What Is A Poker Run?

Poker Run

A poker run is an organized fun event in which the winner is determined by who has the best five cards to form a hand. Determining the winner of this organized event is left entirely to chance as the cards are drawn at random and participants need no poker knowledge to participate or win in a poker run. Poker runs can be done using various means of transportation like motorcycles, horses, kayaks, boats, or as a walk. Poker run is more common among the bikers society but it is increasing in popularity among the boat society. Poker runs could last from as short as a few hours to the whole weekend. 

Poker Run

Source – istockphoto.com 

Definition of a poker run

A poker run is an organized event in which participants pay an entry fee and with the use of a motorcycle, kayak, boat, horse, or other forms of transportation travel over a charted course, drawing a card at each checkpoint with the aim of forming the best hand from five playing cards. Poker runs are fun and can be done as a walk or hike. The major objective of a poker run is to have an organized fun event in which the winner is determined by who (or what team) has the best poker hand and money raised for charity. 

Poker runs generally have 5 or 7 checkpoints depending on the organizers of the event. Usually, poker runs are organized to raise funds for a cause or to be donated to a charity organization. The reason for every poker run is usually stated by the organizers of the event and known to the public or participants before they buy into the event. 

A poker run can be as short as a few hours and as long as a few days and it generally holds on the weekends. Depending on the event, there can be other fun activities at each checkpoint to add more spice to the event. Poker run also gives opportunities for participants to enjoy new sceneries, rekindle old friendships, or make new friends. A poker run gives participants the avenue to exchange maintenance tips for either their motorcycles, boats, horses, cars or any other form of transportation employed in the poker run. 

A time frame is usually allocated for the ride which is generous enough for riders to enjoy a few stops along the route. The event usually ends with a fun party like a dinner or award ceremony in which the winners are announced. The award might not be exactly big as the funds generated are donated to a foundation or charity and a token used to cover the running expense of the poker run. Depending on how large the organized poker run is, it can feel like a festival or carnival. 

How does a poker run work?

For a poker run, there is an entry fee that qualifies individuals to participate in the run. All participants start from the same location in which the instructions guiding the event are announced and maps given to all registered participants. 

The organizers of the event must have gotten the necessary and appropriate approvals for the event to run smoothly. Depending on the technicalities of the event, there might be 5 or 7 checkpoints in which each participant draws a card and rides on to the final destination. Each participant is tasked with the responsibility of keeping the integrity of each card collected intact until they get to the final checkpoint. In some events, the option of paying for an extra card is given. This card like other cards given at the various stop points is drawn at random. 

Though a time frame is usually given for the run, a poker run is not a race. The time allocated is usually generous to allow participants to take in the beauty of the scenery while factoring in the time to be spent at each checkpoint. Speed does not improve a participant’s chance of winning as the participant or group with the best hand could be the one that arrives last. In a poker run, the cards are drawn at random hence, winning is all luck and no speed.

The only poker knowledge that might come in handy in a poker run is understanding the poker hand ranks. This will aid the understanding of how the winner is selected. However, you don’t have to understand poker hand ranks to participate in a poker run. The organizers would determine who has the best hand. 

In some poker runs, only 5 cards are drawn at random while other poker runs allow for 7 cards to be drawn. If there are 7 checkpoints in which a card is given to each participant, only 5 of the cards will be used to form a hand. The aim is to form the best hand possible with 5 playing cards. Some poker runs allow participants the option of paying a fee for an additional card at the end of the run to improve their chance of forming a stronger hand which in turn increases their chance of winning. 

Generally, in a poker run, riders are not allowed to consume alcohol a few hours before the run or during the run (most especially if the poker run is done on the water with the use of boats). This is to reduce the risk of an accident. Riders are usually not advised to drink alcoholic beverages during the run though sometimes the stop points for card collection might be in a bar.  

Over the decades, different variations of poker runs as been seen one of which is the dice run. In a dice run, instead of collecting cards at every checkpoint, participants roll dice and the value is recorded. The aim is to have the highest score when the value rolled at each checkpoint is summed up. 

Generally, the participants with the best 3 hands are awarded prices. However, some variant of the poker run awards prize to the lowest hand as well depending on the organizers of the event.  

History of Poker Run

Poker run started within the motorcycle community as a way to increase participation and add fun to their events. Poker run started as an event among the bikers community but has now evolved and has been seen among various communities. Many boat clubs now organize poker runs as a means to have fun out on the water. Poker run has evolved and can be carried out using various forms of transportation including motorcycles, boats, bicycles, horses, and cars. It can be organized as a poker walk or hike. 

The largest poker run in history was held in April 2009 and was organized by the Red Knights International Motorcycle Club to raise funds for the Fallen Firefighter Survivors Foundation. 22 poker runs were held simultaneously across 9 different states in America with 2,136 motorcyclists in participation. This poker run helped raise money for a good cause – the Fallen Firefighter Survivors Foundation. 

Another well-known poker run was held in 2012 in which 586 bikers participated to raise money for Prostate Cancer research in Ottawa, Canada.

 In 2013, the largest organized motorcycle poker run at one location was recorded with 1,494 bikers participating to raise funds for a charity organization, Realities for Children. This poker run was held in Fort Collins, Colorado where bikers came from all over America to make new friends and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Colorado while raising money for a good cause. The winning hand was a king-high straight spade flush, which was remarkable. This hand if drawn at a casino could mean a player hitting jackpot. A straight flush is the second-best hand in poker ranking with an odd of 0.00139% in Texas Hold’em poker. This means that the chance of hitting a straight flush is 1 in 72,192. The straight flush is the second-rarest hand to draw in poker. 

Poker runs though fun and enjoyable are also worthwhile as it is a way to give back to the community.  

What Makes Poker Run Fun?

A poker run is an opportunity to meet people with similar interests, make new friends, rekindle old friendships, discover new terrains, and enjoy beautiful sceneries. Riding your bike, boat, or other means of transportation alongside others with similar interests injects some form of excitement into the ride. Giving back to the community can be fun and poker run serves as an avenue to give back and have fun doing it.

It is usually entertaining. Poker run is an opportunity for participants to discover new terrains in their environment or enjoy new sceneries that they have never been to. As participants sometimes travel from one state to another for a poker run, locales are given the opportunity to appreciate their community from a new or different perspective. Tourists get to enjoy a new environment and appreciate new sceneries and cultures. Participants may discover new terrains and enjoy beautiful sights. Poker runs can offer a good touring experience for participants. 

Making new friends. Over the years poker run has served as a means for bikers to meet new people with similar interest. As poker run tends to draw participants from various locations, it provides the opportunity to make new friends. One of the easiest ways to bond with a person is through a common interest. Getting into discussions about the model and maintenance of the various rides seen in the event can serve as an easy way to break the ice and get to meet new people. In a poker run, tips are shared on how to maintain the ride (be it a motorcycle or boat). 

Giving to a good cause. Participants get to contribute to a good course easily. Many times people believe that they need to be rich to give back to society. Poker run is an affordable way for individuals to make great impacts in their community by giving to a good cause. The entry fee varies depending on the event but usually ranges from less than $100 to about $800. This way each rider is giving more easily to society. 

With poker run, you get to kill two birds with one stone – unwind and give back. If you are looking for an exciting activity that is worth your time, a poker run might just be what you need. 

Tips To Organize A Successful Poker Run

The cards purchased should be of good quality and preferably waterproof. The cards would be handled by different people and the card should be durable enough. If the poker run is organized among a community of boaters, the cards being waterproof is a necessity. Depending on the type of event, you could get a deck of cards that is custom-themed to suit the event. Get sufficient volunteers. Volunteers would be needed to give out score sheets, stamps, and other necessities at various checkpoints. The fun is not limited to the riders only. Volunteering is a part of poker run. Plan well. The terrain for the poker run must be well thought out with checkpoints located at hotspots. The checkpoints could be bars, local businesses, historical sites, or some other tourist attractions along the designated terrain. As the major goal of most poker runs is to raise funds for a good cause it is important that the cost to successfully organize the event be kept to the minimum. The prizes for the winners should be nice but affordable. Partnering with local organizations might be a good way to go. Some of the things that should be decided before the poker run are the type of transportation to be used, the terrain to be explored, the theme of the event (if any), the foundation or charity the funds would be donated to, time allocated for the run (should be generous enough), checkpoints/stop points, prizes to be given out, and other logistics. For any event to be successful, it must be well planned out.Publicity. The event should be publicized well before the event to increase the number of participants. It is not unusual for people to travel from one state to another to participate in a poker run. The better the publicity, the larger the number of participants. Use a single deck of cards. To prevent giving out duplicates and promote fair play, a single standard 52-card deck should be used in a poker run. Depending on the number of registered participants, they could be divided into groups such that each group can get the total of five cards needed to make a hand. In a poker run event with only five stops, there can be a maximum of ten groups using a 52-card deck. There is no limit to the number of participants in a group.Get creative. Each poker run is dynamic. Spice things up. At checkpoints, other fun activities or games could be carried out. A color tag could be associated with each group. The closing event could be a dinner. Do something different and have fun!

In Conclusion

A poker run is a fun way to raise funds for a charity, foundation, or organization. The mode of transportation is not limited to motorcycles. It could be cars, boats, horses, or other forms of transportation. A poker run could be a walk or hike. Over the decades there have been poker runs that made remarkable impacts on society. Before you plan a poker run, ensure that necessary authorities are notified and proper licensing is acquired. 

A poker run is purely a game of luck and no poker skill or knowledge is needed to participate in one. Looking for a new and exciting event, a poker run might just be what you need. It could be organized as a small event or a large one. It’s all left for you to decide. 

When participating in a poker run, remember to take in the scenery – it is not a race!

Author: Jonathan Torres