You don't need much to play poker at home - just chips, cards, and a surface to play on. But that's just scratching the surface - there's a whole world of poker equipment and supplies out there! Here's our quick guide to help you get to grips with it.
Where To Buy Poker Supplies
Each country has its own online and offline marketplaces on which you will find good deals on poker supplies and equipment.
For playing cards, chips, and low-price supplies, online stores (e.g., Amazon, eBay) do make a lot of sense. For a professional kidney-shaped poker table, you may want to see the product before buying it to confirm its quality.
For occasional home games, second-hand items will offer you massive savings. Just be wary of the usual scams found in these transactions.
There are plenty of general suppliers of casino supplies - such as American Gaming Supply - where you can find all your poker needs under one roof. But it is often better to find specialist suppliers who focus on one thing, such as Apache Poker Chips for chips, BBO for tables, or Bicycle for cards.
As is often the case, Amazon has a very good selection and is probably your best bet as a starting point (at least for budget and mid-range items). A lot of poker suppliers will use Amazon and eBay as a marketplace. But never forget that you get what you pay for and if something looks too good to be true, it most probably is.
Here the choice is much more limited. There are specialist suppliers such as Premier Poker Chips for casino chips, Cardroom Direct for tables, and generalists like Squirrel Poker. But nowhere near the choice of the US market. Again Amazon is really your best bet to get started.
Whilst in the heat of the preparation we do want the best of everything, you may end up just fine with mid-range products.
Table & Table Tops
If you want to take your home poker game to the next level and move up from playing on your kitchen table, then you have a wide range of options depending on how much you're willing to spend. Watch out for poor quality tables though - look for respected brands like Brybelly or Barrington.
Foldable or collapsible tables tend to be made from cheaper materials to less sturdy construction, although this is not always the case. These might just have folding legs or sometimes the entire table can be folded up, legs, and topper. The cheaper tables are often rickety and won't last long. However, there are some very sturdy premium folding tables on the market - although they aren't cheap.
In order for the table top to be able to fold they are constructed from two or more separate pieces of plywood or fiberboard connected by a hinge. This means there will be visible join marks on the playing surface and rail.
The legs are usually made from metal. Cheaper foldable tables do not tend to last long - you get what you pay for!
Finally, there is the permanent professional poker table. As with all the other categories, these vary in price and quality. You can get quite low-cost ones - or make your own - but you can also push the boat out and get a custom-made casino quality poker table which will be a solid piece of furniture to last a lifetime.
If you are fancying cutting and shaping wood, you can even build your own poker table.
A poker table frame is a structure that the tabletop sits on. Most permanent poker tables are built around a fiber-board or plywood frame, at least at the top. Higher-end tables will use more expensive wood as cladding, and often they will have hardwood pedestal legs.
Collapsible poker tables are more likely to use a metal frame and legs. Mats and toppers have no frame - your own table provides that.
The poker table top is the playing surface and rail (the padded border around the outside that often has drink or chip holders built-in). The most common base material is fiberboard or plywood.
The rail is padded and clad in leather or faux-leather. Sometimes there is a second border between the rail and the playing felt known as the racetrack, usually wood or faux wood.
Cloths, Mats & Table Toppers
At the bottom end are poker mats and cloths, which are just printed material that you place on top of your existing table. The mats tend to be of thicker material, such as foam or rubber, while the cloths are usually felt.
One step up from the basic mat is the poker table topper. These will vary in quality from a poker mat with additional chip/cup holders to the premium poker table toppers that are basically a poker table without the legs. Usually, the table topper will fold up for easy storage. Often a really high-quality table topper is more impressive than a cheap collapsible poker table - and it will last longer too.
There is a big variety in the materials used for a poker table's playing surface. The standard option is baize or felt - but paying more for speed cloth is usually the best choice. Speed cloth is a specially treated material that allows cards to slide across it easily. It is also stain- and spill-proofed.
Most quality poker tables will have a layer of foam padding under the felt/speed cloth to make the playing surface softer. This is nice-to-have but not essential. The rail will always be padded as this is where players will be resting their arms and hands.
There are plenty of accessories to go with a poker table:
- cup holders,
- automatic card shufflers,
- chip racks,
- drop boxes, and
- tournament timers.
They aren't strictly necessary, but they will take your home game to the next level. A food and drink trolley is also a nice addition if you like to play the perfect host.
A word of warning about automatic shufflers - they don't always work with different card sizes, and they wear out cards quicker than doing it by hand.
You can just about live without everything else in this article, but you cannot play live poker at home without playing cards. You'll need at least one deck per table - but preferably a backup or two as well.
Playing cards for poker come in two main materials: paper and plastic. Other materials are available - such as wood, metal, and carbon fiber - but these are mainly novelty items that don't handle well at all, and you wouldn't want to use them to play a night of poker.
Paper cards range in quality from the cheap cards you can buy in gas stations and supermarkets to quality cards like the Bicycle Brand. They are not expensive compared to plastic cards but the downside is that they are much less durable. Even the best paper cards will bend and mark easily. You may need more than one or two decks per night, even for a casual home game.
Plastic cards are the choice of casinos - they are more expensive than paper but much more durable. They don't bend or mark, and one deck should see you through multiple nights of poker. But some people don't like the texture or smell.
Sure, you can use pennies, paperclips, or matchsticks to count your bets - but poker chips are a necessity for any home game. Nothing beats riffling chips in your hand while you consider your next move, or pushing your stack into the middle and saying "All-in!"
Colors, Values & Denominations
Poker chips come in various colors to represent different denominations. In a cash game, they represent monetary amounts but in a tournament they simply keep score. There is no central authority in poker that dictates what color represents what value, but there is a widely used color scheme you will see a lot (at least outside of California).
White is usually $1, red $5, and green $20 or $25. Black is usually $100 and orange $50. But really there are no rules. What's important is that all the players understand the chip values.
The most basic way to distribute poker chips is to use the 4-3-2-1 rule. First, you set your lowest value chip to the value of one small blind. Then for every four of the lowest value chips in each stack, aim for three of the next lowest, two of the second-highest, and one of the highest. You don't need to be exact, but the idea is that players will always need a lot more of the lower denomination chips than the higher.
You'll need about 40 chips per person in cash games. You can get away with less per person in tournaments. You'll need a reserve of chips for rebuys.
Poker chips come in a variety of materials. Casinos use clay chips, which have other substances in them to make them more robust. These are difficult to get hold of as a consumer - and very expensive.
Clay composite chips use China clay in a mixture of other materials to give the clay feel for a much lower cost.
At the other end of the spectrum are the cheap tokens you see in gas stations and supermarkets. These are a waste of time - far better to look at ABS plastic "dice" chips or higher quality plastic options.
A lot of other chips available described as "clay" but are actually mostly plastic. They will be a plastic composite with a little clay added to the mixture. They often use a metal slug to give a weighty feel. But they are very affordable and robust - great for a first set.
Ceramic chips are also a popular high-quality option - but they are also plastic and not ceramic in the sense of china or porcelain. They have a porcelain-like feel, which some people don't like.
Casino poker chips do have a standardized size - 3.9cm in diameter and 3.5cm thick. Cheaper poker chips can be bigger and thicker though - this can be a problem if you have a standard poker chip rack.
Poker chip weights will vary depending on their quality - casino chips usually weigh about 11g whereas mid-range plastic chips tend to weigh around 14g.
Casinos sometimes use larger chips for very high denominations - or they might use poker plaques instead.
The three important positions in poker are the big blind, the small blind, and the dealer button. The dealer position is known as "the button" because of the practice of using a round disk (that looks like a button/badge) to indicate it.
The disc is passed clockwise around the table. The position to the left of the button is always the small blind, and the position to the left of the small blind is always the big blind.
If you want to recreate the casino experience, you will need three buttons:
- Small Blind
- Big blind
These aren't vital, but they are inexpensive and make things a lot easier during a home game.
A related but different item is the card protector. This is a disk, usually made out of metal, that you put on top of your hole cards so that the dealer knows not to muck them. Not really necessary for the home game - and you can always use a chip instead - but it's a good habit to get into if you play in games with a dealer.
Not everyone has the time or desire to wade through all of the poker cards and chip options on the market - they just want to play poker with their buddies at home.
A poker kit will provide everything you need to play. At a minimum that's cards and chips, but many will come with dealer buttons, a case, and often dice (in case you fancy playing craps).
Although the terms "poker set", "poker kit" and "poker chip set" are used interchangeably, some poker chip sets are literally that - a set of chips without cards. They allow you to buy chips in bulk - usually higher quality chips
Poker kits vary greatly in price and quality, from the cheapest kits for kids to luxury poker sets that cost tens of thousands of dollars for people with more money than sense. There are plenty of mid-range kits out there though with good quality for a fair price.
Ultimately, poker sets will never be quite as good as buying all of the components from dedicated suppliers - casino-grade chips, plastic playing cards, a quality carry case.
But the fact is most casual players aren't going to notice or care. They came to play cards, not admire your poker equipment. Poker chip snobs do exist though!
It's really important to store your poker equipment and supplies properly. Chips should be stored in chip trays, chip holders, or cases - and not kept loose. Paper playing cards have to be kept away from damp, and plastic playing cards do not react well to heat and sunlight.
Depending on how serious your home game is, you might want to invest in a safe or lockbox as well. Poker cases are usually lockable - but not that secure.
Many poker tables and table toppers are designed to fold up after use, which is great if you don't have loads of space. But another option is the permanent poker table that can be converted into a dining table by use of a lid.
There are a few different types of poker cases available. The briefcase-style case is the most common. These are usually made from aluminum but there are wooden and plastic ones available. They are lockable and padded on the inside with inbuilt chip trays. Aluminum cases are pretty cheap but you can spend a lot on a luxury hardwood case if that's your thing.
Another option is the acrylic box. These are usually higher capacity than the briefcase style, and see-through so you can display your chip collection to the world.
There are also chip carousels. These are round caddies, usually made of wood, with columns cut out around the outside for stacks of chips.
Custom Poker Supplies
For poker players who want to stand out from the crowd, there is always the option of customized poker supplies.
Personalized playing cards are more of a novelty item, but customized chips are a great upgrade for the serious home game. They prevent players from cheating by "introducing" outside chips into the game.
Custom poker equipment will naturally be more expensive and bear in mind that it's also a commitment to a particular supplier if you want to keep things consistent when you order more chips.
Poker Equipment - FAQ
Answers to the most common questions about poker equipment (e.g, tables, tops, felts, chips, playing cards, etc).
What basic poker equipment do I need for home games?
At the very least, the basic poker equipment you need for home games is a deck of playing cards, something to use as chips, and a flat surface to play on. But if you want to make things a bit more professional, you can invest in a poker table as well as a shuffler.
Can I buy poker supplies on Amazon?
For budget and mid-range poker supplies, Amazon is a great one-stop-shop - but as with buying anything from a third-party supplier via Amazon, you have to be careful about the quality.
There are plenty of legitimate poker suppliers who use Amazon as a secondary marketplace to reach more people - but also plenty of dodgy Chinese suppliers selling substandard products. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is!
But if you want to get the highest quality poker chips and poker tables, it's best to find specialist retailers. But you can get very high-quality cards on Amazon - look for KEM and Copag.
What supplies do you need to play Texas Holdem Poker?
The only mandatory items you need to play Texas Holdem Poker are cards and something to use as chips. Ideally, you will have some quality cards, poker chips, and a good playing surface.
Where can I shop for poker equipment?
In most countries, Amazon is your best starting point. They have a wide range of poker kits that contain everything you'll need for your home game. But if you want higher-end stuff, such as casino-grade chips or professional-quality poker tables, then you'll need to find specialized suppliers.
What are the best poker table accessories?
Useful poker table accessories include drinks holders, table covers, dealer chip trays, drop boxes, and automatic shufflers. Why not push the boat out and get a drinks cart so you can make sure everyone stays refreshed at your home game?
How to properly store poker supplies between games?
It's really important to store your cards and chips properly in between games - you can buy cases designed with space for both, and many poker chip sets come in their own case. There are also chip carousels and chip trays too. Keep your paper cards away from water and keep your plastic cards away from heat and sunlight!
Where to find discounted poker supplies online?
There are many specialist discount poker suppliers in the US - for example, Discount Poker Shop - but remember that you always get what you pay for. But even premium chip suppliers like Apache Chips offer some budget options.
Outside the US, Amazon will be a good place to start your search. In the UK, Premier Poker Chips has some good budget options.
Poker home games are so much better with the proper poker equipment and supplies. You can just buy yourself a poker kit that has everything you need - or you can spend a long time researching all the options and make your home game really special.