One of the ideas Caro briefly discusses in the article was his campaign back in the 1990s to introduce a four-color deck -- i.e., a deck featuring blue diamonds and green clubs to go along with the red hearts and black spades. The piece notes how players immediately objected to the attempted innovation, thus forcing him to add it to his list of “failed” ideas.
The story of Caro’s campaign has been told many times in many places over the years. Apparently it was at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in 1992 that Caro first successfully persuaded tourney organizers to employ the four-color deck, the colors of which had been determined following a vote among students at one of his seminars. Incidentally, Caro has insisted that he didn’t “invent” the four-color deck -- in fact, he believes the two-color deck was itself an “innovation” of sorts, borne from a desire to save money on printing costs.
In any event, the new deck was not appreciated at Foxwoods, partly due to the fact that the colors hadn’t been properly shaded, causing some confusion to go along with the general opposition to change. By the second day of the tourney, the decks were removed and the traditional two-color decks restored.
In the Bluff piece, Caro makes reference to a later attempt to introduce the four-color deck, a story that Diane McHaffie describes in more detail in a 2006 article in Poker Player Magazine. There McHaffie tells how Caro tried once more to introduce the four-color deck in early 1995, getting 65 different cardrooms to employ the decks on a single day -- dubbed “C-Day” (or “Color Day”) by the Mad Genius of Poker.
“Although most players seemed impressed,” writes McHaffie, “some were indifferent and then there were those who voiced their discontent rather loudly.” And, in predictable fashion, losing players “took this opportunity to blame their misfortune on the color change” of the decks.
McHaffie quotes Caro explaining how he’d “spent years lobbying, cajoling, and publicizing an event [C-Day] that was intended to change the very nature of playing cards forever and it just resulted in two hours of agony.” The decks were thrown out, and thus ended the experiment. In live poker, anyway. Online poker -- which allows players to modify the playing experience individually in numerous ways -- makes the four-color deck an option which I would venture to guess most players choose to take.
I have trouble coming up with a good reason not to use four-color decks in live play, though I assume some have objections that go beyond the uncritical appeal to tradition. I suppose one could argue that poker is a game that rewards attention to detail, and thus requiring players to make the extra mental effort of distinguishing hearts from diamonds and clubs from spades is yet another way to test that skill. Then again, one could find ways to make the cards even more difficult to read (remember those “Poker Peek” cards from the 2007 WSOP?), providing an even greater challenge -- something no one could rationally argue for, I wouldn’t think.
Printing costs probably remain a factor here, although probably less a factor than in the past. So what other reasons might there be not to use the four-color deck?