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Would not using cards (which appear to be allowed) be simpler

Even though the section on cards mentions that "many prisons" do allow them, what the article is trying to emphasize there is that playing cards can be used to simulate dice if the prison happens to allow them (while also implicitly demonstrating that the rules against gambling are often inconsistent and arbitrary). The implication seems to be that there are more prisons that disallow cards than that allow them, and indeed earlier on the article quotes a prison handbook that explicitly mentions cards as contraband.

Furthermore, even if cards are explicitly allowed by the rules, that doesn't mean that cards (along with pretty much anything else) can't be confiscated at any moment. For those instances, it's good to have a backup that involves materials that are always on hand.

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