Play Poker, Build Community: Social Poker Tourney Raises Funds for South Pas Middle School

(From left) Previous Main Event Poker champions Peter Ervin (2015), Jeff Nott (2018), Mark Deetjan (2016) and Rachel Walsh (2017). Photo courtesy of Bill Buckley

Parents, friends, neighbors and card sharks alike are welcome to come try out their best poker face and enjoy a social evening at the 5th Main Event Poker Tournament on March 23. Co-hosted by the South Pasadena Middle School (SPMS) Booster Club and Dads Uniting Dads in Education and Service (D.U.D.E.S.), the tournament serves as a vital fundraiser to support after-school athletics and educational activities at SPMS.

The event will be held at the War Memorial Building at 435 Fair Oaks Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a bit of poker training and the tournament starts at 7 p.m. To secure a spot, advance registration is recommended at

“It feels more like a party,” said Bill Buckley, Booster Club dad and vice president of fundraising. “We really like to keep it simple. Even if you don’t play poker and you want to come hang out and enjoy beer, wine, the pizza, the tacos or the free blackjack, we work to make it really inclusive.”

The Main Event Poker Tournament is run like a professional tournament with 10 dealers and increasing blinds. To top it all off, there’s a traveling trophy for the winner, which is engraved with the names of previous winners.

“There’s fun comradery about that as well,” said Buckley.

All-you-can-eat food, wine and beer are included–along with $2,000 in chips–for a $100 donation. Players will be able to re-buy and add on chips for the first hour of play. Fans, friends and family who don’t want to play in the tournament but want to support SPMS can buy a food and drink ticket for $25 and cheer on their school or favorite competitor. Two Black Jack tables with prizes also will be featured for those not playing in the tournament. Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza is sponsoring the pizza for the fifth year in a row.

A view of last year’s Main Event Poker Tournament at the War Memorial Building. Photo courtesy of Bill Buckley

Buckley said the evening serves as a lighthearted and casual way for people to enjoy the community and get to know each other better. A group of moms who played last year have since formed their own poker group in preparation for this year’s event, led by Monika Petrillo. In previous years, many parents have come out to attend with kids in elementary or those who have already moved on into So Pas High School. Everyone is supplied with name tags so they can also identify their school and easily spark conversations with other attendees.

“Give it a chance,” encouraged Buckley. “It’s not about whether you play poker or not, it’s about the evening, the fun, the enjoyment. We have a lot of people that just enjoy watching people play. You find people rooting for their school. It’s really just a social evening that’s a great benefit for the kids in the community.”

The South Pasadena Middle School Athletic Booster Club is an organization of parents, neighbors, friends and fans whose goal is to support and enhance the after-school athletic programs at SPMS. For more information, visit

Dads Uniting Dads in Education and Service (D.U.D.E.S.) is a charitable organization that harnesses the energies of South Pasadena families in order to develop camaraderie and service for South Pasadena schools. For more information, visit or call (626) 487-7092.