Jazz Up Your Home Game
July 19, 2006  
2006 Randy Saylor  

I’ll wager you’re not in Las Vegas right now, sitting in the Big Game at the Bellagio. Maybe your big stakes poker happens when you take a break from online freerolls and play a .25/.50 home game, with maybe a $5 rebuy tournament for good measure. It matters not at all what your stakes are. What matters is the quality of your game and the enjoyment derived from it.

One thing you can affect, however, is the quality of equipment and atmosphere at your home game. This article is a step-by-step to turning your home game into the envy of the neighborhood.

Step One: Location, Location, Location

It’s the catch phrase in real estate. Make it the maxim for your poker night as well. Tell your significant other that the den is now a poker room. Or the office. Or the spare bedroom. Or the mother-in-law’s bedroom. (Suggested google search: “marriage counseling”) Whichever you choose, make sure it allows space for your table and chairs with several feet around the perimeter for walkers.

Step Two: Prepare the Room

Decide an overall design theme. Light and airy doesn’t do it for poker. Poker fits best in a darker room with solid color walls and rich woods. If you have space, a foosball table or pinball machine can occupy you between games.

“Dark room” doesn’t mean “no light at all.” Devise a good plan for lighting. A high quality billiard table light should serve very well and add style to the table itself. Depending on the room size, wall lighting, track lighting, or table lamps can fill the gaps. Forget the fluorescents, however. Their harsh light and incessant hum is fine for grocery stores and bad for poker.

Decorate the walls, but “Dogs Playing Poker” is not allowed. This clich should be against the law. A few old tin advertising signs, beer signs, and maybe a “Jim’s Poker Room” sign are in order here (assuming your name is Jim).

The floor under the table should be soft, thick carpet. Even though you’re sitting, comfort still matters. If the room is not carpeted, check rug prices and consider having a carpet remnant made into a rug.

Add a refrigerator and snack table, and you’re almost ready to play.

Step Three: The Table

Dump the kitchen table and play on a casino quality poker table. The table, after all, is the centerpiece of this room - the pedestal on which the ceremony unfolds. Casino quality need not break your bankroll, either. If you’re not a high roller, consider a home-built poker table. There are many sites with plans, instructions, diagrams, and photos of beautiful poker tables built by hobbyists.

The best online resource for home-built poker tables is the Poker Table Talk forum at . Members of that forum post pictures, tips, and directions for completed projects.

Usually, any sturdy table can serve as the base for a poker table. The felt covered top is attached firmly to that, and padded rails are added. Many builders go further with options such as racetracks (the plastic outer ring on the playing surface, like on the World Poker Tour tables), embedded lighting, dealer trays, and cupholders. The most important design element is the felt. High quality table felt is worth its weight in gold for a good poker experience. The second most important element is the padded rail. Take the time to plan and do this one correctly.

Step Four: The Supplies

Once the room is furnished, all you need are chips and cards. Plastic chips and cheap cards will do in a pinch, but high quality selections will enhance your poker experience. and are two great online sources for casino quality clay chips, Kem and Copag playing cards, dealer buttons, chip racks, and card protectors. Tournament round timers are also available, or you can use the free download from .

Step Five: The Players and the Game

Find a bunch of friendly poker players and invite them. It helps if they’re rich and fishy. Establish a set of house rules and determine in advance how disputes will be settled. Set out some chips, order a pizza, BYOB, and have fun.

Step Six: Shuffle Up and Deal!

I’m free on Thursday nights after 7 pm. I’ll see you there. I like pepperoni and onions.

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