Poker Table Design
"You cannot rotate the deal on a casino style table. They are too long".
Considerations in poker table design. Design aspects that others don't talk about
Shape, size, surface material, padded rail or chip trays and cup holders. These are the primary considerations in table design. Since the poker popularity explosion in the late 90’s just about everyone that has ever thrown a blanket over the kitchen table to have the guys over has set out to design and build a real poker table. I’ve seen quite a few homemade tables, some good, some impractical. This article will break down, in order of descending importance, the main things one should consider when setting out to design and build a poker table. There are certain pitfalls that almost every first time builder falls into that I will make you aware of.
Shape & Size
For this discussion I’m talking about two basic shapes; Round, which, for the purpose of this article, includes octagon and all other symmetrical shapes, and the elongated oval. In a nutshell round tables are best suited for a game that rotates the deal and elongated oval tables are best suited for a game with a dedicated dealer.
So if your home game always rotates the deal the decision as to what shape to go with is easy right? Well maybe not, Remember, this table will be the center piece of your poker room. Your players are going to spend hours sitting at it, up close and personal, inspecting every nuance of its construction. A round table is more difficult to build due to the fact that almost all material available comes only 48” wide. A round table that will accommodate eight or more players will have to be about 60” in diameter. Yes of course it can be done but it takes more skills. That’s why most table builders design there table based on what can be cut from a 4’ X 8’ sheet of plywood. This is where you have to be honest with yourself, if you’ve got the skill set, time, and desire, then consider a round table. Otherwise you might want to comprise your design a little bit (as I have done with my tables) and go with a wide elongated oval. It is possible to build an oval table long enough to accommodate ten players yet not so long that its almost impossible to deal from the end positions. You will want to use the full 48” width of the material. Your table will need to be about 78” long to seat ten players and about 60” long to seat eight.
If your game uses a dedicated dealer either a round or oval table will work. Most dealers will prefer the oval shape. Remember your table is for a home game, not a casino game, there are almost certainly going to be times when an impromptu card game breaks out and you will need to rotate the deal. For this reason I would never build a casino style table. These tables are long and narrow, and that’s fine because in a casino there will never be a game that rotates the deal. Ever. You cannot rotate the deal on a casino style table. They are too long. So use the full 48” width of your material, and then you don’t have to make your table so long that you can’t rotate the deal if the need arises. Casino tables are only about 36” to 40” wide so they have to be long.
This is where the rubber hits the road. The purpose of the table surface is to make the cards and chips easy to handle. There are two parts to the surface; cloth, and padding. Cloth is available in many materials; speedcloth, velveteen, felt, and others that go by various names and are designed for gaming tables. All of these are fine. My preference is felt. I like the way it looks, feels and wears. I use billiard table felt but any good quality woven felt is good. Good felt is not cheap though. Speedcloth or velveteen will save you money. What you want to stay away from is any kind of pressed felt, the kind that is used for crafts. It will quickly start falling apart and you will have felt balls everywhere!
Padding is required. Padding makes it easy to pick up cards and chips from the table. I’ve found that a cheap velour blanket doubled up is perfect. Head over to your local Kmart or Wally World and make sure you get a blanket big enough to cut two layers out of.
Cup Holders & Chip Trays
If you are going to add cup holders to your table make sure there deep enough to prevent a spill. Otherwise what’s the point? If you can provide service tables for players to put their drinks on that is preferable to having them on the table.
Chip trays are an alternative to a padded rail. The purpose of the padded rail is to keep things on the table. Not player comfort. If you are not incorporating a padded rail into your design then chip trays will help keep things from rolling off the table.
The specific construction methods used in poker table construction vary greatly and are beyond the scope of this article. If you want some ideas just search the internet and you will find lots of table plans and ideas. Hopefully I’ve given you a little food for thought. I hope your table project will be as rewarding as mine have been.