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Key West Poker Run Revivng Three-Day Departure Format

Any successful event organizer knows the difference between trying to fix what isn’t broken and tinkering to make incremental improvements. That kind of judgement is essential in the event-production world, and no knows this better than Florida Powerboat Club head Stu Jones, who is less than a month away from producing his 31st annual Key West Poker Run set for November 7-13.

Every major high-performance powerboat brand will be represented at the 31st annual Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Case in point? This year’s trek to the city at the end of the Sunshine State road will have Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday departure waves from the Miami area as opposed to the Wednesday and Thursday start-options members have enjoyed in the last 15- to 20-plus years.

“In about 2000 or 2001, maybe even a little earlier, we offered a Tuesday departure and still offered Friday as well, which gave club members four options for quite some time,” Jones explained. “Then we dropped Tuesday and then Friday, which never worked because no one wants to go to all the way to Key West for just two days.

The 10th annual Speed On The Water Key West Bash is set for Thursday, November 9, at the Sandbar Sports Grill on Greene Street. Photo by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Helmkamp Photos

“We always like to try something ‘new,’” he continued. “I’m really happy to be going back to the three-day departure format by adding back Tuesday, which now is up to around 20 poker-run teams.”

More than 230 boats currently are registered for the Key West happening and there is space for 20 to 25 more entries, according to Jones. As it’s been for most of the event’s three-plus-decade history, the Thursday-departure fleet will be the largest of the week.

With the exception of the Casa Marina venue, the club’s lodging inventory is sold out. Jones also added that the event has also seen “an impressive 11th hour” sponsorship push.

The in-water display at the Conch Republic Seafood Company will be its usual spectacular self this year.

“We signed up three new sponsors in the last week including Adrenaline Powerboats, GSX/Glasstream Powerboats, and Dirty Money Racing,” he said. “The Florida Powerboat Club land-based displays in our Poker Run Village will be filled with the latest models from Cigarette, Nor-Tech, Fountain, GSX Powerboats, Renegade, Performance Powerboats and Sunsation. But the really big show will be in the water in front of the Conch Republic Seafood Company with a stellar hardware line-up from Adrenaline, Cigarette, Deep Impact, Donzi, Fountain, Midnight Express, MTI, Nor-Tech, Statement and Sunsation.”

For club members who depart Tuesday and return Monday—as many are planning according to Jones—that will translate to six full days of Key West. 

“That’s a lot of time to spend in Key West even with such a festive atmosphere and the Race World Offshore World Championships going on during the same time,” he said, then laughed. “But then, there is so much to do and so many people there for the same reason—to celebrate the powerboat lifestyle. This is our 31st year for the Key West event and it just keeps getting better.”

There’s never a dull moment after dark in the Key West Poker Run Village.

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