with The Reverend Stuart Campbell
home hosts! By now, you’ve got a well-structured game, some nice
chips and some high-quality cards. (If you haven’t, either see the
back issues page or bloody well pay attention.) There’s only one
piece of equipment left to complete the transformation of your home
poker game from a half-arsed amateur shambles into a slick
professional operation that’ll make men envy you, women want to be
with you (whichever gender you are yourself), and small children and
dogs gaze up at you in awe - you need a proper playing surface.
all very well using your tablecloth, with its gingham pattern and
gravy stains (and if you’re using a bare table then go and stand in
the corner with your head hanging in shame, you heathen), but if you
want to feel like proper poker players you can’t do without some
classic baize to swoosh your cards across.
cheapest option is to drape a piece of cloth over your existing
table - you can either buy it off the roll (from around £10 a metre
upwards depending whether you want plain baize or fancy patterned
and specialised stuff), or you can pick up a 6-foot-by-3-foot poker
cloth with a marked betting line for about £15 on the internet. But
neither is ideal unless you’re prepared to go to a lot of faffing to
stop it sliding around, and to store it carefully rolled-up so that
you don’t have to spend half an hour ironing creases and wrinkles
out of it before your game.
the extra few quid it’ll cost, you’re much better off getting a
dedicated tabletop. These come in hundreds of different varieties of
shape, style and colour, but there are a few basic categories to
make choices in.
“Round” in this context doesn’t necessarily mean circular, just
rotationally symmetrical. The large majority of poker tabletops on
sale today are octagonal and seat eight, but watch out for cheaper
ones with eight sides but only six player positions. Oval tabletops
usually seat either eight or ten, and are much more expensive for
some reason (usually more than twice the price of the more common
octagonal or circular tables).
Weber tabletops like this one are the nicest oval
ones around, with lovely “racetrack”
surrounds and plenty of room for 10 players, but expect to pay
upwards of £65 for one.
Obviously your choice will depend on the shape of the table you’re
going to be using it on and how many players you plan to have, but
if you have a symmetrical table be aware that the octagonal tops
will usually give you more playing space than circular ones.
the case of round/octagonal tables, you can have a single-sided
version which will either have plain felt or painted markings, or a
reversible one with both. Surprisingly the single-sided ones don’t
tend to be any cheaper - the only advantages are that they’re
usually lighter, and the chip trays will be glued in rather than
pop-out, and therefore much less likely to fall out or break. (On
the other hand, with a double-sided tabletop it’s not a disaster
when some klutz spills his beer all over it – you can just wipe it
down, flip it over and carry on with the game while the other side
general rule you should try to avoid the tables with markings – for
a start they’ll usually be marked for blackjack rather than poker,
which is a bit tacky, and the paint tends to be quite thick and
inclined to catch the cards on its raised edges as they slide
across. Plain felt, or nothing but a simple betting line, is best.
Here we see a single-fold table (good) with
blackjack markings (bad). Reversible
tables always seem to open out the awkward way for using the plain
careful here. For some incredibly stupid reason, people often refer
to tables that fold in half (ie they have a single fold) as
“two-fold”, and ones that fold into quarters (ie they have three
actual folds) as “four-fold”, so look closely and see what you’re
actually buying. The multi-fold type obviously have twice as many
seams for the cards to catch on, which is bad, so avoid them unless
storage space is an issue. (A single-fold tabletop will be four feet
wide and two feet high, and that can be a problem if you don’t have
a lot of room. It’s also a right pain in the arse to negotiate
narrow corridors and stairways with compared to a quartered one.)
that’s it. With chips, cards and a good playing surface, that’s
totally, definitely all the equipment you’ll need to run a good home
poker game. OR IS IT?
Tune in next month for the surprising answer!
The internet is full of chancers and
outright thieves, and you need to be careful to check the small print
when buying a poker tabletop. Quite a few places will try to
flog you a four-foot-by-two-foot slab of heavy wood and
delicate felt without a carrying case to transport/protect it
in, cheekily charging up to an extra tenner for this essential
piece of equipment.
Without a case your precious tabletop will
last about five minutes before the cloth gets torn, stained or
eaten by moths, so don’t get mugged by ripoff merchants.
Prices for identical octagonal tabletops online vary from £20
(including case) to £50 (without one), so make sure you
double-check exactly what you’re getting for your money.
These good-looking and
relatively lightweight Grand Royale tabletops (once sold in
Burtons menswear shops, but now hard to find) are my own
favourites, but come in a cardboard box without a carrying
case, so you’ll have to buy one separately.
GET SO WILD ON MY MOTORBIKE
If space and money are no object (or if you
don’t own a table and still eat your dinner out of the pot),
you can go the whole hog and buy a full-blown free-standing
poker platform, rather than one that’s effectively just a lid.
At this point, the sky’s the limit. Dedicated tables start at
around £110 (for an eight-player “Nuts” table with folding
legs, or a cheapo circular one), zoom past £250 (for a very
lovely 10-seater Weber oval with black cloth, racetrack and
deep stainless-steel drink holders), and then speed off into
The pinnacle of poker-table madness is the
Harley-Davidson, an officially-branded maple-and-mahogany
monster with “chain nail accents” and a leather-type surface
embossed with a huge Harley logo that’s just asking to have
card edges catch in it and flip over as you try to slide them
across. (Indeed, barely a surface is left un-embossed or not
stamped with little metal H-D shields.)
Though it seats eight you only get four
chairs with it, and you have to assemble it yourself like an
IKEA flat-pack wardrobe when it finally arrives after the “two
to three months” delivery period. The price for such ultimate
poker luxury? A mere £4,800. Postage is free!
If you think the presence of a reversible surface that can also serve as a normal
dining table will save you from evisceration by your other
half, you’re only fooling yourself.
Something worth noting is that most of the
prices quoted here (and for that matter in previous columns)
are over-the-counter fixed ones. However, you can often find
bargains for brand-new gear on eBay if you’re prepared to
fight with other bidders rather than coughing up the “Buy It
Now” price. At the time of writing, pretty decent “Johnny
Texas” oval tables crop up fairly regularly in batches and
tend to go for around £35-45 including a cased set of 500
chips, which is a very worthwhile one-stop bargain if you’re
just starting out.
Weber tables can
also frequently be found in “Best Offer” auctions, where the
seller will quite likely knock a fair chunk (20-25%) off the
“Buy It Now” price for an instant sale. Sadly, the
Harley-Davidson table doesn’t seem to crop up very often.
The Reverend is Assistant Organiser of the
Bristol & South West
Poker Meetup Group, which runs scheduled single- and
multi-table tournaments and cash games at numerous venues across the
region and is sponsored by Poker.co.uk.
(Click the banner to play with other RSWoP viewers, and earn
RSWoP referral bonuses.)