I dislike 'table stakes' to describe the bare essentials. Looking for a better way to describe it. For example:

Email and SaaS applications are just table stakes. Custom enterprise software gives your business a sustainable competitive advantage

Any ideas?

  • Are you looking for a synonym or a new analogy? Your current example is drawing a connection, although a sort of weak one, between the gambling entry fee and the advantage at the table. There might be room for "commuter train" vs "express route with your own station" or something that direction.
    – Tom22
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 20:16
  • What would have been wrong with 'Email and SaaS applications are just the bare essentials? If you do like 'table stakes' what would be wrong with 'Email and SaaS applications are just table stakes. Custom enterprise software allows your business to up the ante'? Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 17:26

5 Answers 5


How about cost of entry?


cost of entry: the cost of beginning to trade in a particular market for the first time

Your example:

Being able to provide email and SaaS applications is just the cost of entry. Custom enterprise software gives your business a sustainable competitive advantage.


points of parity is another way of stating it, however, it's longer. Also depends on your audience and if they're aware of the term.

  • Your answer could be improved by adding some citations and quoting relevant portions of it here. :)
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 19:27

Email and SaaS applications are just commodities.

This is often used in our business (IT consultancy, specializing in custom-made software solutions). It fits definition 1c of Merriam Webster:

a mass-produced unspecialized product

While those kind of software isn't mass-produced, it is 'mass-consumed'.


If you perspective if from the product development side perhaps MVP.

Email and SaaS applications comprise the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Custom enterprise software gives your business a sustainable competitive advantage.*

In product development, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. Gathering insights from an MVP is often less expensive than developing a product with more features, which increase costs and risk if the product fails, for example, due to incorrect assumptions. The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson, and popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries. It may also involve carrying out market analysis beforehand — Wikipedia

Not sure if this is less jarring than table stakes but I am hearing it more and more.

  • Thanks but the creation aspect (of an MVP) applies to the second half. The first half, generic off-the-shelf/prebuilt things that are table stakes, is what I was looking at Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:30

That's the common but inaccurate definition of table stakes, but let's not dwell on that aspect. For bare essentials, I quite like "price of entry" or "cost of entry" though that can imply that once you're in the cinema you're done, rather than all set to compete in the marathon or whatever. "Commodity" is a good one too, but I'd like to suggest a term I have been hearing more often: "hygiene factor" which intuitively makes sense and refers to a theory (Herzberg, 1964) about worker satisfaction but basically about the bare minimum which if absent would be a negative, but not a factor in actually causing happiness or any other appropriate positive

  • What do they all mean? Please include definitions! Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 14:32

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