You need a surface with a pattern or texture on it. In my experience any 1/4" span of distance needs to have at least 2-3 transitions on it. If all the sensor sees is a solid color, it can't realize you have moved it. The wood grain was doing that for you.
As you have discovered, routine use of a computer mouse will polish the surface to a mirror finish, and optical mice don't work on mirror finishes. The reflectivity blinds the mouse regardless of underlying pattern.
You could remove the gloss by light sanding (we painters call it 'scuff sanding'), but there still needs to be an underlying pattern.
Obviously, a weak or fragile finish will quickly fail.
So we can cross a few things off the list
- any latex paint (fragile)
- any solid-color paint (no pattern)
- gloss paint (too reflective)
- any LPU coating without some flattening additive (too reflective)
That leaves us little choice. It's a tough problem.
Only paint I can really think is epoxy garage floor paint, with plenty of chips to add a pattern. This surface may not end up smooth, so I would sand it smooth.
So I would look at other coatings, e.g. A vinyl stick-down coating, I print out a sheet of hashmarks and change it regularly, but now we're just talking a mouse pad, which is what you don't want.