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The Evolution of the Poker Table

Home » The Evolution of the Poker Table

The Evolution of the Poker Table

A high angle view of people playing poker at an oval-shaped table with red felt.

To play poker, all you really need is a pack of cards and something to wager with, whether that’s casino chips, real money, or even something as simple as peanuts. Yes, many of us can’t imagine playing without a table, and a poker table is undoubtedly an iconic part of the game. It’s definitely way more comfortable and adds atmosphere to the experience, but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you’re looking to have a relaxing game with your friends, you can have a game on virtually any flat surface, including a floor or bed. 

That being said, if you’re someone who likes to take part in more formal poker games, or for someone who plays at home but is a bit more of a serious player, a poker table is a requirement. Let’s take a look at how the poker table has evolved, and how, even with the massive shift towards online poker, the poker table is still an important part of the game for so many people today.

The first card tables

While there’s no doubt that casinos and gamblers have made use of a variety of equipment, including wooden tables, for formal gambling, certain card games, such as poker and blackjack, were first played on generic card tables. These tables rose to popularity in 17th and 18th century Europe as card games became more popular, particularly among the rich who had more time for leisure. 

The design of these tables varied. Some featured half-circle, circular, square, or rectangular tops, and some even used green baize, or as it’s more commonly known today, felt, for the playing areas. These tables could usually be opened by raising half of the tabletop or had a small drawer, allowing the owner to store various small items, such as cards, inside the table itself. The designs also often had candleholders to allow people to play into the night, as well as small areas for placing items such as money. These tables were supported in a number of ways, including a singular pillar with feet, or the more traditional three or four legs.

The 1991 article “The Card Table” from American Heritage magazine shared how these popular pieces of furniture also found their way across the ocean to America in the 18th century.  

The modern poker table

At some point in recent poker history (most likely as casinos grew in popularity,) modern poker tables were created using newer materials such as metal and other synthetic materials. However, the majority of higher-end poker tables are still made from quality wood and feature green felt, although red or blue felt is also occasionally used. These tables come in three popular designs: 

Oval-shaped tables

The first is an oval shape with a special indent that indicates the dealer’s position. These tables also often have a small circular space around the edge for individuals to place items, such as a drink, into. Some even have special semicircular grooves so that you could stack your poker chips on their sides. 

Semicircle-shaped tables

The second popular shape that you’ll often see in casinos is the semicircular design. This type of table has the dealer seated on the straight side of the table, with the players seated along the circular side. It doesn’t offer quite as much room for players, but is definitely more efficient in regards to space, and also puts more focus on the dealer since everyone is facing them. 

Octagon-shaped tables

The third most common shape for a poker table is an octagon. These tables have many of the benefits of the larger oval-shaped tables, such as a place to put a drink or keep small items, as well as a place to stack your chips. However, they are still smaller than their oval-shaped counterparts, while still offering you more room than designs with a semicircular shape. This style of poker table is ideal for someone who likes to host regular poker games at home.    

The digital poker table

An example of a semicircle-shaped online poker table.

Poker tables may have evolved over the years, but that’s not the only way the game has changed. Today, the best way to find a game of poker is to sign up at a poker site and play poker online. The best online poker sites offer you the convenience of exciting casual and competitive poker games, including online poker tournaments, from the comfort of your home or while you’re on the go, the option to play at any time of day or night, a variety of different buy-ins, bonuses and much more. 

Interestingly though, despite the shift to the virtual world, many poker games have kept the play area virtually untouched. Even online, the game still predominantly uses a virtual poker table that appears in many ways identical to its offline counterpart. Whether it’s the shape, green felt, or position of the cards, game developers have chosen to keep this iconic part of the game mostly the same. The only major difference that you’re unlikely to miss is the lack of a drinks holder! This may be a conscious choice to help players who have only ever played offline transition to poker games online, but it also may be a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Homemade tables

If you’re a fan of poker and like to play at home, chances are you’ll want a dedicated poker table. While you could buy one or have one made, there’s also a thriving community of DIY enthusiasts who have built their own. If this sounds like something you’d like to attempt yourself, you can find dozens of online resources to help you make your very own poker table a reality.

Enjoy the best online poker in the USA

If the idea of building your own table sounds like too much effort, or you already have your own poker setup but find yourself short of players, you can always find incredible poker games online at BetMGM. Whether you’re new and are learning the game (check out our poker guide which covers all the basics and even includes poker tournament tips for our different tournaments if you are,) or you want to put your new online poker tournament strategy to the test, you can find the perfect game to suit your needs at our poker site. 

Register at BetMGM to get in on all the poker action!