What is a Poker Run and how does it Work?

min read
Poker chips and cards on a green felt table.
BetMGM Mar 21, 2023, 4:28 AM

If you’re used to only playing poker online with virtual opponents and a live dealer, then a poker run is definitely going to take you out of your comfort zone! 

A poker run is a popular fundraising event that involves participants riding motorcycles, boats or other vehicles to various checkpoints along a designated route. 

At each checkpoint, participants draw a playing card to create a poker hand. Apart from raising money for a charity, the objective of the event is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run.

How do poker runs work?

Poker run games generally start with participants gathering at a starting point and registering for the event. Usually, each participant pays an entry fee, which goes towards the charity or organization the event is supporting.

The event organizer will provide a map outlining the checkpoints along the route. Checkpoints are hosted by a sponsor or volunteer organization that provides each participant with a card. 

Participants travel to each checkpoint, where they draw a playing card from a deck or receive a predetermined card. In some cases, participants are allowed to purchase additional cards. 

Once all the participants have visited each checkpoint and drawn their cards, they return to the starting point. The organizer then tallies up the participants’ poker hands and the participant with the best hand is declared the winner.

Prizes are often awarded to the top three or four participants with the best hands. There may also be additional prizes for other categories, such as the worst hand, best-dressed participant or even the best-decorated vehicle.

Where do poker runs come from?

The history of poker runs can be traced back to the 1950s in the United States, where they originated as informal events among motorcycle enthusiasts. At the time, bike clubs would organize rides through scenic routes, stopping at various bars or restaurants along the way. At each stop, bikers would draw a playing card and the person with the best hand at the end of the ride would win a prize.

Over time, these informal events evolved into more structured poker runs, often organized as fundraising events for charitable causes. The first documented charity poker run took place in 1982 in California when a motorcycle club organized a ride to raise money for a local child with leukemia. 

Are there any rules?

Poker run rules vary depending on the specific event and the organizer’s preferences. 

Some common rules that are followed in a poker run include:

  • Entry fee: Participants pay an entry fee which is usually donated to the charity or organization that the event is supporting.
  • Scorecard: Participants should register and receive a scorecard which is used to keep track of the cards drawn at each checkpoint.
  • Route: The route is predetermined and consists of multiple checkpoints where participants draw a card in the correct order.
  • Drawing cards: Participants only draw one card per checkpoint and the order of participants at each stop generally doesn’t matter.
  • Tally: Once all participants have visited all checkpoints and received and marked their cards, they go back to the starting point, where the cards are tallied.
  • Winning: The winner is the participant with the best poker hand and they usually win the top prize. Other prizes may be awarded for other categories, such as the worst hand or best costume.
  • Compliance: Participants must comply with all traffic laws and wear appropriate safety gear, such as helmets.

Participants should note that rules and regulations of poker runs vary between events and that it’s important to review the rules before taking part. 

Additionally, organizers should get any necessary permits and insurance to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators.

Tips on how to organize a poker run

If you want to know how to organize a poker run to raise funds for a charitable cause, here are some tips to consider:

  • Choose a charity: Select a charity or non-profit organization that will benefit from the funds raised by the poker run. 
  • Determine the route: Plan a scenic route that includes multiple checkpoints for participants to draw cards while making sure it is safe for all participants. 
  • Find sponsors: Seek out sponsors who can help cover the costs of the event, such as insurance, permits and prizes. 
  • Advertise the event: Promote the event to the local community using social media, flyers and posters. Try reaching out to motorcycle clubs or boating groups in the area to help spread the word.
  • Recruit volunteers: Get volunteers to help with registration, checkpoint management and prize distribution. Be sure to train and provide them with clear instructions on their roles and responsibilities.
  • Set up the checkpoints: Work with sponsors or volunteers to set up checkpoints along the route. 
  • Ensure safety: The safety of all participants and spectators is paramount. Be sure to enforce traffic laws, require appropriate safety gear and provide medical support if necessary.
  • Evaluate the event: After the event, gather feedback from participants and volunteers to identify areas of improvement for future poker runs.

Reasons to organize a poker run

There are several reasons why you might choose to organize a poker run. Some ideas may include:

  • Fundraising: Poker runs are an excellent way to raise money for charities or non-profit organizations. Participants pay an entry fee and the funds raised go directly to the charity.
  • Community building: Poker runs bring people together, creating a sense of community. They also create opportunities to socialize and share a common interest in motorcycles, boating or other outdoor activities.
  • Fun and adventure: Poker runs offer a chance to explore new routes, see beautiful scenery and challenge yourself. Participants can enjoy the thrill of riding or sailing while also competing for prizes and bragging rights.
  • Raising awareness: Poker runs help raise awareness about social or environmental issues, such as cancer research or the protection of natural resources. 
  • Marketing and promotion: For businesses, poker runs can be an excellent way to promote products or services, attract new customers and build brand awareness. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.