While poker is increasingly thought of as an online game, playing at home is still a valued pastime for a lot of people. Some friends still use poker as a way to get together every now and then, perhaps recapping a long week over a few cocktails and round after round of Texas Hold’em.
Others have espoused the benefits of the game as relates to holiday poker traditions, recounting occasions of family getting together over Old Fashioneds and cards, putting down their phones and enjoying one another’s company. An occasion like this is “good for the soul,” as one writer put it.
It does sound pretty appealing, right? To pull off nights like this though, you need to have the right setup, and that starts with the right poker table. Playing directly on an ordinary surface works, of course. But the moment the cards are gliding along felt instead of wood, marble, or glass, the whole evening just feels a little more special. So here are some helpful ideas about how to set up a proper table at home.
The Simple Options
The simplest option is to invest in a beautiful solid wooden table and then opt for a poker mat or topper. A wooden table is classic and extremely durable, and tends to make for a sturdy option with a level surface and (if it’s well made) no aggravating wobble; we can’t have chips falling off the edge, after all! (Just make sure the wooden surface is treated with natural oils to protect it from any spilled whiskey.)
On top of a wooden table though, you will need a felt (or imitation) cover, and there are generally two types: a semi-stiff tabletop or a roll-out mat. The former is essentially a foldable surface (typically a couple inches thick). The latter is quite literally a thin mat that imitates a poker table’s surface. Both of them can easily be placed on top of your wooden table when poker night begins, and may be folded or rolled up to be stored away once the game is over.
Prices for these options will vary depending on the material you choose (felt, rubber, or foam), as well as details like size, visual features, and so on. For the most part though, toppers and mats will be available for under $100.
The High-End Options
Another option, if you want to host more frequently and impress your guests, is to go for the “real thing,” so to speak. In this case, it’s a little bit more of an investment, both in your own home and in poker nights to come. And because it’s a little bit more of an investment, buying a real poker table needs to involve several specific considerations.
First, you’ll want to consider build quality. It’s recommended that you opt for a heavier table, and make sure it’s durable enough to withstand the inevitability of someone slamming a fist down in frustration. You’ll also want to inspect the felt surface and make sure it’s of high quality that will provide a nice feel to complement the playing conditions. For that matter, you can also order custom felt (for a few hundred extra dollars), and have a direct say in how it looks, what markings are on it (say, to facilitate different varieties of poker), or even what specific materials are used for protection against stains and the like.
You should also consider the shape of the table and the space you have available. While it sounds simple, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough elbow room for enough people to sit around the table; for a full-size table it’s recommended you have a space at least 14 feet wide and six feet long.
There are still more considerations –– like the material of the table (anything from oak to metal can be an option), extra features like drink holders or chip racks, and so on. A high-quality, permanent poker table can cost anywhere from one to a few thousand dollars (and up around $10,000 if you really go all out).
To heighten the home poker atmosphere, whether with friends or family, you can also look for some extra elements. For example, you’ll want cozy seating. Poker chairs can take almost any form; you can opt for lounge chairs on wheels, or tap into the trendy market for comfortable gaming chairs. These may have the reputation of looking a little unorthodox in some cases, but brands like Secretlab, Corsair, Razer, and more are now producing gaming chairs that are fairly neutral in appearance, and make for cozy, supportive options for long nights around the table.
Another extra consideration is a nice case of poker chips and cards (or perhaps a couple) to make the games feel all the more professional. It’s hard to explain the difference until you feel it yourself, but there is a strong distinction between playing with worn cards and cheap chips, and using sturdy, fresh cards and authentic clay chips. With a real set, the actual process of the game and the handling of the items will feel more special and authentic.
Ultimately though, it starts with the table. The moment you have a true poker setting –– whether by using a mat or topper on a sturdy wooden table, or setting up a full-fledged poker table –– your games will begin to feel more special. Whether for long evenings catching up with friends, holiday traditions with family, or any other similar use, the investment will prove its worth.