The days of playing poker around your kitchen table for nickels and dimes are long gone. If you want your guests to enjoy themselves — and come back to play again — you need a nice chip set, good plastic cards, food, and beverages. You also need the most important piece of the home game puzzle: a quality poker table.
4 things to consider before buying a poker table
A poker table can be a big purchase, so let’s make sure you get it right the first time by making a few important decisions at the start. Thinking through your needs will also narrow down your options, because you have so many choices when buying a gaming table these days.
What’s your budget for buying a table? You can buy a full-sized Texas hold’em poker table for less than $100 if you’re really pressed for cash, up to many thousands of dollars for a really beautiful showpiece that will leave your guests impressed.
You can also get a simple poker table top that will flop onto your dining room table for as little as $30 new. But that won’t impress anyone and won’t work for more than a few people. It also won’t bring guests back for future poker nights if someone else is hosting a game with a nicer setup.
Low-budget poker tables
If you want a reasonable folding table that will seat nine or ten comfortably, you’ll need to spend between $250 and $400. You’ll get a stable surface, moderate-quality felt, and maybe even cupholders. It won’t be a work of art, but it’ll do the job just fine and stow away easily.
High-quality poker tables
For a serious dedicated poker table, expect to pay $1,000 new. Custom poker tables can run many thousands of dollars and include all kinds of nice features like chip racks, LED lighting, custom felts, and built-in phone chargers.
Used tables: the best of both worlds
If you’re serious about hosting a game and you have the space for it, a nice table will last a lifetime and leave a deep impression on your guests. Check sources like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There are often great deals on used tables in excellent condition. If you can get a $1,000 table for $150, that’s a serious bargain — even if you need to pay someone to put a new felt on it.
2. Build quality
The quality and durability of your poker table are important. Your poker night will be a mess if your table is slanted, sloppy, or just not sturdy enough to hold up to a loser slamming their fist on the table. People drink at poker night. People lose at poker night. And no matter how well you think your friends behave, at some point there will be one or two who have an off night.
A well-built table can prevent chips from knocking over, a table from falling down entirely, and the annoyance of having the table shake as some grump hits the rail with their palm in frustration.
How to spot a high-quality poker table
If you’re going with a dedicated table, you should buy something solid and heavy. Oak is a good choice. And a warranty is a good sign that your table will hold up well. A table with a long warranty period will hold those chip stacks even under a bit of stress.
You get what you pay for with a folding table. If you spend $100, you’ll likely get a wobbly table with legs that barely hold it upright and joints that loosen after a few long poker nights. At $300 or more, you can get a folding table that’s solid and should hold up well for a few years.
If you buy a folding tabletop to lay on top of another table, or a poker mat that just rolls out, it’ll likely hold up for a while. But make sure you put it on a table that can handle multiple players leaning on the edges.
3. Shape and space requirements
Do you have space for the table you want? Remember, you’ll put chairs around this thing and people need to get in and out. For a full-size table, you’ll need a dedicated room and an open space at least 14 feet long and six feet wide for everyone to be comfortable.
Also, will you host full-size games with eight or more players, or is this a smaller affair with just a few friends? If you’ll have more than seven players, you’ll want a “racetrack” table, rather than the round or hexagon-shaped tables that take up less space, but only work well for smaller numbers of players.
How to measure your poker table space
No matter what kind of poker table you buy, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space for your guests. A cramped room where guests have to get up from their seat so another player can sneak by every time they have to use the restroom or grab a drink is a poor setup.
The basic rule of thumb is to have three feet of space on all sides from the edge of your table. If you can make it four feet, that’s even better. The extra space really feels nice. You can also get custom poker tables built to fit your room. But if you aren’t buying a custom-made poker table, measure your space and check the dimensions of the table.
Round poker tables and racetrack tables
A round table will usually be no more than four feet across. Any larger makes it tough for players to reach the pot in the middle. That’s part of why the oval or racetrack table was invented. A round table is comfortable in a space at least 10’x10′. Remember that this isn’t the dimension of the room itself. You have to measure from the edge of that book case to the potted plant on the other side — the open space, in other words.
A racetrack table is around three feet wide and six to nine feet long. A full-sized casino table would need almost 15 feet of space, considering the extra three feet (at least) on either end.
4. Poker table felt
If you’re buying a folding table, you’ll likely stick with whatever felt comes with it, so check to make sure it has a surface you’ll enjoy playing on. With a dedicated table, it’s worth it to start with high-quality felt and then replace it on occasion.
Expect to spend around $200 to have someone come to your house and redo your table with a standard felt. It may be difficult to get the tabletop done correctly without wrinkles or loose areas, so it’s best to leave it to a professional.
Custom felt and other poker table coverings
A custom felt may cost a few hundred more, but unless your group is particularly rowdy, it’ll last for many years. Most of the materials used to cover poker tables are stain and water resistant, so a few spilled drinks shouldn’t have any significant effect on the look or feel.
The standard options for poker table coverings are felt, velvet, and speed cloth. Felt is the old standby, but it doesn’t last long under the stress of cards and chips sliding across it. It’s inexpensive, but it will pill up and become a hassle if you don’t properly care for it. Velvet is also susceptible to pilling, but it holds up better than felt and feels like a high-end material.
Teflon-coated speed cloth: the best poker table material
Teflon-coated speed cloth is the stuff used in casinos, and it’s the superior material. Speed cloth holds up for tens of thousands of poker hands, feels good, and is even more resistant to stains and dirt than the other options.
6 types of poker tables to consider
Before you buy a poker table, take a look at each kind of table and think about the option that makes the most sense for your game night needs. Playing poker with friends can be a great weekly activity if you have the right equipment. Remember to consider the space, how much you’ll use the table, and your budget.
1. Folding poker table
Folding tables have come a long way. There was a time when they were just repurposed banquet tables with rounded corners — wobbly things with rough edges and rails that fell off at the slightest push. But they’re a viable option now, especially if you don’t have space to dedicate to a full-size table all the time.
For a few hundred dollars (or cheaper if you live in a larger metro area and can find one used online), you can get a perfectly serviceable table that works well all night and then stores in a closet or along the wall in your garage.
If you want to spend a little more, but still need to save some space, you can get LED lights and nice cup holders for around $450. Triton makes a really nice high-budget poker table that folds in half on rolling legs for easy storage.
2. Poker table top
From large, semi-stiff table tops with cupholders, down to simple roll-out mats, you can find a poker table top for less than $100 — sometimes much less — in any size and shape.
Be warned that it’s rare to be able to get your hands on these mats or folding table tops to compare them, so you’ll likely have to rely on Amazon reviews and maybe inspect one or two versions at Target or Walmart.
While they’re better than they used to be, these table-top setups are still just a quick and easy solution that’s neither elegant nor solid. Potential downsides include spilled drinks, knocked-over chips, and unimpressed guests.
3. Texas Hold’em poker table
When we talk about a Texas hold’em table, we mean a full-sized oval or “racetrack” table. Other games are often played with fewer players, but hold’em is perfect for eight, nine, or even ten players, and the oval table was designed for more.
If your game is really serious and you’ll have a dedicated dealer who controls the game but doesn’t play, then a hold’em table is essential. Nicer tables, and even many hold’em tables with folding legs, will have a “dealer box” where the dealer sits. That box has add-ons like an extra-large chip rack for making change, or even a toke box for dealer tips.
While these tables take up more space than smaller options, they’re the only way to hold a proper game night where hold’em is the featured game.
4. Convertible poker table and dining table
You can buy a serious poker table that converts from a dining table to a real poker table. These aren’t cheap, but you get two tables in one and they’re often very nice.
Convertible poker dining tables are typically nicely appointed wooden tables, and usually come in round or octagonal shapes that go well in a dining room. Your dinner guests will have no idea that you’re going to flip the table top and have a game of high-stakes poker later in the evening on the very same table.
There are excellent options starting at around $1,000 from Hillsdale, Sunset Trading, and Hathaway. You may be able to find one used and get yourself a real bargain.
5. Customizable Poker Tables
If you want to spend some cash and get a really nice table — a centerpiece for your game room that will really wow your visitors — there are lots of options out there. Companies like BBO Poker Tables and Gorilla Gaming will build you nearly anything you can imagine.
You can find tables with features like LED lights under custom leather rails, custom felts with your logo on them, built-in card shufflers, and any combination of materials and colors. The downside is price. These tables start at around $2,000, and really nice ones can go as high as $10,000. Sure, they’re pricey, but they’ll last a lifetime and the nice ones are a work of art in your den or game room.
6. Build your own poker table
You could save a ton of cash and get a custom table to fit your space if you build your own poker table. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube and plans you can find online. But are you up to it?
The good news is that building your own table doesn’t require a ton of woodworking skill. You can learn the basics online and the materials aren’t expensive, so if you mess something up, you can always try a redo.
You’ll need basic DIY skills and some power tools. If you don’t already have tools, the expense of buying them and the materials might make a DIY table a more expensive option.
Poker chairs and accessories
Getting the right chairs is as important as your choice of poker table. There are chairs, and then there are poker-table chairs. If you just try to repurpose whatever chairs you have around the house like a big family Thanksgiving with the kids sitting on the piano bench, your guests won’t be comfortable.
Because people come in different sizes, with different preferences about how high they sit at a poker table, it’s important to get adjustable chairs. That’s how casinos do it, and you should do the same. Get good chairs with soft seats, high backs, and a lever that lets them move up and down. Your guests will thank you.
Other useful poker accessories include:
Side tablesCup holders that fit into the rail if your table doesn’t already have themChip racksChip setGood set of plastic cards (not cheap paper cards)Bluetooth music player so you can set the mood or change the song without getting up
Buying a poker table is a big decision. Do your research and see if you can test drive a few of the tables you’re interested in. If you can’t decide, always buy the nicer table. It will last for years — maybe a lifetime. Even if it’s a folding table, be sure to buy a solid one that will hold up to a little abuse. You never know what may happen to it when the night gets late and the pots get big.
Featured image source: Flickr by slgckgc used under CC license