How to Organize a Charity Poker Tournament in 11 Steps

How to Organize a Charity Poker Tournament in 11 Steps

A charity poker tournament or Casino Night can be a glamorous way to achieve your nonprofit organization’s fundraising goals. The benefits of hosting a poker tournament are many – donors will look forward to the event and you will likely have the opportunity to introduce new supporters (who love playing poker) to your organization. This leaves plenty of room to achieve your fundraising goals with tournament ticket sales, rebuys (which are additional poker chips available for purchase, either to buy back into the game or to add to a pile of chips), fundraising raffles, and other activities.

We’re here to walk you through how to run a charity poker tournament fundraiser and raise the fundraising stakes for your organization. Here are the 11 steps we’ll cover:

  1. Research the Costs Associated with a Charity Poker Tournament
  2. Find the Perfect Venue
  3. Plan the Fundraising Goal for the Tournament
  4. Discuss Poker Tournament Format and Additional Revenue Channels
  5. Plan Promotional Collateral for the Charity Poker Tournament
  6. Build an Event Website to Register Tournament Participants
  7. Find Sponsors for the Tournament
  8. Event Promotion and Tournament Ticket Sales
  9. Recruit Volunteers for Day of Event Operations
  10. Host a Great Poker Tournament
  11. Wrap Up the Charity Tournament

Keep in mind that charitable gaming is legal on a state-by-state case basis. Often prizes cannot be actual cash tender but need to be non-monetary prizes. Perform due diligence to find out your local and state laws on gaming and charity poker tournaments before planning an event. This information can be found in the office of the state attorney general.

Research the Costs Associated with a Charity Poker Tournament

As with many fundraising events, planning begins with how much you want to raise from your poker tournament. Poker tournaments can be lucrative events, if well-organized and well-promoted. For a smaller event with lower ticket prices, organizations can raise $5,000-$10,000. For larger tournaments with higher ticket prices, you can raise upwards of $25,000. Plan with your committee what you’re looking to raise and how many attendees you project for your event.

Before deciding the gross fundraising goal, understand the costs that are associated with a poker tournament:

cost research of Charity Poker Tournament
  • Venue
  • Poker table and accessories rentals
  • Paid tournament staff (Dealer, Pit Manager/Tournament Director)
  • Hors d’oeuvres and beverages
  • Fundraising software and promotional materials
  • Other marketing costs
  • Cost of permits or licenses
  • Poker prizes (that are not donated)

Shop around for the best pricing for the service and quality that fit your needs. With projected costs and a fundraising event budget, it is easier to understand how to determine ticket pricing and the number of attendees needed to reach fundraising goals.

Find the Perfect Venue

You’ll need to have a large, open space for hosting a poker event. Schools and community centers are set by transforming the gymnasium into a poker den. Many fraternity lodges (such as Shriner’s or VFW lodges) already have the necessary permits in place, and they may also have the supplies you need for the big night.

Supplies for a tournament are relatively basic: event decorations, tables, chairs, poker chips, and decks of cards. You may be able to find a local gaming place that would be willing to donate these free of charge as an in-kind sponsorship, for the extra exposure your event will provide.

Plan the Fundraising Goal for the Tournament

poker fundraising for nonprofits and charities

Once you research the tentative costs, the following projections should be determined:

  • What is the gross fundraising goal (how much to cover your fundraising goal and your costs, before any deductions are taken out)?
  • What are some potential projections of how many tickets are needed to be sold at a certain price point? For example, how many seats would you need to sell at $50 per person? At $75 per person? At $100 per person?

When deciding ticket price points, consider that re-buys and add-ons can contribute around 30% of your fundraising amount.

Discuss Poker Tournament Format and Additional Revenue Channels

The most popular format for charity poker tournaments is Texas Hold Em’.

You will need to have a poker expert on the planning committee that assists with format choices and rules. The tournament director dictates how quickly the blinds (minimum bet of the game) rise throughout the duration of the game. Throughout the tournament, as more players are eliminated, the tables are combined until a final table is left. The final remaining three to five winners will have a choice of winning an appealing, high-priced prize.

planning commitee to Organize a Charity Poker Tournament

A given additional stream of fundraising comes from the rebuys and add-ons. Another option is to utilize the poker tables that have been eliminated to run smaller and quicker poker games for smaller prizes. Other forms of fundraising can come from side games, which are other card or casino games such as roulette or blackjack. Casino Night fundraisers offer tables with all of these games to choose from.

Hosting a silent auction is a great addition to a Casino Night party. In addition, a charity poker tournament could be held in conjunction with a fundraising golf tournament, gala, or other special events.

DoJiggy offers fundraising raffles and charity auction websites to make it happen.

Plan Promotional Collateral for the Charity Poker Tournament

Once the poker tournament venue and date have been determined, it’s time to plan the marketing and promotional collateral. Poker tournaments and charity casino nights typically exude a concept of “a fun and classy night out.” The marketing collateral should express the same concept or gala theme. There are inexpensive flyers and collateral templates available online if your nonprofit organization doesn’t have anyone with graphic design experience. Marketing collateral may include the following:

  • Poker tournament event invitations for your supporters
  • Flyers to hang around town
  • Website banners and logos to brand the event
  • Printed items for the event (signage, tickets, step-and-repeat banners, sponsor signs)
Charity Poker Tournament

Event flyers and invitations should include the following information:

  • Date and time of the tournament
  • LocationPoker tournament format (Texas Holdem’, 7-Card Stud)
  • Attire requirements, if any
  • Pricing of Buy-in and Re-buys
  • Promotion of desirable prizes
  • Sponsors
  • The mission of your organization or charitable cause
  • How the money raised will be used

Build an Event Website to Register Tournament Participants

Our event management software allows organizations to easily manage fundraising poker tournaments, including event promotion and marketing, sponsor and sponsorship management, secure online event registration and ticketing, detailed financial reporting, and event check-in. The following are just a few features of our event software:

  • Online ticket sales with the ability to create custom ticket packages (think VIP)
  • Sponsor registration and promotion
  • Mobile giving functions like text to donate
  • Brand customization for your organization and event
DoJiggy Fundraising Software for Charity Poker Tournaments

Find Sponsors for the Tournament

The poker tournament will only be as appealing as the prizes, so in-kind sponsorship procurement is one of the pivotal steps in organizing a charity poker tournament. Sponsorship support is also important to extend the reach of your audience.

Typically, there should be sponsorship outreach to procure prizes for the following: the top winners of the main poker tournament, side games prizes, raffles, and/or silent auction items. The retail value of the tournament prizes should also be considered, especially in comparison to the buy-in price. Here are some great prizes to consider:

Poker World Series
  • Restaurant gift certificates for high-end restaurants
  • A seat to the World Series of Poker ($10,000 ticket value)
  • A ticket/suite admission package to sports games
  • A week-long or week-end vacation or retreat package

Always start with your connections when looking for sponsors. Consider casting your net out to your poker planning committee to see if there are employers or business owners here. For cold outreach, delegate the team accordingly so that outreach for both corporate sponsorship and local business sponsorships are performed.

Event Promotion and Tournament Ticket Sales

Once all the details are in place with the venue, time and place, and top prizes, it’s ready to share the news with the world. Here are some places to garner ticket sales:

poker players love charity Poker Tournament
  • Existing Supporters
  • Past Sponsors
  • Local Businesses
  • Local News Outlets/Event Calendars
  • Meetups
  • Past Collaborators

Keep in mind to consider the most effective approach to soliciting ticket sales by what type of relationship is present. Existing supports, past sponsors, and local businesses are best approached in a face-to-face manner or with a warm phone call. Local news outlets and Meetups may be best with an e-mail sent to the main contacts. And as with many ticket sales, the magic behind the sold ticket is consistent follow-up. Send everyone to your event website for easy registration.

Recruit Volunteers for Day of Event Operations

As the date of the charity poker tournament approaches, it is vital that the event has an all-star support team on deck. That means that there is a lead volunteer or event coordinator that knows the agenda and the tasks involved throughout the night. Once these tasks are planned, finding volunteers to make sure that everything is handled is essential to event execution. Here are some volunteer and/or vendor roles to consider:

volunteer for Charity Poker Tournament
  • Event Registration
  • Greeters
  • Event Set-up and Breakdown
  • Master of Ceremony/MC
  • Prize Presenter
  • Coat Check
  • Photographer/Videographer
  • Raffle Sales
  • Food and Beverage Servers (hors d’oeuvres should be provided as part of the ticket price)
  • Runner/Back-up Volunteers

Approximately 1-2 weeks prior to the event, hold a meeting at the tournament venue. Vendors and volunteers should all attend, to assure that everyone is on the same page with the event agenda and their assigned tasks. Also, if there is any use of audio/visual equipment at the venue, perform a technical rehearsal to assure microphones work as expected and videos or slideshows play accordingly. This is also a great time to work and rehearse with the MC (master of ceremony) on the flow of the event.

Host a Great Poker Tournament

Be sure to run through all the materials that should be brought by your organization the night before the tourney. Prior to arriving at the venue, have plenty of cash on hand to handle change for rebuys and raffles. Also, it’s best to arrive at the venue several hours early to work with the poker table rental company to set up the tables in a way that works for the venue layout. Run through the tasks one final time with the volunteers before doors open, offer a venue tour as needed (to know bathroom locations and other information), and assign them to their locations.

From here, enjoy the evening as the games begin!

Charity Poker Tournament tips

Wrap Up the Charity Tournament

thank you

Host a meeting with your tournament committee within a week of the tournament to discuss the successes and failures of the charity poker event. What can be done differently in the future? Keep a file with this information for next year’s committee. Review the feedback received during the event to see where there is room for improvement at future events. Turning a charity poker tournament into a successful annual event is contingent on how much fun your supporters have during the tournament.

The amount of funds raised will also determine if your poker tournament was a success. Work with your treasurer or committee to review how much money was raised from the event, after all of your final expenses are figured.

Don’t forget to send off hand-written thank-yous to your sponsors. Let attendees know what impact they’ve had as a supporter of your organization or charitable cause. This is an important step that is not to be skipped in running a successful poker tournament fundraiser.

Charity Poker Tournament Planning Checklist

Follow these steps to assist in your successful charity poker planning process:

  • Make sure your organization is legally able to host a gambling event at the location selected, and obtain necessary permits.
  • Establish fundraising goals: How much money do you want to raise? What is your budget? 
  • Choose a tournament date and location. 
  • Establish event planning timeline. You’ll want at least 90 days for planning any charity event and more time is better.
  • Select a leadership team including: The Charity Poker Event Director, Sponsorship Director, Marketing Manager (for media relations and promotions), Prize & Gift Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, etc.
  • Develop a list of potential sponsors and create sponsorship packages that include promotional opportunities for business sponsors.
  • Develop promotional materials including fundraising event flyers, tournament brochures, and event signage.
  • Create player packages including registration instructions, tournament rules, event activities, prizes, and more.
  • Set up a charity poker website for online registration and processing secure payments.
  • Choose an MC for the event.
  • Recruit players via radio, local news calendars, networking emails, sponsors, volunteers, and your network of supporters.
  • Send out a press release to all media. Make sure to include the reason funds are being raised.
  • Create a fun and exciting environment with special activities: i.e. door prizes, fundraising raffle events, silent auction, entertainment, food and drinks.
  • Create a schedule for volunteers. You’ll need people to staff the registration table, games, food and beverage area, distribute prizes, event set-up & clean-up, and more.
  • Acquire winners’ prizes, player gift-bags, auction, or raffle items.
  • Outline a thorough Event Day Schedule for the MC and staff to follow.
  • Make sure to thank players, volunteers, and acknowledge sponsors at the event.
  • After the event, send out thank you letters and player surveys.

More Charity Poker and Casino Night Resources

We offer more for organizations hosting charity poker events:

Still looking for fundraising ideas?

Lisa Bennett

About Lisa Bennett

Lisa is the Sales Director at DoJiggy. She joined DoJiggy in 2006 and loves her job. Prior to working with DoJiggy, she worked at several non-profits and managed special event fundraising.

See other posts from Lisa Bennett