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Leisure Spending

5 Questions to Ask About Poker Tables

Learn what to look for in a quality poker table and see three models worth betting on.

1. How large should the table be?
The more elbowroom you have, the better -- and the less likely someone will sneak a peek at your cards and a fight will ensue. A standard round or octagonal table with a 54-inch diameter will comfortably seat four to five players, but for larger groups you should choose a 60-inch-diameter model or a Texas hold 'em table, which is oval and up to 108 inches (9 feet) long. Unless you're a poker junkie, you'll want a table with a flip-top that can be used for dining and entertaining.

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2. What materials are best?
A hardwood base, such as maple, oak or cherry, is a must for durability. A veneer finish and folding legs are signs of lower-quality tables. A 75% wool billiard cloth that's at least 22 ounces per square yard makes for a long-lasting gaming surface, says Patrick McGarity, manager of Robbies Billiards Game Room Outfitters in Williamsport, Md. And because you need to pick up your cards before you know whether to hold them or fold them, look for a layer of foam rubber underneath the cloth.

3. Does the type of chair matter?
If you sit through marathon poker tournaments, you want comfortable tilt-and-swivel chairs with gas lifts for height adjustment.

4. How much does a good table cost?
Basic hardwood models start at about $600, but custom tables cost $3,500 or more. Adding chairs often more than doubles the price tag. McGarity recommends budgeting at least $1,500 for a quality table and set of four chairs -- but be prepared to pay more. Purchasing a set is less expensive than buying the pieces individually.

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5. Can I design my own table?
Almost. Manufacturers can customize a table based on your preferences of wood type and stain, cloth color, and features such as drink holders and chip trays. Be prepared, however, to wait four to eight weeks for a custom table. Some companies, including Trinity Tables and Stine Game Tables, build all tables to order.

Three tables to bet on

Quality and versatility:
Mikhail Darafeev Corsica Game Table
www.darafeev.com
Price: $1,730 to $3,800

Available in 48-inch, 54-inch or 60-inch diameters, this octagonal table has an optional backgammon or chess inlay on the dining surface. Four chairs will cost you $3,480 extra.



Best value:
Legacy Billiards Classic 200 Game Table
www.legacybilliards.com
Price: $1,000

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This 54-inch round, flip-top table is sturdy and compact; it comes in cherry, mahogany, onyx and oak finishes. Four chairs will add $1,600.



Texas hold 'em:
Beach Texas Hold 'Em Dining/Game Table
For dealers: www.beachmfg.com
Price: $3,300

Markings for seven players and a dealer are on one side of the 7-foot tabletop, and the reverse doubles as a dining or conference table. A padded armrest lets you lean comfortably for hours. For four matching chairs add $6,000.