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Erie Poker Run A Nine-Boat Gem

Since Anthony Scioli of Buffalo, N.Y., launched Elite Poker Runs, LLC, and the Erie Poker Run in 2014, the Pennsylvania event has faced challenges—primarily from Lake Erie itself thanks to the shallow waterway’s often-unruly waters. The big-air photos from the event’s early years raised the eyebrows and heart-rates of performance-boating fans around the country. Cool as such photos are, they also tend to have a chilling effect on participation because, posturing aside, rough-water beatings are no fun, especially during poker runs.

Owned by Michael Tandoi of Rochester, N.Y., the 44-foot MTI Speed Racer-themed catamaran turned heads wherever it went on Lake Erie last weekend. Photos by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

More than once during the years, all the boats in the fleet stayed safely put in the Erie Marina Basin on poker-run day and participants simply hung out at the docks and enjoyed the party.

And so the Erie Poker Run has hovered in the 30- to-40-boat range throughout its eight-year history.

This weekend’s event saw nine boats in the mix on the lake, which was mostly flat during the poker run, under blue skies. A lodging shortage, procrastination on the part of would-be participants and a slew of boats not quite ready for the season combined to create the run’s lowest turnout to date.

Erie locals Dave and Nicole Weschler hosted Scioli on their 52-foot Outerlimits V-bottom.

Still, the always game Scioli went on with the show, which originally included getting event photographer Jeff Helmkamp in a helicopter to capture the boats in action yesterday. Yet even that plan fell apart when the helicopter arrived minus proper insurance and Scioli wisely declined the service.

“I require all of my helicopters to name me as additionally insured,” said Scioli. “I had a bad feeling when the owner/pilot told me had never been asked for that.”

No matter. Helmkamp shot water-level from Gold Digger, a 50-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats catamaran. And though “action shots” were limited, he perfectly captured the spirit of the intimate event.

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Enjoy more images from the eighth annual Erie happening.

“It was nice, almost like a family gathering with lots of laughs, great food and awards given at the end,” he said.

Scioli, who before the event said this Erie Poker Run would be his last, was pleased despite the small turnout and logistical issues. In fact, he’s even softened his position on his future with the run.

“Everyone seemed to have a blast,” he said. “I think there will be a board of directors that takes over the run.

“I will sit on the board to help,” he added, then laughed.

Will the Erie Poker Run return in 2024? Don’t bet against it.

The next Elite Poker Runs, LLC, event is the Buffalo Poker Run, August 11-12, on Lake Erie in Western New York. Registration for the run currently stands at 30-plus boats, according to Scioli.

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