If you’ve never heard of a Poker Run, prepare to be blown away by this pastime that is sweeping the globe. You don’t need to have any kind of poker skills or even understand poker strategy to be successful at a poker run. While it is not a race, speed can certainly help you in some events.

A poker run is an event where participants normally travel to 5 to 7 stops to collect a playing card at each location. The event is timed, and the team or player with the best poker hand using all 5 cards wins the event. Boats, motorcycles, or bicycles are typically used in a poker run.

If you are still unclear, we will break it down further, show you what great fun this experience can be, and offer you tips for hosting your very own Poker Run event. It is not as complicated as it sounds, but it could be the adrenaline rush or event-hook that you’ve been looking for.

Poker Run Details

To show you a hands-on example of what a Poker Run is, check out this event on Eventbrite. Located in Ohio in the Summer of 2020, the Poker Run event is 76 miles of biking to be held between two cities.

The goal is to go to the end and back, stopping at bars and fun spots along the way to collect your cards.

“The most popular poker runs thus far have been motorcycle runs, but the format has spread to boats, planes, bicycles and just about any other form of transport you can think of. There’s no reason why you can’t make your event a poker walk, rather than a poker run.” – SDWR

If you are picturing the ‘Amazing Race‘ television show now, you’re not wrong. But it’s also not right.

Imagine this race without the real importance of arriving first. Even the group that arrives last could still have the best poker hand. This is the purpose of the game, which is precisely why it is not a race.

In fact, having the best hand will be a matter of luck, but that is why this event is so enjoyable for all ages.

The organizers will usually boast a small fee to join because they are often fundraisers for charitable causes. This is an affordable way to give back to a cause, race around getting drinks and snacks along the way and enjoy some family/friend bonding with your group.

Rules of a Poker Run

The rules will always be up to the host of the game. So oftentimes, these are adaptable to each player, event, or goal of the host.

Some ideas for rules to get started are:

  1. You will purchase your scoring card at the first stop, and this will be your entrance into the competition. (This money 100% goes back to the XYZ Foundation to help with XYZ)
  2. You will get a stamp on your hand for each stop on your scorecard that represents the card you’ve drawn.
  3. Players must stop at each stop for a stamp, or they are automatically disqualified.
  4. All stops must be completed within 6 hours (or however long you prefer). You must reach the final stop by 6:00 p.m., or you are disqualified.
  5. Once you’ve reached the last stop, you will have the opportunity to pay extra to draw another card.
  6. You will submit your scoring card, and the best 5 (if you’ve paid extra for a 6th) will be marked as your group’s ‘hand.’
  7. The group with the best hand of cards at the end wins!

Standard card measurement techniques will be used to determine the group with the best hand. You are looking for great hands in poker, such as:

  • Two-Pair- Just as it sounds, you have 2 different pairs in your hand. Common.
  • Trips– You hold three cards of the same number. Fairly common
  • Straight- 5 cards in a row. Somewhat rare.
  • Flush- All the same suit. Somewhat rare.
  • Full house- 3 of a kind and a pair. For example, 99955 is a full house. Rare.
  • 4 of a kind- 4 cards with the same number. Very rare.
  • Straight flush- 5 cards in a row with the same suit. Extremely rare.
  • A royal flush- An Ace high, straight, and flush. The rarest hand of all.

How Long Does a Poker Run Last?

The example linked above only gives you between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to bike over 75 miles. The creator of each Poker run will always establish the rules, but they often do not exceed a weekend.

Poker Runs are often annual events that will be completed within the span of one to two days. Sometimes it is a Saturday/Sunday event, but a winning team will be selected fairly quickly given the extreme tasks they are asked to complete.

As a Poker Run host, you want to be sure that all contestants can reach the final destination by the specified time and the specified means of transportation without being disqualified for tardiness. Test the race yourself and be certain you are giving your contestants enough time.

How Many Decks of Cards Are Needed for Poker Run?

You will only need one full deck for the poker run because if you have any more than this, contestants will receive duplicates.

You will need a standard 52-card deck to play poker run and do not want more contestants/stops than there are cards.

For example, if you had 15 contestants and 15 stops, there would not be enough cards for each contestant to grab 1 card per stop.

In this case, you could break up the contestants into smaller groups. So 4 groups with 5 stops would work perfectly!

Reasons to Host a Poker Run

The number of Poker Run challenges is on the rise as people discover how brilliantly fun these events can be.

You can host a poker run for the purposes of:

  • Raising money for a great cause or charitable intentions
  • Bringing attention to your new business with something fun and unique
  • Hosting an event that most people have never been to
  • Having a wedding shower, bachelorette party, or any kind of event that you just want to add a unique activity to.

Get creative because essentially any event can benefit from the addition of a Poker Run challenge!

How to Host Your Own Poker Run?

The steps to hosting your own Poker Run event include but are not limited to:

  1. Determine the purpose of your Poker Run Event if it is charitable, a list that is blatantly on any invitations or promotions that you do for the event. Always use tag-related hashtags for your cause, including things like #poker #challenge #gamblers #lasvegas #games #charity #giveback #XYZcharityname, etc.
  2. Search Engine Optimization and marketing will need to be broad yet specific enough to draw in your ideal audience and participants.
  3. Gather the 3-10 local businesses that you want to work with for your event. You will have to go around and ask these establishments if they would want to partner with you for this event.
  4. Describe to the business that, like a pub crawl or any other event, it is free for them to be a part of, may make them money while people stop in for beers/food, and their business’s name will be advertised as a sponsor on your Poker Run Event list. It is a great promotion for them, and asks if they would be interested in sponsoring you or giving a small cut to the charity you are working on behalf of.
  5. Do not pressure businesses to donate because all you really need is their excitement and involvement to want to help. Explain that they will be responsible for groups coming in to draw a card. Each business will have to stamp or write out *in pen to not be changeable* the card that each team has drawn.
  6. Once you’ve promoted your event, have registered players that want to be a part of, and the businesses all lined up for them to stop at, now figure out your prize.
  7. Once the games have begun, be sure that each team knows the time of where they need to start, and the end-time of where they need to be by the last stop.
  8. Be sure that each team has a Tally and Rule Sheet that you can leave at the first stop. The first stop’s employees can be responsible for giving each team their tally sheet, as well as their single stamp for this stop. They will use this tally sheet to get their stamps at each subsequent stop.
  9. You will have determined beforehand what the transportation will look like for your particular event. Popular Poker Racing styles are by car, motorcycles, planes, speed boat, adding tightropes or ziplines into the mix, etc.

For example, if you want your audience to be along the water, find businesses along the water to make it a boat race. Think deeply about what mechanism of commute will align with your theme. Be creative because you can host this along a popular street of bars, along an entire beach, or across a whole town.

Regardless of the transportation method and distance, be certain that your teams can make it from point A to point B in the time you’ve allotted.

Final Tips for Hosting Your Poker Run

I recommend getting a waterproof deck of playing cards. Here is a cool-looking deck, found on Amazon, that will work perfectly.

Or, just find one themed for your activity. For example, if your poker run is for bikers you may want to get something a bit edgy. Here is one that my biker dad absolutely loves.

It does not matter who gets there first. This is not a race. As long as each team arrives within the allotted time, they are all playing on an equal playing field.

This is not a race, because just like poker, it comes down to luck. It all comes down to which team has the best hand at the end. It is the luck of the draw.

Be sure the prize is decent enough to entice people but not so expensive that you’ve lost money for your initial purpose/fundraising/charity. Your audience will understand that funds need to go towards those that need it most. Find a prize that is enjoyable but not costly or eating up your profits for donations.

A pro tip is to ask each business that you work with if they have anything, they would be willing to offer up in exchange for the advertisement and promotion you are bringing their business by advertising them as a sponsor for your great cause.

This could be things like, ‘Free beer at our bar for a month, up to 5 beers per week included,’ or promotions like this that won’t cost the bar too much. Do not pressure your businesses to donate, but if they are willing to, it can be the start of a great partnership for future Poker Runs. Perhaps what the businesses offer up to you will be a wonderful enough prize and no funds will be eaten from your donation-profits.

Whether you are hosting, competing, or just watching the festivities, poker runs are a delight for the entire family. Bring the kiddos out, enjoy races on the water and land, and prepare to experience an amazing race as you’ve never seen before.

If you are ready to run, here’s the list of Poker Run Events in America. Are you lucky enough for the challenge?

Related Questions

Is a poker run considered gambling? A poker run is not gambling since there is no traditional buy-in and the prize is generally not a cash award. However, be sure to check your local state laws to make sure poker runs are legal in your area.

Is a full house better than a flush? Yes, a full house beats a flush. The hand rankings in order are high card, pair, two pair, three of a kind, a straight, a flush, a full house, four of a kind, a straight flush, a royal flush.

Main photo courtesy of Jim Crocker.
Jim James

Jim James is well-known as the world’s leading expert on playing short or mid-stacked poker. He has over 15 years of experience playing poker professionally, has written extensively on the topic, and is the author of the best-selling poker strategy book Automatic Poker.

Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, he has won 7 figures at the poker tables. His innovative simple poker charts make the game easier for everyone willing to learn. Today, he helps other players demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em and has helped countless people become winning poker players through his Online Poker Academy.