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In Austin, April Showers Bring… Poker Tournaments?

April is a busy season for poker tournaments in Austin. Our team is working tirelessly to create custom experiences for companies and nonprofits that want to raise money for a good cause while having a great time.

Want to host a poker tournament of your own this spring? Here’s an inside look at the steps we take during the planning phase of a poker tournament.

Familiarize Yourself With the State Laws

Every state has their own laws regarding gambling and poker playing. Here in Texas, gambling is illegal. But that doesn’t mean poker tournaments are off-limits. The law specifies:

“A holder of an on-premises alcoholic beverage permit may, without violating either section 47.04(a) of the Penal Code or Rule 35.31 of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, host a poker tournament in which participants do not risk money or any other thing of value for the opportunity to win a prize."

The penal code also specifies:

"A nonprofit organization would violate Penal Code section 47.03(a)(3) and (5) by sponsoring a 'poker run' in which participants are entitled to receive a five-card hand for each $10 donation they make to a charitable cause and will receive cash prizes for the best, second best, and worst hands."

Long story short, the local laws will determine the parameters for tournament participation. You can still host a poker tournament in Texas, but players can’t pay to enter.

Pick a Venue That Can Accommodate a Poker Tournament

Poker tournaments with numerous tables require a fair amount of floor space. That’s one of the first things we consider since the venue needs to be reserved well in advance.

Typically there are ten players per table in a poker tournament. Once you have a rough idea of how many players will participate you can determine how many tables are needed. This will give you an accurate estimate of how much space you’ll need.

Other venue considerations include:

  • Bathrooms

  • Availability of food and beverages

  • Parking

  • Smoking area

As the tournament plays out, the tables will be consolidated. Make sure to let the venue operators know that less space may be needed later in the day.

Decide the Buy-in and Prizes

The buy-in (how much a player must pay to participate in the tournament) is another decision that has to be made early on if your state allows gambling. The buy-in could limit the number of players if it’s too high, but the buy-ins also need to generate enough money to make it worth everyone’s time. The buy-in fees should cover the costs associated with hosting the tournament, as well as prizes for the winners.

In states like Texas, players can’t buy-in to play poker tournaments, but you can sell raffle tickets instead. If you plan to hold a raffle as a way to raise funds during the tournament, keep in mind many states have special laws and regulations that must be followed. For example, Texas laws on raffles and casino/poker nights state that only an approved entity may hold a raffle and all the proceeds must go towards charitable purposes conducted by the hosting organization.

Now comes the fun part - picking the prizes. Most poker tournaments award prizes to the winner and the other players that make it to the final table. Some organizers award additional prizes for things like best hand and worst hand of the tournament. The more desirable your prizes are, the more players you can expect to come out. Just keep in mind that the prizes can’t be cash if gambling is outlawed.

Make Sure You Have Enough Starting Chips

Only a few things are absolutely necessary for a poker tournament, and chips are one of them. The number of chips you need depends on the number of players as well as how many chips each player starts with.

In a standard Texas Hold‘em tournament around 1,000 chips are needed for 20-30 players. A general rule of thumb is to have 500 chips at each 10-player table.


Hire Professional Dealers

The secret to a smooth poker game is a dealer that knows what they’re doing. Professional dealers keep the game flowing, but they also help keep the game enjoyable. The dealer can help enforce poker etiquette and alert the tournament director when a dispute occurs so the matter can be handled quickly.

These are just some of the initial steps you’ll have to take to host a Texas hold‘em poker tournament. If you plan to raise money during the event, it’s important to talk with a lawyer or experienced event planner to make sure everything is done within the confines of the law.

Casino Knights has everything you need to host a successful poker tournament, including tournament directors that understand the gambling laws and restrictions. Give us a call today to discuss your poker tournament plans.

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