The Leverick Bay Poker Run on Virgin Gorda just keeps getting bigger and bigger, claims organizer Nick Willis.
Eleven years ago only 15 boats participated, but now it has grown to more than 150 boats.
“There were so many boats you couldn’t see water in the harbor,” Willis said after the award ceremony at Leverick Bay Resort.
The first stop was at Scrub Island Resort where the marina filled up quickly with boats spilling over into the adjacent channel. A large group of people waited in line to collect their second card near the docks. Twenty minutes later, most of the participants were back on course and heading to the third stop at Village Cay.
The boaters had lunch and collected their fourth card at Pirates on Norman Island, before heading back to VG for the last two stops – Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour and Leverick Bay Resort.
The event is supported by boaters from around the region and the United States. Predator’s boat captain, Ramon Martinez of Puerto Rico, has been coming to the poker run for the past four years.
“We arrived on Friday and have been taking it easy having some Painkillers, some Bushwhackers and a little bit of fun,” Martinez said.
He enjoys the event because he is able to get his boat on the water with other boaters who share the same passion.
“It is one of my biggest hobbies in my life,” Martinez said.
His 2003 bright yellow and orange boat stood out among the other participants. The 50ft boat can top more than 90mph with more than 2000 horsepower.
However, size doesn’t matter according to the organizers who stress the “event is not a race” because participants compete for the best poker hand by collecting cards at five different stops around the territory. Some boaters were in vessels just big enough for one person, while more than a 100 people took a chartered ferry. Sir Richard Branson even tried his luck while competing aboard a tender. All told, 181 hands were played.
The poker run donated $4,000 to the Virgin Gorda Charitable Trust and $1000 to Virgin Gorda Animal Rescue.
First place of $7500 went to VG resident Joseph Smith with a Straight Flush. Second place was Bob Barnhart with four Kings. He took home $4000. And third place went to Troy Barzey with four Queens for $2000.
“I got nice cards this year,” Martinez said. “It is the best I have ever had in the last four years that I have been coming here. I don’t care about the winning. I like the sharing and having a lot of fun.”
Todd VanSickle is a journalist living and working in the Virgin Islands.