You may have heard about "Poker Runs" for boaters in Ontario. Here's how they work and how you can easily join in for a fun day on the water.
A "poker run" is a term used to describe a boating event where chance and not speed determines who is the winner. Over the past few years, these events have become very popular, because they provide a full day of fun, food and excitement at a reasonable cost. Some poker runs are organized to provide performance boaters with a platform to exercise their boats at speed, without the dangers involved with racing. Other poker runs are more of a "rendezvous" where boats of varying speed capabilities set out on a prearranged course to enjoy a group lunch and usually a dinner banquet.
Poker Runs America established the performance version of this sport nearly 30 years ago. Each boat would follow a route that included five stops or check points. At these stops each boat would pick up a playing card in a sealed envelope. At the evening dinner, a master of ceremonies posts the five cards for each boat under the name of the boat, and the winner, of course, is the boat with the highest poker hand.
Over the years, the stakes and prizes grew to a point where winners were taking home $20,000 in prizes and entry fees were high. Recently, however, the trend has reversed, and rendezvous runs are open to any boat that can achieve 25 miles per hour and boat owners can choose a speed class that they are comfortable with. These events are held all over Ontario by boating clubs, and the focus is on fun for boaters. So if you hear of a rendezvous in your area, you might seriously consider joining in.
Another change to poker run events is the trend towards charity work. Poker Runs America events donate a portion of their proceeds to local hospitals and the Performance Boat Club of Canada is a non-profit organization, donating all proceeds to local charities. Good for boaters and good for their community. It is important to understand that each speed class is required to follow a pace boat that operates at the maximum speed for the class, so everyone is assured that it is not a race and that nobody will get lost. In the event of a mechanical problem, a chase boat follows to assist with any problems. With today's controlled speeds, there are not any injuries from passengers slipping out of seats like they did years ago, but you'll be glad to know that there is always a safety boat in the run, just in case.
Once you enter a rendezvous or poker run, you will be hooked. There are enough events in Ontario that you could join one almost every weekend this summer. The best way to learn where and when an event is scheduled close to you, is to go to the specialty websites, PerformanceBoatClub.ca and PokerRunsAmerica.com. Don't be intimidated by the photos of high-performance boats you will see on these websites. They may be part of the action, but last year a pontoon boat won first place in Gananoque!