You can play poker almost anywhere - but if you want to take your home poker equipment to the next level then you really need the proper equipment and a convenient playing surface. The obvious choice is a poker table, but is it realistic?
Obviously, not everyone has enough space or money for a casino-grade poker table. Yet, there are plenty of other options out there. Here's our guide to poker tables.
Types of Poker Tables
Once you've decided you want a poker table, you need to decide what sort to get. There's a great variety in the poker tables available on the market today, and not only in quality and cost. Tables vary from the permanent professional poker table down to the flimsy rollable poker mat - with several options in between.
Professional Poker Tables
When space and cost is no object, a casino-style, custom-made professional poker table is the obvious choice. These are usually oval- or kidney-shaped, measuring around 2.5m long, 1.2m wide and about 0.75 m high. The kidney-shape is just an oval with space cut out for a dealer station.
A padded armrest known as the rail runs around the outside of the playing surface, and there is sometimes a second "racetrack" border just inside that. LED trims are also popular for that Vegas glow!
At the top end, the playing surface will be high-quality speed cloth that is spill- and stain-resistant, and the legs will be made from hardwood. You can even get RFID-enabled tables to track everyone's hole cards for broadcast. And some come with dining attachments so you can convert your poker table into a dining table.
A professional poker table won't come cheap, especially if its custom-made - look to budget between $500-$10,0000.
Foldable Poker Tables
Not everyone has the space for a permanent poker table, and collapsible poker tables offer a great alternative.
Although collapsible tables might bring to mind the old-school square card table with folding legs that your grandma might use, you can find high-quality foldable poker tables that look the part but can be easily stored. Sometimes it's just the legs that fold away, but there are also collapsible tables where the table top folds up too.
Lightweight Poker Tables
Not all collapsible poker tables are made equally. At the top end you have tables that are very similar to the permanent poker table, only they can be folded away. At the other end you have lightweight foldable tables that are flimsy and have stability issues. Not ideal for big games with a lot of players!
Cheaper foldable tables do not tend to last long, often sagging within a year or so. You get what you pay for so, be careful when buying a seeming bargain. Of course, if you just want a table that's light and easy to transport, then it might be what you're looking for.
Dimensions of Poker Tables
Poker tables come in all shapes and sizes. The traditional shape is the oval table (and the kidney-shaped variant with the dealer station) - but you will also see round and octagonal tables too.
The size of poker table you need is dictated by how many players you need it to fit. When it comes to poker, the more elbow room is better - but not so much that you can't talk or deal to each other! Realistically you will need around 60cm per person.
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Oval poker tables have four sides - two long edges and two short ends - and this means that as a rough rule of thumb, you can take the length of an oval poker table and divide it by 25 to give you the number of players it will comfortably sit.
The average casino poker table is around 250cm long, and they are designed to fit nine or ten players, with space for a dealer too.
You also need to consider the width, because you need room for the hole cards, the chips and the community cards - as well as enough leg room. The average casino table is around 120cm wide, for example.
Shapes of Poker Tables
The different poker table shapes all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Let's look at each in turn.
The kidney-shaped poker table is also known as the scallop or cut-out shape, and is the most common poker table in casinos and card rooms. It's an oval table with a small section cut out on one side for the dealer's station.
Often the dealer's station will have a chip rack and no rail, which means you can't really use it for a player unless you're desperate.
If you don't have a permanent dealer and you need the space, then you're probably better off getting an oval table instead.
Oval poker tables are the most popular shape for the home game without a permanent dealer. You will occasionally find them in card rooms and casinos, but they are very common for mid-range consumer tables.
If you are rotating the dealer though, the players sitting at each far end have drawn the short straw, because they'll have to send the cards a long way! However, if the playing surface is speed cloth then that will help a lot as cards move a lot easier than they do over basic felt.
Round poker tables are the smart choice for smaller home games. Everyone's closer together and dealing from the ends is no longer a problem as there are no ends! The round table takes up a lot less space than the oval table as well.
However, some people find round tables a bit cramped. They use the space slightly less efficiently than octagonal tables, with a larger area-to-edge ratio - meaning they will have less space around the edge for the same amount of space they take up in the room.
Octagonal poker tables solve the inefficiency problem of round tables by replacing the curves with eight flat edges. That should mean eight players - still not full ring, but sufficient for casual home games. However, many people still find octagonal tables a bit cramped - especially if the sides are not long enough.
Octagonal tables are usually better for six-max games than for eight players. They do take up more space than square or oval tables for the same edge-length.
If your poker table will be multi-use, this shape is also a lot better for board games than the traditional long table. Likewise, if your poker games are self-dealt.
Rectangular poker tables are pretty rare, but most basic card tables are square or rectangular - and so are many dining tables. So they are a common shape for home poker games.
The good thing about this shape is that it's quick and easy to manufacture, making it cheaper. You'll also be playing on a rectangular table if you use some sort of poker mat or table topper to repurpose your existing dining table for your home game!
The bad thing about rectangular tables compared to oval tables is that players can't sit at the corners of the rectangular table like they can the oval table.
Heads-up poker tables cater to the purist who wants the ultimate test of poker skill: one on one. Professional heads-up tables with enough room for a dealer are used in competitive heads-up tournaments, but table toppers are also available for home play.
Of course, you can play heads-up poker on any poker table - but if you play a lot of heads-up (whether by choice or circumstance), take a look at this option.
Poker Table Parts
A poker table is made up of a frame (or base) and a table top. The table top itself consists of the rail and the playing surface - and sometimes a racetrack in between the two. The playing surface is where the magic happens but the frame is very important too.
Poker Table Frame
The poker table frame is the structure that holds the poker table top. Usually it consists of a base and legs - basically a regular table. The base is usually fiberboard or plywood and the legs are usually made from metal or hardwood. It needs to be sturdy though - a solid poker table starts with a solid foundation!
A high-end permanent table might have carved hardwood pedestal legs, while a more basic portable table will have collapsible metal legs. There'll be a big difference in stability - and price.
Poker Table Top
The poker table top is the most important part of the poker table - it's where all the action happens, and it determines the overall size and shape and therefore how many players can sit around it comfortably.
The raised and padded armrest around the playing surface is known as the rail. Some tables also have a second inner border called the racetrack. This is usually polished wood, and can have chip racks and drinks holders built in. Some tables put their drinks holders into the rail instead. Think hard about whether you want a racetrack - yes they look cool, but they also reduce the playing surface area.
Almost all poker table tops are built out of plywood or a particle-board such as MDF (medium-density fiberboard), even the high-end ones. You'd have to spend tens of thousands on a luxury bespoke table if you want to find one that doesn't - but these really are for people with more money than sense.
The rail will be covered in padded vinyl or leather, and the playing surface will be covered in felt or speed cloth.
Some poker tables also have lids that can be put onto the table to convert it into a dining table - or just to protect the playing surface.
Poker Table Felt
Poker table felt can be one of several materials, but by far the most common are felt and speed cloth.
Regular felt looks fine but isn't spill- or stain-proof and the cards won't move across it very well. This is the standard material used for home poker tables, but you should consider paying a little extra for speed cloth.
Speed cloth is like baize/felt but has a special coating that makes it much smoother. The cards fly across it at speed - hence the name. It's usually scotch-guarded to protect from spills and stains as well.
Speed cloth gives that authentic casino experience - and makes your life a lot easier if anything gets spilled! Speed cloth is often called "suited speed cloth" because it will have a card suit pattern.
Poker Table Padding
Poker table padding isn't strictly necessary but it will greatly improve the playing experience. A padded rail makes things more comfortable for the players, while padding the playing surface makes for a smoother playing experience.
Where To Buy Poker Tables
Where to buy a poker table really depends on your budget. If you don't want to spend a lot, then you can start with Amazon. Watch out for poor quality tables though - look for respected brands like Brybelly or Barrington. You should also consider table toppers and mats too, because they offer great value-for-money, especially if your home game isn't too serious.
If you want something a little higher-end, and you don't mind paying for it, then your best bet is a specialist poker table supplier.
Poker Table Accessories
A poker table is great but it's just the beginning of the story when it comes to a great poker home game. There are a few poker table accessories you need to think about investing in too.
Poker is a card game, but it's also a wagering game. That's where chips come in. Yes, you can use matchsticks, dried beans, or pennies - but everybody knows poker night isn't poker night without poker chips.
You can pick up plastic chips very cheaply at the supermarket or gas station but these really are the worst, and barely better than nothing at all! Dice chips are the next level up, but it's worth spending a little more on a plastic composite chips - or really splash out and get ceramic, clay composite or even casino-grade mineral clay chips.
The nicer your table, the nicer your chips should be, and vice versa - afyer all, you wouldn't drink fine wine from a plastic cup!
You can play poker without chips, but you can't play it without cards. Paper cards are cheaper than plastic cards but they are far less durable. Poker is a game where there's a lot of card handling and shuffling. Paper cards can get bent and marked easily. That's not really a problem if you're just playing for fun, but with serious money on the line you'll need plenty of backup decks - or spend the extra for plastic playing cards.
Poker night always involves a lot of shuffling. You can do it by hand - but even a riffle shuffle needs to be done seven times to truly randomize the deck, and the more common overhand shuffle would take thousands!
If you aren't good at shuffling, then automatic card shufflers aren't expensive. However, be aware that they tend to damage cards faster than regular shuffling - and sometimes they won't work with certain sizes of cards.
The tip box - or drop box - is a metal lock box with a slot at the top to put coins, notes and chips into. They aren't necessary for a small friendly home game - but when there's real money at stake it's very reassuring to have.
The dealer station needs a chip and card tray, so if you have a kidney-shaped table this will often be built in. But if not, you can buy a tray separately to keep any spare chips organized. Some tables will have individual trays for the players - but most people like stacking their chips!
Poker night just isn't poker night without a few cold beverages to go with it. But the last thing you want is people putting their drinks directly onto your playing surface. Even if you have scotch-guarded speed cloth this is a recipe for trouble. Many tables will have cup-holders built in - but if not, you can buy standalone cup-holders separately and place them on the playing surface.
Do-It-Yourself Poker Table
A poker table is a much needed piece of equipment when you are a hardore poker payer. It creates that enthusing cardroom mood at home. Dim the light, light up a cigarette (don't!), and play.
However, looking at quality tables, you will probably be set back $1,000, or £800. So, if you are a maker, you should make your next project building a DIY poker table. There are plenty of poker table plans online so pick the one you prefer in a practical way.
The steps involved to create your own DIY poker table are:
- Choose a poker table plan
- Get your materials
- Get your tools
- Cut the first sheet of wood
- Cut the second piece of wood
- Gluing and screwing
- Bolting the rail
- Foam, felt & legs
- Finishing the rail
- Affixing the rail
Poker Tables - FAQ
Answers to the most common questions about poker tables.
What are the official dimensions for poker tables?
There are no official dimensions for poker tables, but casino tables tend to be around 2.5m by 1.2m with a height of around 0.75 m. The actual playing area is a little bit smaller when you account for the rail and racetrack.
Can you play poker on a round table?
You can play poker on a round table. In fact, they are a great choice if you have a smaller game and a lack of space. Other poker table shapes do take more space.
What are the drawbacks of foldable poker tables?
Foldable poker tables can be less sturdy than permanent poker tables, and they can look and feel cheaper. They will cost less but this is often a false economy because they won't last long. There are high-quality folding casino tables on the market where you'll barely tell the difference - plus they are much easier to store and transport.
What is the best wood to use for a poker table frame?
Fiberboard and plywood are the best woods to use for a poker table. Even most high-end poker tables will be built around a base of fiberboard - but they will usually have much more expensive wood as cladding and legs.
How much does a poker table cost?
A poker table can cost anywhere from under $100 for a cheap collapsible poker table all the way up to thousands of dollars if you get a casino-quality poker table custom made with the finest materials. You can recreate the experience for even less money if you buy a poker table topper or poker table mat.
Can you refelt a poker table?
You can replace your poker table's felt - but often it will cost you more than just buying a new table. It's only worth it if you have a high-end table that you're willing to spend hundreds of dollars (and maybe more) refelting.
What are the advantages of octagon poker tables?
The octagonal poker table is great for smaller games and smaller spaces. Although they are meant for eight players, they are even better with six. However, if you plan on hosting more and you have enough space, then consider the classic oval table.
What are the most important accessories for a poker table?
Cards and chips are the two most important accessories for any poker table - but assuming you already have these then a drinks trolley, drop box and cup holders are great additions too.
What poker table do I need for home games?
The poker table you need for your home games depends on how serious it is, how many people will play and how much space you have.
If your home game is small and self-dealt, then it makes sense to get a smaller round or octagon table. If it's larger, or you have a dedicated dealer then look at the classic casino-style oval or kidney-shaped poker table - but if you don't have space then you'll have to get a collapsible one.
What are the differences between foldable and professional poker tables?
The main difference between a collapsible poker table and a professional casino-style poker table is that one can fold away while the other cannot - but the collapsible table will be cheaper and usually less sturdy. There are some higher-end collapsible tables out there but they will never be as good as the custom-made permanent poker table!
If you're serious about playing poker at home, then a good poker table will elevate your home game into something special. There are options for every budget - but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for - unless you want to make it yourself!