Hotel Scandinavia sports what the proprietor calls ‘the latest and most unique addition to Phnom Penh's entertainment scene'
Photo by: Mark Roy
Shuffleboard tables at Hotel Scandinavia are sprinkled with tiny, sandlike beads of silicone.
Shuffleboard has its origins in a 15th-century English game called shove-groat in which people slid a large British coin worth about four pence (a groat) down a table. In 1848, a court in New Hanover, Pennsylvania, heard the case of “The State vs John Bishop” to decide the question: “Is shuffleboard a game of chance or a game of skill?” The
judge ruled that even though patrons bet “spirituous liquors on the game … it was not a game of chance, but was altogether a game of skill”. By 1897, table shuffleboard was as popular as prizefighting and baseball, as judged by newspaper column inches in New York. It reached the height of its popularity in the “Swinging ’40s” and the 1950s.
IT'S been a labour of love, but Eric Weisman, proprietor of the Hotel Scandinavia, or Scan, has finally launched what he describes as "the latest and most unique addition to Phnom Penh's entertainment scene" after almost a year in the making.
"This thing took me - and it was just me - 11 months to do," he said of the Shuffle Lounge, an ambitious table shuffleboard parlour on the newly remodelled third floor of Phnom Penh's Scandinavia Hotel. "And it nearly killed me."
Whereas most hotel or bar owners that dabble in the game of table shuffleboard tend to set up just one table, Weisman had his heart set on seven so that he could set up a league and provide a new competitive outlet for Phnom Penhers.
"When was the last time something truly new happened in Phnom Penh?" he asked.
He describes the process of building the parlour as a "labour of love", and an arduous one at that, given that there is no local supplier of shuffleboard tables.
Ranging from a little more than two and a half metres up to almost seven metres in length, it was also unrealistic to ship them in, meaning Weisman had to get the tables built in Phnom Penh.
The task was far from straightforward, he said, especially when it came to finding cabinetmakers capable of producing the long, smooth wooden surface of a traditional shuffleboard table.
"The concept of true and flat here is not the same as the concept of true and flat anywhere else," Weisman said.
As a substitute, Weisman turned to stone, finding a supply of Chinese granite that was not only cheap, but also perfect for his needs.
"I went down so many paths of design, and there were so many routes to go," he said. "In the end I used granite, which means I have a very different design than most."
This thing took me - and it was just me - 11 months to do ... and it nearly killed me.
In order to decrease friction, the table must be carefully waxed and sprinkled liberally with tiny, sandlike beads of silicone. These act like ball bearings and let the puck slide to the far end of the table with a slight, carefully weighted push.
"If you get it right, it's really sweet," Weisman said, before launching into a tirade about the importance of not drinking or smoking over the table.
To reduce the temptation, the parlour has been well decked out with leather couches and drinking tables to provide liquid entertainment between, or instead of, frames.
Those not simply there to drink need to slide their puck, which is made of plastic and metal, into the scoring zone at the far end of the table, knocking opponents pucks aside where necessary.
The puck closest to the end wins points corresponding to where in the scoring zone it lies, and more than one puck can score points if they are all ahead of the opponent's best effort.
The first to score 15 points wins the frame, and the first to get three frames wins the match.
The advantage is held by the team, or individual, that goes last, having the opportunity to steal a frame - or save a match - with what is known as the hammer.
Weisman is planning to launch a shuffleboard league by mid-July.
Registration is now open for open, corporate, doubles and couples leagues.
"Couples night is going to be great because there just aren't that many things that couples can do competitively against each other in Phnom Penh," Weisman said.
"Take pool; it takes a long time before you can become proficient, but I have seen people after 20 minutes and you realise that hey, they're great at this".