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Laying All the Cards on the Table

The Osbourn High School Athletic Booster Club in Manassas, Virginia decided to capitalize on the popularity of Texas Hold'em Poker by holding a tournament fundraiser. Due to some planning mistakes and growing pains, the event didn't produce the funds it was seeking, but learned enough to hold two more this school year and is optimistic for the future.

By Charles Patullo
President, Osbourn High School Athletic Booster Club
Osbourn High School
Manassas, Virginia

Ira DeGrood, Athletic Director at Osbourn High School, and I meet frequently to talk about issues dealing with athletics. Basically, we are tired of our student-athletes going around selling stuff. Everybody sells stuff. So we tried to brainstorm and come up with some ideas. We concluded that we should try a Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament fundraiser.

We had heard of some other schools and organizations doing Casino Night and those types of events. But with the popularity of Texas Hold'em we decided to give it a shot.

It took us about six months to plan it and put it together. To start, we needed permission from the city school board because of the whole gambling issue. They don't consider it gambling if we don't give away money. We did not. The only thing people won were prizes.

There were a total of 10 prizes awarded for first to 10th place finishes. Four different TVss were awarded, including a 60" HD flat screen television for first place. The other TV's were 42" HD, 32" HD, and a 19" HD TV/DVD combo for second through fourth place, respectively. Other prizes included: a 15x zoom 12-mega pixel digital camera, two rounds of golf plus free golf carts at Piedmont Country Club in Haymarket, Va., and a $100 gift card. Except for the first prize, which was given to us at cost ($1,800), local businesses in town donated all of the prizes.

The event was held April 30 at The Old Towne Sports Pub in the Old Town section of Manassas. It ran from 1 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. For all of you history buffs, the two battles of Bull Run during the Civil War were fought in Manassas.

The owners of the sports pub treat our booster club very well. We hold our monthly membership meetings there and they donated the place to us for the fundraiser. They have an extra room in the back that can hold about 120 people and that's where we held the tournament. But they also made money because the people in the tournament bought beer and food. It was a win-win for both organizations.

The tournament was limited to 120 players and buy-in for the tournament was a $100 donation, which netted you $10,000 worth of chips. People reserved a seat either in advance or at the door the day of the fundraiser by cash or check. There was no extra buy-ins once a participant ran out of chips. All the proceeds went towards the Osbourn High School Athletic Booster Club, which financially supports all 23 sports teams. The club raises money to contribute to new uniforms, equipment, and necessary upgrades to the school's facilities and field maintenance.

We hired a local businessman who runs Texas Hold'em Tournaments to organize and run the fundraiser. He's done a lot of work with the Lions Club in town. We paid him a percentage based on the amount of people who participated, which was roughly $1,000.

We just about broke even. We grossed around $3,100 but only netted about $300 because we made a lot of mistakes being this was our first time doing this type of fundraiser. The biggest mistake was that we didn't do a better job of advance sales. A lot of people said they would be there, and we were banking on that, but it never came to fruition. The key is to drive advance sales and get some money up front. We only had about 20 people via advance sales. Overall, we had roughly 30 people show up.

The second thing was we didn't look at the schedule of events that were happening that day. There were a couple of conflicts of interest that had an effect on our gate, the main one being a NASCAR event in Richmond, which a lot of people went to or watched on TV. And there was another big function going on in the city that day.

We also didn't do that good of a job advertising in local newspapers. We have a Facebook page and a newsletter that we used, but we needed to do a better job of promoting it to the public.

Despite all the negatives, we are scheduling two more Texas Hold'em Tournaments this school year. If we had 120 people there, we would have made between $7,000-$7,500. It's still a good idea. We just suffered from growing pains. is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.