Poker Runs America Returns to the Soo August 5, 6, 2017

The Sault Ste. Marie waterfront will see some serious speed at the second annual President's Cup Poker Run.

Poker Runs of America has just released their 2017 poker run schedule. Ontario boaters will be pleased to see we have three events on the list for this season. I'm thrilled to see that Sault Ste. Marie is once again hosting the Cam-Am Presidents Cup on the August long weekend. I can't wait to head up to 'The Soo' to take in the festivities again this year. The 2016 Sault Ste Marie poker run was a blast. 

This year is promising to be even better, with more boats, bigger crowds and plenty of activities for the whole family. Sault Ste Marie did a spectacular job with last year's event. Most racers said it was the best first-time event they've ever attended. Count on the team at Tourism Sault Ste Marie to outdo the 2016 event.

Maybe this year I'll get out on one of the race boats for a charity ride. It was the highlight of last year's event, raising over $10,000 for the local boys and girls club. 

Read on to find out how this top-tier event got its start and how last seasons poker run went down...

Back in February, the folks from Poker Runs America and the team from Tourism Sault Ste Marie got together on a frigid winter day to plan what would turn out to be a fantastic event held seven months later, in the heat of August.

Imagination was key. As a Northern Ontario city, Sault Ste Marie looks a whole lot different in the middle of winter than it does in the peak of summer. But Poker Runs America had imagination, and Ian McMillian and his team had a mission to host a poker run in their city. They pulled it off in spectacular style.

Welcome to Sault Ste. Marie

We arrived in the Soo, as the city is affectionately known, just before dinner on Friday. The festivities were already in full swing. Poker run participants were enjoying a welcome reception at the Delta Hotel, which was a perfect choice to host the event. It’s located right on the waterfront and close to the Roberta Bondar Marina, where the participating offshore racing boats were moored.

After a quick, but excellent, dinner at The View restaurant at the Delta, we made the short walk over to the Roberta Bondar Pavilion for the opening ceremonies. It didn’t take long to realize many of the residents of Sault Ste Marie were just as excited about this event as the participants. There were several boats on display outside of the pavilion and visitors were lining up to take photographs and admire these high-tech, high-powered machines.

Inside the pavilion, several vendors were set up, showcasing their company’s products to the crowd. The highlight was definitely Polaris. They had a selection of their new Slingshot ‘vehicles’ on display. I say vehicles, because I can’t decide if these futuristic-looking devices are a car, or a motorcycle, or something else entirely.

Photo courtesy of Zombieite

It Begins...

At 7 pm sharp, Mr. McMillian took the stage to officially kick off the weekend's events. He spoke of the February visit that put the whole plan in motion. He introduced the CEO of Poker Runs America who spoke about the participant's excitement for the upcoming event.

There was one overwhelming sentiment expressed by all the speakers. This event was the ‘First Annual President’s Cup’. It was quite clear this event would run again on an annual basis. The plan is to grow the event over the coming years to 100 boats, a considerable increase from the 25 on the water this year.

With the ceremonies complete, it was time for the band to take the stage. After a couple of songs, we headed over to the marina to have a look at the boats.

What is a Power Boat Poker Run?

The brilliance of a poker run is that anyone can participate. Despite the fact that the majority of boats running these events are offshore racing boats, with thousands of horsepower and triple-digit top speeds, it’s not a race. Speed is actually irrelevant. As long as your boat can complete the course in the allotted time, it's the poker hand you assemble that dictates the winner.

Which explains the wide array of boats moored in the marina. The smallest was a 26-foot Baja Outlaw and the largest was a 52-foot Nor-Tech 5200 Roadster custom-painted in a ‘Need for Speed’ livery. Between, there were models from Fountain, Outerlimits, Sunsation, Cigarette and more. Every one of them with an equal chance to take home the $10,000 top prize.

On Saturday morning, we joined thousands of spectators on the boardwalk for the start of the poker run. At 10:00 am, all the boats paraded at slow speeds up the river, giving the assembled crowd a great view before turning around and roaring off to the first checkpoint.

There were four stops on this run, each one in a different town. The boats picked up their first envelope at Richard’s Landing on St. Joseph’s Island. Then they headed to Hilton Beach for their second card and a short break for lunch.

Back in their boats, the participants made their way to Drummond Island in Michigan for their third card. The fourth card stop was back in Ontario, in the town of Thessalon on the North Shore. With four of the five cards needed in hand, the boats raced back to Sault Ste Marie to pick up their fifth and final card. The envelopes had to remain sealed until the evening reception where the poker hands would be revealed and the winner declared.

The Ride of a Lifetime

Perhaps the most interesting part of the event was on Sunday. Charity rides. Anyone could buy a ticket for $100 and get a chance to go for a 92mph ride in the Fountain boat owned and operated by the CEO of Poker Runs America. The proceeds from the rides went to the local Sault Ste Marie Boys and Girls Club.

For a first event, this poker run was a huge success. Participants said this was one of the absolute best events they had ever attended.

Residents were excited to see their beautiful waterfront finally getting the use and attention it deserves. Organizers are already looking forward to next year’s event which is promising to be an even bigger hit with more boats and larger crowds.

Speaking for myself, the President’s Cup will be a permanent fixture on my summer travel calendar for years to come.

About Steve Sansford

Steve has spent most of his life in and around boats. His father was a marine mechanic and Steve studied Marine Navigation in college. He currently holds several Transport Canada navigation and safety ratings. His work has been published in Powerboating Canada magazine and various other online outlets. Check out his Instagram feed for updates on his latest adventures.

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