Hundreds of boats zipped out of North Sound to start the 13th annual Leverick Bay Poker Run on May 25.
The event attracted more than 200 boats from around the region and almost as many hands of poker were played, which helped raise $13,000 for charity.
“We broke the record once again,” co-organizer Javier López Matos of JL Marketing said.
The top four winning hands were all full houses, with Alcindor Baa, of Tortola, taking first place and $8,000 with his aces and kings.
Organizer and Leverick Bay Resort General Manager Nick Willis was surprised that all the winners had full houses.
“We made sure to check it,” Willis said.
At the start of the poker run, trails of white-water wake wrapped around Sir Richard Branson’s Mosquito Island like a necktie as half of the fleet went east and the other half headed west through the cut between Virgin Gorda and Mosquito Island.
However, their final destination would be the same: right back at the start at Leverick Bay Resort and Marina.
In between the start and finish, there were four stops where the participants collected a card in hopes of creating the best poker hand.
The first stop, Harbour View Marina, on Tortola was new to the poker run. During the past couple of years the first stop has been at Scrub Island Resort and Marina. However, this year the facility played host to the inaugural Exquisite Boat Show on the day before.
The new stop gave boaters a longer run before receiving their first card.
Ramon Martinez aboard his boat Predator — a 50ft Nor-Tech — was the pace boat for the start. Martinez tries to come to the poker run every year.
“We love the BVI,” said Martinez, who is from Puerto Rico. “It has beautiful beaches and people. “
The second stop was at Fish ‘n’ Lime in West End on Tortola. Again, this was a long run down the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
The third stop was Pirates at Norman Island. Most boaters tied up and had lunch there, while others retrieved their card quickly and headed to the next stop at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour.
Garfield Faulkner, of Anegada, aboard Ruff Ryder has enjoyed stopping at Pirates during the past ten years, but said it was a “little crowded” this year, so he left early and had lunch at the next stop.
“There were a lot of boats and it felt like we were babysitting the boat so it didn’t get scratched,” Faulkner said.
Before the award ceremony, which was held on a wooden platform and catwalk above Leverick Bay Resort’s swimming pool, a fashion show was hosted by Mr Nice Guy department store on Virgin Gorda.
Several high-profile participants took part in the poker run, including CBS Caribbean weatherman Joey Stevens and Bob the Parrot.
It was Stevens’ first time competing, but his third time visiting the territory.
“It is going really fast,” Stevens said. “I am really having a lot fun. I didn’t know what to expect. I am familiar with poker runs on motorcycles and stuff, but never on boats.”
He added that he enjoyed seeing all the high-performance boats.
“They are really phenomenal,” Stevens said.
The weatherman’s sidekick Bob the Parrot, a macaw puppet, was the event’s ambassador and helped promote the poker run.
“Bob was actually driving the boat for a while,” Stevens joked. “That is why it took us so long to get here.”
Another notable participant was Sir Richard Branson, of Necker Island, who has competed in the poker run in the past. This year he showed up at registration dressed as a lemur.
Chris Curreri, of St. Thomas, who normally races aboard IC24s, was on a custom 24ft powerboat he helped build called Procrastination, with his wife Jillian and friends.
“We started building the boat in 1995 and didn’t finish it until 2005,” he said. “It is appropriately named.”
Curreri said he has never missed a Leverick Bay Poker Run and has never won it, either.
“We have couple of good cards and we have couple of bad cards, which doesn’t amount to much,” Curreri said at the fourth stop. “But we are having a great time. It is a good trip over here.”
After the award ceremony, he would head back to St. Thomas but would make a stop at the Willy T floating bar and restaurant first.
“It’s a long day, but it is worth it,” Curreri said. “Only the strong survive.”
Unfortunately, not everything went as smooth as organizers would have liked.
At the beginning of the poker run seven people were injured when a ‘mechanical malfunction’ involving the steering of 38 Top Gun caused the boat to careen into Red Zone of St. Martin, said the organizers.
The injured boaters were taken to Nurse Iris O’Neal Clinic on Virgin Gorda, while the more seriously injured were transported to Peebles Hospital on Tortola. Three days later, some were airlifted to either Puerto Rico or Guadeloupe for further medical treatment.
“Aside from the accident, the event was a success,” López said.
First place: Alcindor Baa, full house with aces
and kings, $8,000
Second place: Heather Holland, full house queens and sixes, $5,000
Third place: Orlando Campoamor, full house
with jacks and twos, $3,000
Fourth place: Sherman Smith, full house with
tens and kings, $1,000
Virgin Gorda Diabetes Association, $10,000
Animal Rescue Control, $1,000
BVI Cancer Society Virgin Gorda Branch, $1,000
Raw Skillz track team, $1,000