The need for speed drew 24 entries to the first annual USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run, hosted out of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, on July 6th. However, it was the luck of the draw that earned Rasheed ‘Rasco’ St. Juste and his team aboard the 22ft Paramount, G-6, the win with three nines, a Jack of Spades and three of Clubs. Even more so, it was the camaraderie of a rally rather than the competitive nature of a race that made the event an outstanding success and planted the flag for the territory to host even grander international Poker Runs in years to come.
“I’ve watched the growing success of the Poker Run up at Leverick Bay, in the BVI, and thought we had the perfect location to host a similar event here,” says Guilderoy Sprauve, who, along with his brother Galen Sprauve and friend Clarence Brown, organized the event.
All three gentlemen are powerboat enthusiasts from childhood, like many other of the event’s skippers. Guilderoy organized rather than raced his 34ft Scarab in this inaugural event. However, in years to come he hopes to throttle up the rare 37ft Scorpion he found as part of an estate sale in Alabama.
The ‘run’ or course proved an idyllic hop between stops in St. Thomas and St. John. The Charlotte Amalie Waterfront served as the start/finish. After that, each boat’s team had their pick of a playing card at stops in Red Hook at Señor Frog’s, at Coki Point, the Beach Bar in Cruz Bay, Island Flavor in Crown Bay and finally the Kon Tiki in Brewer’s Bay.
“What’s really great is seeing the boats and the people at the stops and limin’ together,” says David Petersen, whose two aces, two eights and a jack earned him third place.
Petersen, an avid racer since age 13, has participated annually in St. Thomas and St. John Carnival boat races aboard his 21ft Superboat, Substance.
“I’ve always wanted to do the Leverick Bay Poker Run, but my boat is too small to get all the way up to Virgin Gorda. That’s why this is so great, I didn’t have to travel far to participate,” says Petersen, who plans to move up to a 30-footer by next year.
Derrick Bryan, who skippered his 38ft cigarette boat, Unexpected, into second place with two kings, two queens and an eight, liked the suspense best.
“You can go fast, go island to island, see all the boats, but you never know if you have a good hand until the end when you get back and see the cards that everyone else has,” says Bryan. “That’s the fun.”
The overwhelmingly positive community response to USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run has organizers already thinking ahead and planning for 2015.
“The goal is to build a brand for the USVI and grow the event into international acclaim,” says Sprauve. “This would help to boost our marine sector, and boost the tourism economy from visitors coming down to watch and participate. We also want to get more locals, especially kids, out on the water as well as involved in learning valuable skills like the building and repair of engines.”