How to Run a Poker Run – A Fairly Frugal Fundraiser

Our entire family seems to be in fundraising mode lately. There was the wine tasting for church, and I have many more ideas for other possibilities! Today Yankee Bill is running our American Legion Rider’s second annual Poker Run Fundraiser.

In case you have never picked up on it before, we are motorcyclists and veterans. YB and I are both members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion Riders (ALR-a sub group of the American Legion that is a motorcycle group). YB has been riding since he was a teen-although I have been licensed since 2000, I promptly started getting pregnant and having babies and haven’t really used mine (although I do have a Honda Rebel sitting in the barn waiting for me). For my own safety I feel that I need a refresher course before I hit the open roads and traffic-over correcting and/or freaking out on a motorcycle can be very dangerous and even deadly. So at this point I am contented to remain a passenger for a bit longer.

Motorcycles are NOT a frugal hobby, especially when you find it necessary to continually add additional shiny bits. (hmmm. . . . . ) Those costs can be held down by shopping around and using the internet to purchase those bits-YB particularly makes cost comparisons between Harley Davidson and JP Cycles, and frequently does Ebay searches for particular items that he is looking for (note: anything that says the words “Harley” on it usually costs at least 3X more). In our case Motorcycles are one of those things that we economize in other places to be able to enjoy-it is one of our “important” things.*

But I digress. Back to fundraising.

A Poker Run can actually be a very inexpensive fundraiser to put on. I am sure it could be adapted to different formats other than motorcycles-say a footrace, horseback, bicycle, cars. . . . use your imagination.

The basics:

For an entry fee (in our case $10) each person gets a scorecard and runs a preset route with 5 stops or checkpoints. At each checkpoint there is a person with a full deck of cards in a bag. The participant then has to pull a random card out of the bag and have it marked on their score card and continue on to the next checkpoint. At the final checkpoint all the scorecards are collected up and the person with the best “Poker Hand” wins!

Usually there is a trophy for the best hand and the worst hand, and frequently there is a % of the money taken in from the entry fee that goes along with the prizes. (For example, 50% of the proceeds might go to the charity or the organization running the fundraiser, then 25% might go to the best hand, 12% to the worst hand, 6% to the oldest rider, 6% to the youngest rider etc etc. . . . Please don’t nitpick my math, I’m doing it on the fly. In our case 100% of the proceeds minus our actual expenses are going to the charity, The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project.)

The nitty gritty:

Personnel needed: Minimum 5 (1-sign in table/double as first card draw, 4 additional checkpoints with 4th point doubling as final checkpoint) Optimum 14 (2-sign in table, 1-selling 50/50 raffle tickets, 10-two at each “poker” checkpoint, 1-person assigned to ride “trail” behind very last entrant)

Paperwork needed: Map of Route, Written Directions of Route (on back of map?), Wavier form, Scorecard, 50/50 raffle tickets (if used) Optional: paperwork on your organization and what the money will be used for, contact numbers for each of the poker checkpoints and the start and end point so you can contact each other.

Here is our scorecard. We used a star stamp to stamp over the card that they pull. You can also use a distinctive colored marker to initial or circle. I do not recommend using a regular ink pen-it is unfortunate but some folks may be tempted to, uh, adjust things in their own favor. NOTE: If you draw a card that has already been marked on their sheet, you simply toss it back in, shake them up and pull a new card.


Prior Coordination:

Advertising. (If noone knows about it, noone will come!) Many papers etc have free advertising for these types of events, but you may have to get the info in up to 4 weeks before you want the information published.

Permission from sites. Each site that you are going to set up a checkpoint with should be contacted and coordinated with. In our case one of the stops is the VA home, who is thrilled to have the bikes come through and provide some excitement for the residents. Other stops are quite frankly bars, eating establishments and another American Legion post. Several of them have agreed to open a little early in case anyone wants to buy something to drink or use the bathroom. Our end point is a BBQ restaurant who is thrilled to have a huge group coming in at 3pm (usually their low point) who will probably all be ordering meals!

Trophies-we are only doing 3 this year and they only cost about $12 each.

Coordination with Charity-In our particular case the fundraiser is being done in support of The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project. They sent up fliers on their charity, and the president and her husband actually come up for the weekend to attend the event.

Other items to consider:

YB has many additional signs that were placed up at the start point to remind people about safety gear etc. There will be a briefing given to riders about not stopping traffic (Sometimes when large bike groups get together they will send a biker ahead to stop traffic so that the entire group can get through the intersection. Unless you have a parade permit this is illegal. We do not have a parade permit) and some other items.

Since this is an American Legion event we will have the US flag, the POW flag and the American Legion flag displayed at the start point.

You should make sure that there are adequate trash bags and tables at the places where you would need them.

Each person manning a poker checkpoint will need some sort of bag, a deck of cards (check to ensure that it is a full deck!) and either a stamp or a distinctive marker.

You should have a publicized time when the Poker run starts (ie bikes can start the route) and a time for the last bike to leave. After the last bike out time-that’s it. No more bikes can go. Then if you have the personnel you send out one of your own riders with the last group. This person can tell the people at each of the points that it is done and they can come on in. They can also help anyone who is broken down, ride on and call for a tow etc. If you really want to be well organized you send a truck with a trailer and tie-downs behind the last group in case anyone has a breakdown.

And that’s the basics of how to run a Poker Run. It takes a lot of coordination and work, but not a lot of outlay. To me, that’s a frugal fundraiser

*Remember-we all have different things we believe are important for different reasons. YB and I take care of all bills, college savings for the children and retirement investing prior to our personal spending. Our choices are just that, our choices. We simply believe that each person should take some time to make sure that they are making conscious decisions about these things and weighing the consequences of spending their money-which we have done. We realize that some folks might think motorcycling is a ridiculous or foolhardy way to spend our money. To them I say that differences in opinion and interests are one of the things that make this world an interesting place.

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  1. Victoria says

    I love the faces on the kiddos. I even showed my father in law who thought it was hilarious!

  2. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    lacey-Hope this is helpful for your dad!

    Victoria-this photo is actually from last fall, so the kiddos are a year older now.

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the info! We have done several airboat runs and I was thinking of doing one for hubby’s 40th (donating the money to charity) and wasn’t quite sure what went on “behind the scenes”.

    The kids are cute!! Our little guy is almost 1 1/2. They are such fun!

  4. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    Thanks Anon! I think they are purty darn cute myself :O

    Hope your Poker Run goes well!

  5. BAS says

    My wife and I just discussed our desire to help a very ill family member with mounting medical expenses. Since I ride, I thought about putting together a poker run. Coordinating an event like a run seemed a bit daunting, however your blog set my mind at easy. I am going to start soliciting for places to have stops at now. I know that many runs also include food at the end. Is it too much to ask to expect folks to pay for food at the final stop?

  6. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    BAS-Glad you found this helpful. I think that for an event such as a benefit folks would understand there being a charge for food-you may want to keep it simple and cheap-like hotdogs for $1 or some such thing. . .

  7. Anonymous says

    Hello, thank you so much for your post. I’ve been researching for a poker run to raise money for the breast cancer 2 day walk. This would strictly be our family and friends, I figure if I’m going to hit them up for money I can at least make it fun for them to part with it. Anyway, I’m in not quite so upstate NY (45 miles south of Albany) adn was wondering outside of permission from the establishments where the stops are located, do you have to get any permits or notify the state police or anything? Just want to make sure my legal tush is covered. Thanks so much for your help. Kris

  8. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    Kris-Well, you are even more upstate than me (we are near Binghamton)!

    My understanding is that you don’t need any other permits etc, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T DO THE RIDE AS A SINGLE GROUP. You cannot ride all together in a massive group, blowing through intersections and stoplights (even with a lead & trail bike “Stopping” traffic) unless you apply for and receive a parade license. As long as folks head out in groups and obey all the traffic laws (ie DON’T stop traffic) then you should be fine.

    You may just want to double check with your local police dept.

    Hope your event is a success-and if you are interested in seeing one in action, our annual poker run is down here on May 17th. (start point is in Norwich if you are considering it and want to mapquest the distance)

  9. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the info. If I stagger the start times I think we’ll be ok. If I can I might show up at your start point to take a looksee and make sure I’m doing this right. (and to make a donation of course) I know exactly where Norwich is. We’re actually just across the river from you. Norwich is just East and a bit South of us.

    Thanks so much for all your help. Have a good run. Kris

  10. Anonymous says

    Thanks so much for the info. We are trying to set up fund raisers to help out a 3 year old with cancer and wondered how to do a poker run. I did a Google search and found your site. Excellent job describing how to do it.

    Thanks again,
    Katie’s Crew

  11. Anonymous says

    I have a friend (a friend of many) who has close to a six figure debt due to a kidney transplant. Do u think this would be a good fundraiser (one of many types I presume) to help lower her debt? Do you think more than one poker run could be held over some period of time? In a city of 125,000, how many bikers do you think would participate (assuming we do a good job promoting)?

  12. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    Anon-There are so many variables, it is hard for me to give an opinion on it. . . .I can say although it takes planning, the actual overhead is low, which makes it worthwhile to me. Last year our poker run made over a $1000-but that is our 3rd year, folks have gotten used to attending etc. There was also a
    “donation” box, so several $100 were probably just donations.

    Good luck.

  13. Mater says

    Thanks for the info.!!! Do you mind sharing a better copy of the event waiver form you used. Thanks!!

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