker rooms, you are allowed to use pretty much anything as a card protector, as long as it doesn't completely cover your cards or possibly help you cheat.
Some players like to use unique coins, others bring in figurines and toys, while others yet come up with unique and quirky card protectors that become their trademarks.
Is It Necessary to Have a Card Protector?
As a live poker player, you are required to always keep your cards protected and safe. The dealer taking your cards is considered your mistake, not the dealer's, and you usually won't get your cards back if this happens.
However, this does not mean that poker card protectors are necessary at the tables. In fact, putting a single chip from your stack on top of your cards will be enough to prevent such incidents.
Furthermore, you are also allowed to keep your fingers over your cards and keep the cards in a position where it becomes very difficult for anyone to touch them accidentally.
You should be protecting your cards by proper positioning at all times, regardless of the type of card protector you may or may not be using.
All of this means that poker card protectors are definitely not necessary. Yet, they can be very fun to use at the tables, and if you are a little superstitious, they may even bring you some good fortune.
Are Poker Card Protectors Actually Useful?
Talking about the usefulness of poker card protectors, there are two schools. Many modern poker players never use card protectors and believe them to be nonsense.
On the other hand, there are also many players who swear by their protectors.
One great example of a player who never plays poker without his card protector was Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, a former WSOP champ, who uses fossils from his private collection to protect his cards.
Greg found a great way to mix his two hobbies, using the fossils he collects at the tables. This made him known as the “Fossilman” and added to his persona at the tables.
Many poker players believe there are items from their daily lives that can bring them luck at the tables, and who is to really say they can’t?
While there is no scientific explanation for poker card protectors helping players win more, it is very hard to explain luck and know when you will or won’t have it.
Players who like to bring good energy their way may decide to use a fun card protector on top of their cards, and you shouldn’t really mind if they do.
If you are the kind of player who prefers not to use poker card protectors, try not to antagonize others for using them and allow players to have fun playing poker the way they like to.
Be Careful When Using Card Protectors
Several big-time poker coaches and players have talked about one particular danger of using card protectors, whether you use chips or custom poker card protectors.
The danger in question is that you may not use the card protector the same way in every hand, which live poker players could use to get a read on you.
Many players “forget” to use their card protector when they are holding a marginal poker hand that they expect they may have to fold on the flop or turn.
While this is not something you should be doing, many players only apply their card protector when they have a strong hand and may even do it before the action is on them.
For the most part, I recommend not even looking at your cards before the action is on you, and especially not putting your card protector on them before you have acted.
You want to always act the same way with your card protector. Either apply it every time you are going to play a hand, or don’t use it at all.
Using the card protector in any other way may end up revealing the strength of your hand to your more observant opponents, which is something you should definitely avoid at all costs.
Types of Poker Card Protectors
Now that you know what a poker card protector is and how you should use it let's talk about the best types of custom poker card protectors, as well as generic ones.
At the end of the day, it is true that you can use pretty much anything as a card protector. However, there are some things that players use very often, and a few of them you will have with you at the poker tables anytime you play.
These are the top types of poker card protectors you can use the next time you play live poker:
1. Your Poker Chips
By far, the most common type of poker card protector is a poker chip. You don't need to bring anything to the game to use this card protector, as you will have plenty of chips in front of you when you play.
The way to use poker chips as poker card protectors is to place a single chip on top of your cards once you are done looking at them.
Some players place entire stacks of chips on top of their cards, while others vary the number of chips, and I don’t recommend any of this.
Using a single chip of the lowest denomination you have as your card protector is the best way to ensure you are not giving away any tells while protecting your cards.
The great thing about poker chips is that they are already in front of you, so you won’t need to add anything to the table to keep your cards safe.
2. Custom Coins and Chips
When it comes to custom poker card protectors, plenty of these can be bought online at sites like Amazon or eBay, and many of them are made especially for this function.
While regular coins can also be used as card protectors, most of them are too small and simply won’t keep your cards protected the way you want to protect them.
Instead, you can purchase a custom coin or chip from eBay, and these will be large, heavy, and usually look similar to poker chips.
These types of card protectors are usually made out of metal, and they stand out from your chips, so everyone will be well aware of the function of the chip on top of your cards.
The great thing about custom poker card protectors is that they come with many different motives and themes, giving every player a chance to express their personality.
3. Personal Items
If you have ever watched the coverage of the World Series of Poker, you have probably noticed some players having unique card protectors on the tables.
Greg Raymer’s fossils are a fantastic example of how you can turn something you enjoy in everyday life into a card protector and tell the world about it.
Over the years, we have seen items from Star Wars, Harry Potter, and all sorts of fictional worlds make their way to the tables as card protectors.
As long as the item isn't too big or in other ways intrusive at the tables, you can use it to keep your cards safe and tell the world all about your favorite hobbies.
4. Project Your Spirit Animal
Many poker players are superstitious in some way, or they simply believe that they can find their luck in many different ways.
Animals are often associated with supernatural abilities, and bringing luck certainly falls into this category.
This is why animal motives are very common at poker tables.
Whether we are talking about little statues of eagles or dragons or even replicas of a player's actual pet, the options are nearly limitless.
Whatever your favorite animal may be, feel free to go out there and find a version that’s small enough, and you can use it to be your card protector the next time you play.
5. Popular Good Luck Charms
Items like horseshoes and clovers are commonly known as good luck charms, which is exactly the reason you will often find such objects around poker rooms.
Poker players need all the luck they can get, and if a special clover is what it takes to get that lucky river card, you should certainly take it.
Of course, there is no telling just how lucky these items actually are, but there is also no indication that they are unlucky, which could be reason enough to give them a shot.
As long as you remember to keep the item in question compact enough, the poker room staff probably won't have any problems with you using any kind of good luck charm you want at the tables.
Keep Your Cards Safe, But Also Learn to Play Them Well
Poker card protectors are fun little accessories to use in live poker games, but remember that they are not what makes a great poker player.
While many players think that bringing sunglasses, card protectors, and the right hoodie to the casino is the answer to their poker woes, the reality is just the opposite.
At the end of the day, it won’t matter which card protector you use or how you are dressed, just as long as you are playing your cards better than your opponents.
Make sure you learn how to play good poker, and all other things will fall in line.
Having a fun card protector with you may slightly increase the enjoyment of playing. However, it won't save you from loss if your opponents are simply better at the game than you are.
Don't focus too much on trivialities like which card protector to use at the tables, or better yet, forget about using one until you are very comfortable around live poker games and can afford to have some fun!