Table Design

Cardroom Managment

August 16, 2007

I’ve just returned from Vegas, and spent a lot of time in poker rooms. This resulted in some inevitable comparisons on how they were run, and the effect it had on the rooms. So here’s some (admittedly player-centric) advice on how to run a good room.

I believe that the tables a poker room installs have a lot more to do with the room’s success or failure than most people think. Poker tables are definitely not created equal in terms of the comfort they afford the players and dealers. While professional players (and of course the the dealers) are unlikely to quit a game simply because the table is uncomfortable, recreational players will. And if the recreational players stop playing, a game eventually dies. Here are my thoughts on what makes a good and bad table.


I think it’s pretty clear that large is better. The primary cause of discomfort at the poker table is being crammed in too close to one’s fellow players. A bigger table aleviates this problem, but alo provides a host of other bennefits:

  • Makes it less likely drinks will be spilled
  • Decreases the chance of people seeing eachother’s hole cards (intentionally or unintentionally)
  • Makes it more obvious when someone bets (since they have to move farther)
  • Provides spac e to assemble chips before a bet

Remember that the space provided each player needs to be appropriate for the largest players, not the average player, unless the room is prepared to turn away plus size players.

Just like with side to side space, the table needs to accommodate the tallest players you’re likely to see. Players at least 6’5″ or so are not uncommon. This means the table needs to be fairly high. Shorter players can be accomodated via chairs that adjust in height or cushions for the chairs.

Rail Design

The table rail needs to have three properties. It must be comfortable to lean on, sufficiently high that cards are not dealt off the table, and designed such that cards cannot slip under the rail.


Pretty much all Vegas tables have some sort of cloth or suede surface. MGM grand, however, has a major improvement: a track of marble around the outside of the table about 4-5 inches widebetween the felt and the rail. This provides a place to stack chips where they won’t tip over. It’s an excellent idea. Based on the number of drinks I saw spilled on the tables, Scotch Guard on the felt would also be a good plan.

Cup Holders

Tables with cup holders are far superior to those without. Nothing stops the action like a spilled drink. Of course, the cup holders must be large enough to accommodate all cups used for drink service.

9 vs. 10 handed

Making the table 9 handed for holdem instead of 10 handed has many of the same benefits of a large table. When combined, they make the table positively spacious. Playing 9 handed also tends to stimulate action, which is a good thing.


Chairs needs to be comfortable, and easy to slide or roll. Again they need to be designed for the largest players, not the average player. Adjustable height is also nice, although not mandatory since cushions can be used.

The First And Last Seat

Far too many Vegas tables has hard stuff where the 1 and 9/10 seat’s elbows would rest – drop boxes, game/rake plaques, electronics etc. All of this makes those two seats very uncomfortable. At a large 9-handed table there should be more than enough room to move these seats away from the dealer far enough that they have a normal rail and plenty of elbow room for everyone.

Auto-Shuffler Location

The most frequent cause of misdeals I saw in vegas was cards catching on the indentation for the shuffle master. By positioning it off to one side and relatively close to the dealer, this problem can be minimized.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on what separates an acceptable poker table from a great poker table. Hopefully some room managers will take notice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Caesar’s room, which seems to be growing rapidly, has the best tables I encountered.

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