While the poker run circuit is dormant in the waning moments of 2013, that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking forward to next year. In less than two months, for example, the Florida Powerboat Club's annual Miami Boat Show Poker will kick off the organization's six-run season, and throughout the year there will be dozens of more runs around the country. Good times ahead, no doubt about it.

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So what can you do beyond following what should be obvious rules—PFDs for everyone on board, no drinking for the driver until the driving day is over and so on—that all poker run organizers have in place to help ensure safety for you and our passengers? One idea, courtesy of professional performance-boat driving instructor Tres Martin, is taking a conservative approach to how you position your boat in a poker run "class."

To create separation, many poker run organizers break their fleets into classes determined by a range of planned running speeds. Different classes with different speed ranges start in different waves.

But the top speed capability of your boat should not necessarily determine which class you enter. You can always enter your "faster" boat in a "slower" class and run it at the lower speeds, as long as you adhere to the speed restrictions that the organizer has established for the class.

"Just because your boat will run 100 mph doesn't mean you have to enter a 100-mph class," says Martin. "Pick a class where you can cruise along at a comfortable speed so you can keep yourself and your passengers in a safe position."

In other words, you can always slow down, regardless of how fast your boat will run. "It's not a race," says Martin. "If you want to race, go racing and get it out of your system."

Regardless of what class you enter and its designated speed range, keeping your distance from other boats is a must. And that, too, can mean playing things conservatively.

"You need to maintain a safe following distance at all times, and you need to maintain a safe distance from the boats on your sides at all times," says Martin. "I see this all time when people are too close and they end up in each other's wakes, they start cutting side to side and back and forth. It makes for a potentially dangerous situation."

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(Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image.)