Poker Table Essentials
- Normally 8 players per table, but most clients seat 9 per table during tournament play
- 1 dealer required per table
- Sit-down height: 10 chairs are necessary per table but NOT provided
- Poker table dimensions:
- 7 feet long
- 3.5 feet wide
- 30 inches tall
- 125 square feet are needed for each table as well as everyone around it
- Separate Tournament Director typically recommended for tournaments with 5 or more tables
Poker Tournament Fundraisers
A Texas Hold'Em poker tournament can be used as an excellent fundraiser, whether you incorporate the tournament into your casino night fundraiser (i.e., host a poker tournament inside a larger overall casino night with other games such as blackjack, roulette, and craps) or as a stand-alone event. Either way, our crew can run the tournament for you from beginning to end!
“Last night's event went flawlessly and we had almost $22,000 in re-buys and add-ons! As always, your team was amazing—professional and enthusiastic—and did a fantastic job. We couldn't be happier. Since we started working with you, I have had complete confidence that the event will run smoothly and I don't need to worry about a thing! Cheers to another successful year! ”
—Zahra Merali, Deputy Director of Special Events, 92nd Street Y
Running A Poker Tournament Fundraiser
Even if you have no experience with poker, we'll walk you through the basics here so that you can host a successful fundraiser. Boiled down to its basics, poker is a game where players at the table compete against each other, trying to end up with the best hand of cards as compared with everyone else at the table. In the process, each player attempts to win chips from the other players at the table. It's important to know that when people nowadays refer to the game of poker, they probably have one very specific type of poker in mind — Texas Hold'Em, the most commonly played poker game today. Although there are many different types of poker that you could conceivably play, most guests will walk up to a poker table expecting to play Texas Hold'Em, so that's what we'll talk about here.
When hosting a charity poker tournament, it's most common to have an elimination tournament, which can accommodate any number of players. The event starts with up to 10 players and 1 dealer at each table. Each player starts with the same pre-determined amount of chips (typically somewhere in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 or perhaps even $3,000 in chips). Our Tournament Director will help you determine this starting amount of chips based on your overall number of guests, the length of the tournament, and the tournament specifics. Play begins at the same time for all players at all tables, so you might want to factor in the late arrival of a handful of pre-registered attendees.
As players bet throughout the night, some people will eventually run out of chips and get eliminated. As this happens, our Tournament Director will periodically consolidate tables until only one final table remains. The winner of the tournament is the last person standing, so to speak – the person who ends up with all the chips after everyone else has been eliminated at this final table. If you're offering a grand prize for the winner of the tournament (ideally something you were able to get donated so that your charity has more money left over), this would be the person who receives it. The next-to-last person eliminated would be considered the runner up, the person eliminated before him or her would be considered the 3rd place finisher, etc. While we'll handle almost every aspect of actually running the poker tournament, we'll leave the choice of what to give as prizes, how many finishers to award prizes to, and even whether or not to award any prizes at all, completely up to you. Each charity is different so just let us know if you have any questions!
Just about any venue will work for a poker tournament, whether it's a catering hall, restaurant, banquet facility, hotel ballroom, etc. How much space you'll need should be one of your prime concerns, but that's relatively easy to determine. We usually suggest a minimum of 125 square feet per table, which factors in both the footprint of the poker table as well as the players around the table. Our standard poker tables are 7 feet long by 3.5 feet wide, but adding in about 3 feet around the table on all sides to account for players and the dealer brings you up to approximately 125 square feet for each table. Multiply this number by the number of tables you might need, and then allow a tiny bit of extra space for any aisles or walkways.
Each of our poker tables is designed to accommodate either 8 or 9 players comfortably, but many clients squeeze in 10 players per table during tournament play because they realize that guests will get eliminated from each table after a certain amount of time, which frees up more elbow room for the other players remaining at the table.
Once you've decided where you'll hold your event and how much to charge, one of your most important tasks is to now spread the word and let as many people as possible know about your event. Know your clientele and make sure you select a date that works for most people. Some clients neglect to account for certain days that might eliminate lots of potential players, such as when a major sporting event falls on the same day, for example.
Once the date is nailed down, your objective should be to sell as many tickets in advance and pre-register as many players as possible. Not only does this cut down on the number of people who will need to give you all their information for the first time when they walk into the venue, but it also gives you peace of mind. You won't be completely in the dark in the days leading up to your event in terms of how many attendees you might have. Further, some clients offer two-tiered pricing where guests pay a certain amount if the pre-register while others pay more for missing the deadline or for paying at the door. We'll leave that decision up to you, but the name of the game is to get the word out and make it as easy as possible for guests to give you their donation. Use social media and any outlet you can imagine to spread the word, have an online payment option using something simple such as PayPal, etc.
When guests first walk into the venue and register at your check-in table, you'll then have two options for where they're seated. You can either allow them to sit wherever they like, or you can have our crew assign them seats randomly. Some clients prefer to be more informal and allow their guests to sit together if they like (for example, some attendees might come together as a group of friends and want to compete against each other at the same table), while other clients want everything as "by the book" as possible and therefore ask us to randomize the seating. Whatever your vision for the event, just let us know and we'll take care of the rest. Either way, upon arriving at the table, the dealer will direct players to their seats and give them their starting stack of chips. Once everyone is seated at every table and settled in, the tournament is ready to begin.
Once the tournament is up and running, some players will inevitably start losing chips to other players. One way to capture more donations from participants is to offer them a "rebuy" – the chance to buy themselves more chips before a certain point is reached in the tournament. For example, if I'm a player and I lose all my chips in the first 15 minutes of the tournament and therefore get knocked out, paying for a rebuy would allow me to re-join the tournament. Depending on the length of the overall tournament, rebuys might be allowed only during the first hour for tournaments that are 4 hours or longer, or for a length of time less than 60 minutes for shorter tournaments.
The first nuance to consider when it comes to rebuys is the idea of how many times will you allow someone to rebuy. Some poker purists might say that you should only allow someone to rebuy just once. If this is the case though, you might be leaving lots of money on the table, so to speak. A more lucrative option might be what's called unlimited rebuys. In the case of unlimited rebuys, if I'm a player who keeps losing all his chips and getting knocked out of the tournament, you might want to let me buy myself back in as many times as I'm willing to pay for a rebuy (within the allotted rebuy period of time). Limiting me to just one rebuy would limit the amount of donations your organization could collect from me.
The second nuance to consider with respect to rebuys is whether you place any restrictions on when someone can purchase a rebuy. For example, let's say that your rebuy period is for the first hour of the tournament only. Well, it's totally up to you whether you allow participants to only rebuy when they are completely out of chips, whether you allow them to rebuy regardless of how many chips they currently have, or whether you allow them to rebuy only once they've fallen below a certain threshold amount of chips.
The third nuance when it comes to rebuys is the question of how many tiers you might offer for rebuys. The simplest would be to have one tier of rebuys. For the sake of argument, if you asked for a $50 donation to join the tournament and all players received $2,000 in chips to start the tournament, the simplest thing would be to offer rebuys for another $100 donation. Most commonly, players would then receive the same $2,000 starting amount of chips for buying themselves back in during the rebuy period. With unlimited rebuys, you would allow them to do this as many times as they got knocked out and were willing to pay you another donation.
On the other hand, let's say that you wanted to give players more options when it comes to rebuys. Using the same example, you could always have two tiers of rebuys – one cheaper and one more expensive. If you had the same pricing scheme as above where guests donated $50 to participate in the tournament and everyone received $2,000 in starting chips, a lower-tier rebuy might cost $35 and a player would only receive $1,000 in chips – half the starting amount of chips. On the other hand, a player could also have the option of donating $50 for a higher-tier rebuy and they would receive a full $2,000 in chips. The logic here behind the two-tiered system is to structure the two levels such that it makes more financial sense for the player to pay for the higher-priced rebuy because it's a better deal.
Typically once the rebuy period has ended, the Tournament Director will announce that players have a very quick break from play while they are offered the opportunity to purchase an "add-on" – an extra amount of chips for a donation to your organization. Those players who are still left in the tournament at this point then can increase their stack of chips by giving you a donation. Keep in mind that this add-on is strictly a one-time offer at this point only. After these add-ons are purchased and play then continues, no further rebuys or add-ons are allowed.
For the add-on, you typically you might ask for the same dollar amount as a donation that you charged players for a seat in the poker tournament, although you can also adjust this pricing at your discretion. Also, most common would be to offer either the same amount of chips that players started the tournament with as an add-on, or even to offer more. For example, if guests started the tournament with $2,000 in chips, their one-time add-on offer after the rebuy period expires might be that they would receive $2,000 in chips for another donation of $50. Alternatively, you could make it even more enticing for players to purchase an add-on by giving them even more chips than they received at the start of the tournament. For example, you could give them $3,000 in chips as an add-on, even though everyone began with just $2,000 in starting chips. Sometimes it can help your bottom line to make it the add-on such a good deal that no one wants to pass it up. The key is to strike a balance between collecting as much in donations for your organization as possible while keeping the structure of the tournament reasonable and not upsetting too many of the poker purists and aficionados in the crowd.
If you've been following along closely, you might have noticed that we mentioned the idea of tables being consolidated as players are eliminated from the tournament. What happens to all these players who get eliminated, and also to all the tables and dealers that aren't necessary any more? Instead of simply sending everyone home, most fun for everyone is to have our dealers at these "extra" tables continue to deal poker to players who have been eliminated. They won't be in the running for the tournament any longer since they've already been knocked out, but these players most likely are competitively-natured and will want to continue playing against each other for fun.
Don't forget that, as a matter of company policy, our staff members are never allowed to handle any real money. Having said that, you'll want to make sure you have enough staffers or volunteers on hand who can both check people in and collect any money or charge any credit cards. One great tip is to have several people on hand who can float around the room, especially during the rebuy and add-on periods to collect money and/or make change. Make it as easy as possible for your guests to buy themselves back into the tournament by having staffers who are ready to run over to any table if the dealer or Tournament Director indicates that a guest at their table wants to purchase a rebuy or add-on. If you're collecting cash at your event, these staffers of yours can handle the cash and keep track of any bookkeeping. On the other hand, if everyone is pre-registered and you're using credit cards or a paper system where everything is charged later, your floating volunteers can also come in handy to help ensure that player info is jotted down correctly and rebuys and add-ons are processed as quickly as possible.
Our poker tournament packages typically include:
- Poker tables fully equipped with professional cards, an assortment of chips at each table marked with denominations, and a dealer button
- NOTE: We do NOT provide chairs for each poker table, but almost every venue will set aside the required number of chairs for you; remember to plan on either 9 or 10 players per table plus 1 dealer
- 1 professional poker dealer for each table
- Delivery, setup, and tear-down of the tables and equipment
- Tournament Director: This person might be a separate staff member (recommended for tournaments with 5 or more tables), or they might serve the dual role of dealer and Tournament Director, raising the blinds and administering the tournament from a dealing position at one of the tables
Because our Tournament Director will be controlling the "blinds" or the betting throughout the night according to a specific structure, we can ensure that the overall tournament ends within the allotted time. In general the more players there are, the longer the tournament would typically take, but 3 to 4 hours is our usual tournament length.