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Commentary: Small-Boat Poker Runs Are Simple Brilliance

My father is a semi-retired physicist who founded a think-tank in Los Angeles. He’s one of those guys who is so gifted on one level that he is challenged on many others, such as basic communication with his fellow earthlings.

The blackboard in my father’s conference room was filled with equations that only people like, well, my father could possibly understand. Those equations were written and erased daily. The only constant on that blackboard was something my father wrote when he first started his company.

“There are two types of ideas: 1. Simple. 2. Confused.”

A small-boat poker run such as the Black Jack Poker Run the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club will host Sept. 5 is one of those simple—yet ultimately brilliant—ideas. And it makes sense on many levels.

First, it includes would-be poker-run participants who are either intimidated by the bigger boats or excluded from poker runs with minimum boat-size lengths. If growth is a goal, inclusion is a good thing.

Second, it expands the market for poker-run organizers. Let’s face it, there are a lot more owners of single-engine V-bottoms in the 20- to 30-foot range than there are folks who own twin-engine, 40-plus foot catamarans and V-bottoms.

Third—and for me this is the big one—it expands the performance boat market. It’s no secret that the go-fast boat market is shrinking on both the manufacturer and consumer sides. It’s also no secret that the consumer side controls the destiny of the manufacturer side.

The No. 1 complaint I hear from manufacturers? New buyers are tough to find. And while all boatbuilders value—or should value—their repeat customers, they need new blood to grow. Same goes for poker-run organizers.

So if I were a go-fast boatbuilder I’d be stumbling all over myself to sponsor any small-boat poker run (put on by a reputable organizer) I could find. Because despite what will surely be a low conversion rate, not every small-boat owner will be a small-boat owner forever. Ask around and you’ll find that most folks who own a big Cigarette or Skater started with something a whole lot smaller.

And for poker-run organizers, who have seen a major decline in attendance in the last few years, the small-boat contingent is an instant market. Would registration fees have to be lower? Absolutely. Would fleets eventually, if not immediately, be larger? Definitely.

To me, small-boat poker runs are the best idea I’ve heard for growing the performance-boat world in a long time. Best of all, they’re simple.