Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Bluffing: This Poker Game Is Played with Boats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Bluffing: This Poker Game Is Played with Boats

Article excerpt

It might have all the attributes of a race -- a bunch of powerboats starting at the same place, running about 110 miles, clocking in at the finish and the skippers attending the inevitable party afterward with an awards ceremony.

But this isn't a race. It's a poker run. The third annual Donzi Challenge 2000 Jacksonville Poker Run, to be exact.

Poker? Brett Maverick-style, derringers under the table, dealing from the bottom of the deck and all?

Not quite. It's a relatively new event on the national scene that has been slowly becoming more popular, and it's not just limited to boats, though they are the favored "vehicles." And it's not a "race." More like a contest.

"It really doesn't have anything to do with the speed of the boats," explained Tom Dylewski, president of the Florida Tackle & Gun Club on Goodbys Creek off the St. Johns River on Jacksonville's Southside. The club, along with Donzi Marine and Julington Creek Marina, sponsors the event that starts at 10:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. next Sunday. By the way, there are 44 participants and the entry list is already closed.

"Poker runs have become quite popular all over the nation, especially in the Northeast," he said. "There are a lot in South Florida, but as far as we know, this is the only one in this area."

But there are an awful lot of boats used, too, as evidenced by the monthly Poker Runs America Magazine published in Detroit, which usually features a driver and a high-performance powerboat on its cover.

The object is to collect a poker hand. But instead of bellying up to a felt-covered table at a saloon, the players travel to five checkpoints, getting a card at each.

"Actually, at each checkpoint, each skipper will get a token for a card," Dylewski said of the Jacksonville run. "At the finish, each participant will trade in his tokens for cards dealt from a brand-new deck. …

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