Geese on a map chasing cards in a game of poker - AKA a poker run!

What's a Poker Run? A Unique Idea For Your Next Fundraiser

Nonprofit Organizations Aug 31, 2023

Ever heard of a poker run? No, it's not a mad dash with playing cards flying everywhere! Although that sounds pretty cool and very Alice in Wonderland.

A poker run is an ingenious and interactive event where participants visit various checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one, all in the pursuit of the best poker hand by the end. It's a fun and unique - yet familiar! - fundraising concept that's taking the non-profit world by storm. If you've been scouting for a fresh, engaging idea to boost your next fundraising event, you might consider going all-in with a poker run! 🃏

What is a Poker Run?

So, what is a poker run, exactly? Originating from the motorcycling world, a poker run is an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, cars, boats, or even on foot, visit five to seven checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The objective? To have the best poker hand at the end of the run. As this concept grew in popularity, it was adopted by various other communities, evolving from a fun, competitive event to a means of fundraising for charities and non-profit organizations.

The poker run’s roots trace back to the 1970s when motorcycle enthusiasts looked for innovative ways to combine their passion for riding with their love for the game of poker. Love's a beautiful thing! Over time, the idea spread beyond motorcycling circles, capturing the interest of boating and car racing communities, and even walkers and runners.

Me and all my friends arriving at the poker run

While the traditional game of poker might involve a bit of bluffing and strategy, a poker run relies mostly on pure luck as participants are at the mercy of the cards they draw. But that's part of the charm! It’s the unpredictability and excitement that makes the poker run an exhilarating experience for participants and spectators alike. And when you infuse it with a cause-driven purpose, it becomes not just a game, but a meaningful movement.

Rules of the Poker Run: An Overview

  1. Kick-off & End Point: Every poker run has a defined starting point and a finish line. Participants gather at the kick-off location, get the lowdown on the route, and then embark on their adventurous quest.
  2. Checkpoints: Along the predetermined route, there are 5-7 checkpoints. At each stop, participants draw a card from a deck of playing cards. The drawn card is usually marked or recorded.
  3. The Best Hand Wins: After visiting all the checkpoints, participants head to the finish line. The goal? To have the best poker hand out of all the cards they've collected. Traditional poker hand rankings (like "two pairs" or "straight flush") determine the winner.
*A Royal flush in a British accent*, a scene iconic enough to inspire a poker run!

Organizing a Poker Run Fundraiser

Planning a poker run is not just about shuffling cards; it's about strategizing, innovating, and most importantly, engaging! If you're keen to use this playful method to fundraise, here's a cheat sheet to get you started.

Steps and considerations in planning a poker run

  1. Deciding the route and checkpoints
    Plotting your poker run is the first ace you need up your sleeve. Consider the length and accessibility of the route. Whether it's winding roads, serene lake sides, or bustling city streets, ensure it's safe and offers a dash of adventure. Checkpoints should be spaced out well and could include local landmarks, cafés, or even quirky spots that add to the excitement. Consider adding pit stops at local businesses that could sponsor your event!
  2. How many decks of cards are needed for a poker run?
    Depending on the number of participants and checkpoints, you'll need multiple decks. A good rule of thumb is to have one deck per checkpoint for every 50 participants. This ensures a variety of cards and adds to the unpredictability.
  3. How to utilize Goosechase to facilitate a poker run
    Goosechase is your digital sidekick for any fundraiser. Use it to set up "Missions" at each checkpoint, allowing participants to upload photos of their drawn cards (hidden, of course, from the activity feed!) The platform's real-time updates ensure everyone's in the loop on progress, and the live leaderboard amps up the competition. Plus, you can use Goosechase to engage spectators, too! Have them complete playful Missions betting on who's got the best hand and showing support for your cause and community.
  4. Determining Prizes
    The stakes are high, so prizes should be enticing! Whether it's gift cards, gadgets, or even a fun trophy for bragging rights, ensure the prizes mirror the spirit of the event. And don’t forget those bonus points for the most creative poker run costumes or antics!
  5. Registration process for participants
    Keep it simple and streamlined. With interactive experience platforms like Goosechase, you can manage registrations with ease. Set up a fee structure, maybe even early bird rates, and ensure participants have all the info they need—from route details to rules.
  6. Finding and engaging sponsors
    Sponsors can be your royal flush! Approach local businesses or national brands that align with your cause. In return for their support, offer them visibility: logos on banners, shout-outs on the Goosechase app, or even naming a checkpoint after them. It’s all about creating a win-win situation!

Promoting Your Poker Run Fundraiser

The decks (lots of decks) are shuffled, the route's been mapped, and the prizes are ready. Now, how do you make sure your poker run is as successful as possible? Let’s explore some dynamic strategies to raise awareness and drum up excitement.

Strategies for effectively promoting the event

  1. Leverage Social Media
    From tempting teasers to countdown posts, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be powerful tools. Consider creating a catchy hashtag for your poker run and encourage participants to spread the word! #PokerFun, anyone
  2. Local Media Outlets
    Reach out to local newspapers, radio stations, and even TV channels. A short, compelling press release about the uniqueness of the event and the cause it supports can spark interest.
  3. Email Marketing
    Got a list? Use it! Send out engaging emails detailing the event, and perhaps even share stories or testimonials to highlight the impact of past events.
  4. Engage Local Influencers
    If there's someone with a significant following in your community, rope them in! Whether they're social media influencers, local celebrities, or community leaders, their endorsement can provide a massive boost.
  5. Flyers and Posters
    Good ol' traditional marketing! Place them in strategic locations like cafés, community centers, and local businesses. Ensure the design captures the playful spirit of a poker run.

Importance of community involvement

Fundraising is as much about community building as it is about funds. When the community gets involved, it fosters a sense of collective ownership and pride. Here's why it's golden:

1. Word of Mouth: When community members are excited, they talk! This organic promotion is invaluable and can lead to higher participation rates.

2. Strength in Numbers: The more the community gets involved, the more resources you have at your disposal. From volunteers to sponsors and even logistical support, community involvement can significantly ease the organizational process.

3. Emotional Connect: When the community is a part of the journey from the get-go, there's a deeper emotional connection to the cause. This often translates to higher generosity and long-term support.

4. Building Lasting Bonds: Events like poker runs, which are community-centric, are not just about the present. They lay the foundation for long-lasting relationships, ensuring future endeavors also receive ample support.

In the end, while the game is poker, the real win lies in the community coming together, having a blast, and championing a cause. So, ante up, spread the word, and watch your poker run fundraiser become the talk of the town!


Why play it safe when you can deal a winning hand with poker runs? This dynamic blend of game thrill and community spirit offers more than just a full house of fun—it's a jackpot for memorable fundraising. As you plan for your next charitable event, remember: in the deck of fundraising ideas, a poker run is that unexpected wild card. Aaaaand now we're all out of poker puns.

So, why not go all-in and ante up for an event that's bound to get everyone talking and contributing?

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Mia David

Integrated Marketing Manager