Some of our peeps in Christian circles believe that playing poker for any reason is a big NO-NO. We believe that we can do anything and everything short of sin to bring our babies home! Charity poker that supports a good cause definitely fits into that category. Not to mention it’s exciting and a blast hanging out with friends.

I actually found a lady at our church who runs a poker and casino business to help organizations raise money. What they do is setup an event at a particular venue and people come out to enjoy either a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament or a “casino night” where they are given chips to play with throughout the evening. Of course, it’s all play money, so there’s no concern with breaking any gambling laws in your city or state. Each person in attendance offers up a donation to participate.

I’ve looked around a bit online and haven’t seen many adoptive families who are doing this type of fundraiser. I realize that poker is sometimes portrayed in a negative light, so perhaps that’s why it’s not a common fundraising event. However, we believe that this might perhaps be a fun and entertaining fundraiser for some of our readers, so we wanted to provide the idea along with a few pointers on how to make it successful.

Tips For A Successful Event

  • Utilize local resources. Ask around or search online to see if there’s a local company that assists with these types of fundraisers. These companies have card tables, chips and other accessories for the event. Otherwise, you have to ask around and gather all of these things yourself. Also, be sure to check with your local event companies to see if they have poker tables, chairs and chips for rent.
  • Determine if you want to have a poker-only tournament or include other games as well. Poker alone would be the easiest route because you don’t necessarily have to hire dealers to work the event (each player could take turns dealing). If you chose to go all out and do a casino night, you need to have several dealers to work at each of the games. This would likely be an added expense unless you were able to find workers to do it pro bono.
  • Advertise widely! This is a type of event that people outside your circle of friends would be interested in attending. Ask friends and family to share on social media sites, promote it at work, and post flyers around town. Be sure to have online sign-ups or allow people to RSVP so you know how many to expect. This will determine your venue size and other requirements. Also, don’t forget to mention that there will be giveaways throughout the night and prizes for top finishers! This will encourage people to attend since there will be opportunities to participate and win regardless of your poker skills.
  • After the sign-up deadline, secure a venue that meets your needs. If you want to go simple, all you really need is a space to setup tables and chairs. Ask around and see if a local business will donate the space.
  • Charge an entry fee for those that wish to play. Not only will this cover the entry into the tournament (or chips for the evening if it’s casino night) but also any food and drink if you choose to provide that as well.
  • Food and drinks. We recommend providing food and drinks because you can charge more for admission and it just makes for a better event experience! Party foods like pizza, subs, chili, chips, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, soda and water are a few to get you started. For our event, pizza was donated by a local pizza parlor and all the snacks and drinks were donated by a grocery chain with stores in our area.
  • Ask individuals and local businesses for product donations to be raffled off or awarded to the top finishers. Try to obtain some big ticket items for 1st-3rd place and smaller prizes for others that make it to the final table. Let however many prizes you have determine how many giveaways you have throughout the event. Go after trips, merchandise, and local services as prizes.
  • If you plan to sell other items for your adoption such as t-shirts and jewelry or have a silent auction, be sure to set up a table and promote those items during the event.
  • Determine which type of poker you will play and set the rules. No Limit Texas Hold’Em is the most popular. Be sure to post the rules and let everyone know if you will allow rebuys, for how long, the cost to rebuy, and the number of chips they will receive. For example, at our event, we had unlimited buybacks for the first hour that cost $50 for 1,000 chips, the amount given to all participants at the start of the tournament. After an hour, all buy-backs were closed and everyone who lost all their chips was eliminated from the tournament. You can set the rules however you like. If you have questions, check out this guide to running your own poker tournament.
  • At check-in, collect each participant’s admission fee, hand them their chips, a copy of the tournament rules, tell them about giveaways and prize information, and point them to the food and drinks. You may want to have someone taking pictures of all participants when they arrive.
  • Before the tournament starts, be sure to thank everyone for coming as well as any sponsors and volunteers. Let them know that the proceeds from the event will be used toward your adoption and bringing your children home.
  • Have giveaways and prizes throughout the night. A few ideas include the first person eliminated from the tournament (this could be a silly prize), a bad beat prize or jackpot, best hand of the night, funniest costume, and so on.
  • Have 50-50 drawings every 30-60 minutes and sell each ticket for $1.
  • Consider making it a costume poker party with a specific theme and encourage participants to dress accordingly. If you do, you might want to rent a photo booth. Those are a blast!
  • If the event is on a weekend or during a major sporting event, have TVs setup so people that get eliminated have a reason to stick around.
  • Play music with an i-Tunes playlist. Keep it upbeat and consistent with your theme.
  • Take a lot of pictures. Ask a photographer to donate a couple hours to snap shots at your event. If you can’t find anyone, ask one person who isn’t playing poker to take pictures throughout.
  • Make an awesome tournament highlight video. Ask someone to record video and do pre-tournament interviews of the participants and get people trash-talking and strategizing and get updates from people throughout the event including people watching the tournament and when players get eliminated. When the event is over you can edit the footage into a short highlight video. It will require extra work but your participants will love it! Send it out a few days after the tournament along with the total funds raised.

If you have successfully hosted a poker tournament or similar event, tell us about it! We would love to feature your story on our site and include tips to help other families.

photo credit: lukitascba via photopin cc

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Lori Resmer

Child Advocate. Entrepreneur. Fitness Junkie. Mommy and Wife. Lori is an adoption fundraising coach that provides creative strategies and resources that empower families to adopt without debt.



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