How to Organize a Charity Poker Tournament in 10 Steps

A charity poker tournament or Casino Night can be a great and glamorous way to achieve your non-profit 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 poker tournament fundraiser and raise the fundraising stakes for your organization.

1. Research the Costs of 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-$8,000. 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:

  • Venue
  • Poker Table and Accessories Rentals/Tournament Staff (Dealer, Pit Manager/Tournament Director)
  • Hors d’oeuvres and Beverages
  • Fundraising Software
  • Other Marketing Costs

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

2. Plan Your Fundraising Goal

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 the price point, consider that rebuys and add-ons can contribute around 30% of your fundraising amount. Consider this when projecting how many tickets need to be sold.

3. 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 at least one poker expert on your planning committee that assists with format choices and all 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.

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 a non-monetary prizes. Of course, perform due diligence to find out your local and state laws on gaming and charity poker tournaments before planning. This information can be found in the office of the state attorney general.

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.

Non-gambling related options include selling raffle tickets for a chance to win appealing prizes or hosting a silent auction. In addition, a charity poker tournament could be held in conjunction with a fundraising golf tournament, gala or other special event.

4. Plan Promotional and Graphic Collateral

Once the venue, date and time have been determined, it’s time to plan the marketing and promotional collateral. Poker tournaments typically exude a concept of “a fun and classy night out.” The collateral should express the same concept. There are inexpensive flyer and collateral templates available online if your non-profit organization doesn’t have anyone with graphic design experience. The collateral may include the following:

  • Poker tournament event invitation
  • Flyers
  • Website Banners and logos
  • Printed items for the event (signage, tickets, step-and-repeat banners, sponsor signs)

The physical or digital flyer and invitation should include the following information:

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

5. Build a Fundraising Event Website

DoJiggy event management software allows organizations to easily manage the entire life cycle of fundraising poker tournaments, including event promotion and marketing, sponsor and sponsorship management, secure online event registration, donations, detailed financial reporting, and day-of-event operations. The following are just a few features of our software:

  • Online ticket sales with the ability to create custom ticket packages (think VIP)
  • Sponsor registration and promotion
  • Real-time financial reporting
  • Volunteer management
  • Brand customization for your organization and event
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Secure credit card processing

Consider our low fees and we think you’ll agree that DoJiggy is the best fit for charity poker tournament management.


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6. Initiate Sponsor Outreach

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 because, in a charity fundraising game, cash tender prizes are not typically allowed by state regulations and laws (the specific legalities of your state should be researched).

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:

  • 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. 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.

7. Begin Event Promotion and 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:

  • 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.

8. Prepare Volunteers for Tasks and Vendor/Venue Check-In

As the date of the charity poker tournament approaches, it is vital that the event has an all-star 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 filling:

  • Registration
  • Greeter
  • 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 Volunteer

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.

9. Host the Event

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!

10. Wrap Up with Numbers and Thank-Yous

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. Another agenda point is to review the feedback received during the event to see where there could be room for improvement, as a tournament and for 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 a poker tournament should be a comeback occasion. 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 and attendees and let them 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! And that’s how to run a successful poker tournament fundraiser in 10 steps.

More Charity Poker and Casino Night Resources