Whether this weekend’s Grand Island Poker Run, which attracted 34 boats to the Buffalo Launch Club in Buffalo, N.Y., will happen next year is a decision that organizer Tony Scioli of Elite Poker Runs LLC hasn’t yet made. For Scioli, it was the second event he produced this year—the first was the Erie Poker Run in early June—where forecasted bad weather that never materialized “definitely hurt” much-needed last-minute registrations.
“I’ve been good at proving the weatherman 100-percent wrong this year,” Scioli said then laughed. “It was a little wavy out there, but not so bad that we couldn’t run.”
To secure the historic venue for the inaugural event, Scioli had to commit to booking 50 slips, which left him on the financial hook for the 16 unfilled dockside slots—each at $150. (Each participant paid an entry fee of $300 plus a slip fee of $150 for the poker run, which included dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday and a sit-down dinner for Saturday night’s awards ceremony, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt.) But while the event was not the financial success he had hoped it would be, Scioli was far from disappointed overall.
This well-known 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran was one of 34 boats that participated in yesterday’s Grand Island Poker Run. Photo courtesy/copyright Rodney Olson/Full Speed Photography.
“The cool thing was, especially with the accident at the Buffalo Poker Run, I wanted it to be a safe event,” said Scioli. “We sent a little video to Chris (Overkamp, the driver injured during the Buffalo event earlier this summer) at the hospital from the drivers’ meeting, with everyone wishing him well. I wanted to make safety a big part of the run and the guys were awesome. I asked them to stay under 90 mph and stay in a group in certain places, and for the most part everyone did exactly what I asked them to do.”
Scioli said the event was filled with more than a few interesting—if not downright comical—moments, including “a few guys without shirts or shoes walking through a members-only dining room on Friday afternoon to order Fireball shots at the bar.” (Signage on club dress code—shoes, shirts, hats and so on went up shortly thereafter.)
“We got it all worked out,” said Scioli. “We were using a private facility and we had to be respectful of that.
“But you know, they actually took a member vote to have our event,” he continued. “The Buffalo Launch Club started out as powerboat-racing club. Some of the older members felt it was getting away from its roots, that it was becoming more of a ‘yacht club,’ so they pushed for it.”
Despite its relatively small size, the poker run fleet was diverse. It included everything from a 24-foot Baja sportboat to a 45-foot Donzi cruiser to a 40-foot Skater catamaran.
“We actually had a houseboat register,” said Scioli. “They went out with something like 15 people, just to watch the poker run.”
Scioli, who has a second-year option to use the venue, is just beginning what he’ll do in 2017. Held the same weekend as the long-established and popular Cumberland Poker Run in Kentucky, the Grand Island Poker Run attracted more out-of-town participants than locals, he said.
“There are out-of-town guys ripping around on the river right now,” said Scioli. “Going forward, if I decide to do another there has to be more local support. I think cost was part of it, but I don’t think $300 for a poker run and everything else we included is expensive. I think the uncertainty of the weather was part of it. And for my guys in Michigan and Ohio who went to Lake Cumberland, I think the schedule conflict was part of it. But the venue was as spectacular as I thought it would be and everyone, including the Buffalo Launch Club members who came down to the docks to check out the boats, had an awesome time. For a first-time event, 34 boats is pretty good.
“I want to hear what they (Buffalo Launch Club management and membership) have to say about the event,” he added. “If I do them next year, both this event and Erie definitely have the possibility of a date change.”