Running the Table

What does it mean to "run the table"? Invariably it is a term you will hear if you follow the world of sports, and the reality is that there are references to it in several places.

It is widely believed that the phrase "running the table" has its origins in the game of pool, and that it refers to the situation where a player pockets every ball right from the break in eight-ball, or goes on an extended run of consecutive successes within the course of one turn.

It is also a term that is frequently used in football, within the discussion of whether a team (more likely a college team) can win the rest of its games, perhaps en route to a conference or national championship. For example, the Florida State Seminoles, it can be said, ran the table for the entire season, and in the process, won the national championship of college football. If a baseball team wins each series it is involved with on the way to a World Series championship, as the San Francisco Giants have in three of the last five seasons, they are also running the table in a sense, and the expression would be even more applicable if they won each series without losing a game.

In a general sense, to run the table could conceivably refer to any instance in which nothing but success is attained over a period of time, culminating in a certain ultimate result. So it stands to reason that we can apply it to gambling, although the laws of the activity dictate that it is not going to happen all that often. For instance, one could be at a craps table and catch a very hot run, winning one bet after another, but there would be no "running the table" unless the player was able to walk away from the table without having lost some of that money back.

If you ran the table in poker, you would be capturing pot after pot, eliminating players until none were left. But you will find that this is not an expression that is generally used in the game. Suffice it to say that running the table is a very pleasant experience; that is, if YOU are the one doing the running.