When the first few colorful poker run boats started rolling into Destin & Fort Walton beach last week for what has become Florida’s top summer boating blockbuster, the weather forecast was far from poker run-friendly, as the rain soaked Florida panhandle seemed to be under constant assault by the rain gods. But in a strange and unexpected reversal in the weather forecast on Saturday morning, the expected showers held off and boaters from Sandestin to Pensacola Beach began to dot the waterways. By early afternoon, the bay and intracoastal waters were buzzing with poker run teams from all over the United States. The game was on!
A total of nine checkpoints formed a 120-plus mile course, which offered a protected water format, where boats of virtually any size or speed could participate. Boat Week activities began as early as Tuesday, with parties every evening for poker run enthusiasts, and an agenda which has given the Emerald Coast Poker Run the reputation as being one of the most fun events on the summer poker run tour. Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast provided a wide variety of accommodations, which were concentrated in Fort Walton Beach and in Destin, and most visitors agreed that the sugary white sand along the scenic beaches, makes this one of the most beautiful areas in the country for powerboating enjoyment.
Saturday got off to a slow start as weather radar showed a solid band fo storms from Louisana to Panama City Beach, but an unexpected shift in the weather put these storms on a different course, and the Saturday poker run went off without a hitch. Popular checkpoints included Juana’s Pagodas at Navarre Beach, where hundreds of boats beached and anchored in the sandy cove. It was a sight to behold, as the FPC chopper approached from above…snapping photos and video clips for the Powerboating in Paradise TV series. With a live band playing, beach volleyball and stereo wars from an impressive fleet of powerboats seemed to create the perfect set for a beer company TV commercial. Indeed, there were exciting activities at all checkpoints along the course, which were managed by large numbers of spirited event volunteers, who are often dressed in costumes and displaying a variety of creative themes.
By later in the day, with the boats settled in for the evening, over a thousand guests gathered at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, where hundreds of poker hands were played out and guests were entertained by local Elvis impersonator Ron Adams, a crowd favorite who has performed at this annual fund raising event for over a decade. By later in the evening, the top winners assembled at the “final table” and eager players started plunking down big sums ranging from $2,000 to $ 10,000, to buy their way to a seat for the final round and take a shot at winning the brand new Ford F-150 pickup from Gary Smith Ford.
In the final round, the poker cards went in favor of Cher Floyd from Austin Texas, who has made it a common practice in recent years to make substantial contributions to the charity, in order to secure a seat for the final round. This was the third time in a row, and the Texas couple Cher & John Floyd from Team INxs, took home the Ford F150. Thanks to all sponsors, participants and volunteers for taking part in this event, which is estimated to have raised over $ 125,000 for local youth charities.