How to Run a Poker Run – A Fairly Frugal Fundraiser

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on May 5, 2007

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.

This is a partial example of our waiver form. NOTE: THIS IS FOR EXAMPLE PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT COMPLETE. I AM NOT A LAWYER. AGAIN THIS IS NOT A FULL COPY OF OUR OWN WAIVER-PORTIONS ARE OMITTED AND CUT OFF. LAWS MAY BE DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT STATES. PLEASE CONSULT A LAWYER IN YOUR OWN AREA TO COME UP WITH A WAIVER FORM THAT WORKS FOR YOU.

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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