Save your money for chips…
This post is based on one I did back in 2014 for Instructables, since then it’s had over 11k views. It makes sense to bring the love over here too. Lots of people want to know how to make an easy poker table, apparently. The quality of the photos is due to them being taken on a 2013 era smartphone.
I looked online for instructions on how to make a poker table and there are tons of plans but… they are all quite complicated. I wanted something much simpler and so I created this 8 seater table from offcuts I had lying around. Not everyone is going to have “offcuts” this size but it uses cheapish materials like MDF and plywood so even if you have to buy stuff, it shouldn’t break the bank.
It’s a nice size for 8 adults, maybe a little tight when all 8 places are filled but definitely comfortable. It doesn’t have legs, it’s intended to go on top of another table and then be stored away between uses.
Making the Player Positions
Part of what makes this table easy (and cheaper) is that it uses a 1220x1220mm board as the starting point. This comes out of a single MDF Board 18x1220x2440mm cut square. Basically, half a board.
I was lucky to have some beech veneered ply for my player positions, you’re going to want something similar if you want the end product to look halfway decent. Cut these into 225x460mm panels that taper in so that one of the long edges is trimmed down to 270mm.
Tip: If you’re unsure about your measurments, make a card template and use this to layout on your MDF. This way you can be sure everything will fit before you start cutting your timber.
If you want to make a table with fewer positions, 6 for example, you’d need to adjust these measurements. Essentially you just divide 360 by the number of positions and then half the answer, this gives you the angle to cut on the sides of the boards.
Laying Out the Overall Shape of the Poker Table
Find the centre of your board and mark it with a pencil. Layout the north, south, east and west positions so they line up with the centre of the board leaving 10mm between the pieces and the edges of the board to accommodate your trim. Position the remaining four places in between these so that they are even and symmetrical.
Place strips of wood the same thickness as your place boards in between, leaving a gap at the end to accommodate the lighting. Panel pin everything into position. Take care to put the nails as far into the corners as you can without splitting out the edges. Doing it this way means the pins will be hidden by the dividers.
Make the dividers, cut the edging and varnish your player places.
I’ve missed a fair few photo opportunities here but you can see the end results and work back from there.
Cut an 80mm wide strip of 25mm MDF into 8 x 250mm pieces and shape them as you like. I chamfered all the edges but you could just do the back corners to match the outline of the table. Here you can see the edging in place too, these can be a bit tricky to get the angles right. Do the maths first and use an accurate angle guide with your saw or an adjustable mitre saw.
Now is also the best time to finish your player places so they can be drying while you work on the other stages. You’ll want to use something waterproof and hard wearing. People will most likely be putting down drinks, it is a poker table after all.
Add the cloth
So it turns out that actual poker table felt is pretty expensive so I just used a hard wearing green cloth that I like the shade of. It’s important that you don’t simply paint the table at this stage. The cloth is there for good reason, it stops the cards slipping around while you’re playing.
Start by masking off everything but the inside of your table with newspaper and tape. Then roughly cut your cloth so that is just oversized for the space in the centre. Cover the MDF with a good layer of spray adhesive, strong stuff. Don’t use the repositionable stuff or you’re likely to get bubbles as the table flexes while being moved.
Carefully lay your cloth onto the table and smooth it into the corners with a plastic ruler or something similar. Start in the middle and smooth out towards the edges in all directions. Using a cloth cutting tool or a sharp craft knife trim away the excess cloth.
Don’t rush this stage, arguably this is the most important part of the project. Bubbles, wrinkles or other imperfections need to be dealt with before the glue dries. The whole point in making a poker table is to have a nice smooth surface on which to play cards, get it right!
Paint the Dividers and Edging
MDF is like a sponge on the cut edges. Seal your MDF with a mixture of PVA and water to minimize the amount of primer you’ll need. MDF sealer works too but is quite expensive. Sand it down when dry and then do it again. The more time invested in this early stage the better the final finish will be. I recently learned that wood filler is a good way to seal the cut edges on MDF too, though I’ve not tried it yet.
Automotive filler primer is the best thing in my opinion for getting a good finish on decorative MDF like this. Coat your dividers in as many layers of this as you can get out of the tin.
I missed the spray painting stage with my photos but it’s fairly self-explanatory. I chose a piano black but it’s really up to you, a matte finish will hide any imperfections a bit better. Follow the directions on the can of whatever you choose to use, all spray paints are a bit different. The edging pieces are done in the same way and at the same time.
Make the Light Diffusors
I used some opal acrylic for this but any clear plastic and a similarly sized piece of plain paper as a backing would have an equal effect.
Cut small pieces of acrylic to match the spaces between your dividers. Drill a hole large enough to accommodate whatever light source you plan to use in the centre of the cavity. I used LEDs. Line the cavity with tin foil (reflective side) and double-sided tape. Aluminium insulation tape would do the job if you have some lying around. Poke through the hole with a sharp pencil and fix the acrylic in place with glue.
Get to Work With a Black Marker
Bodge alert! There are definitely more professionally respectable ways to do this but this is quick and works fine.
Use a decent black marker to colour around any areas that will show between your painted black pieces and the other pieces. It’s a little detail but it goes a long way to making the final product look semi-professional.
Fix It All Together
You may decide to paint all surfaces of your dividers but I opted for some custom acrylic end caps with etched the card suits. Fix these to the ends using hot glue. Rough up the back of them a bit to get a good bond or they will fall off eventually.
Glue the dividers into place. If you’re planning to move the table around a lot you should screw into them from the bottom of the table. I added a small piece of foil on the bottom of the divider to finish the reflective surface of the light cavity. Stick down your edging around the outside and inside of the table.
Find a table to set it on.
I’d recommend the table is smaller than the poker table. Get some rubber pads to stick on the bottom of your poker table. These will stop it from sliding about and marking your actual table.
Maintenance should be low, just give it once over with a vacuum cleaner before and after each use. Storage is a bit of a pain though, it’s fairly big and finding a spot for it can be difficult. You could put hinges on it but this would ruin the clean playing surface. If anyone builds this or something similar and solves this issue let me know.
Also published on Medium.