In 2014, the Buffalo Poker Run—then hosted and organized—by the Western New York Offshore Powerboat Association attracted its largest fleet to date, a 118-boat mix of high-performance of V-bottoms sportboats, catamarans and performance center consoles. But an event of that size was not without its challenges and complications, and to a large extent those issues led to the WYNOPA club leaders turning over the event to Anthony Scioli of Elite Poker Runs, LLC, last year.
Participants in this weekend’s Ray Nuchereno Memorial Poker Run will in Buffalo, N.Y., will hit the water tomorrow. Photo from the 2017 event courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Renamed in 2017 to honor beloved Western New York performance boating community member Ray Nuchereno, who died last year, the run attracted 63 boats. At present, somewhere between 40 to 50 boats have been registered for the Buffalo, N.Y.-based event and Scioli said he’d be delighted to have 60 boats by the time registration closes today for tomorrow’s run. While Scioli acknowledged the decline in participation, he said that he—as well as many of this year’s participants and sponsors—don’t see it as a negative.
“I have had numerous people say they think it is a much safer event at 50 to 60 boats, especially on the Niagara River, which gets narrow quickly, he said. “You can’t diminish the fact that having 118 boats was a phenomenal time, but there were some safety concerns. At a post-run meeting, one of our most loyal sponsors stood up and said, ‘It’s getting dangerous. There are too many boats.’
“And that was coming from a sponsor,” he added. “Obviously, sponsors like to see a lot of boats. But not at the expense of having a safe event.”
Scioli readily admitted that the name change last year might have made the event less recognizable, especially to those who didn’t know Nuchereno. He also said there may be some backlash, particularly among local performance-boat enthusiasts, in the event going from nonprofit to for-profit under the Elite Poker Runs umbrella.
“I think some people think I’m getting rich organizing it,” he said, then chuckled. “I’m definitely not, but I am super happy and excited for this run. And I’m happy for the numbers we have.”
Scioli said he hasn’t check this weekend’s weather forecast, but he’s hoping to pull off a Lake Erie “trifecta.” Water conditions on the notoriously fickle waterway were ideal for his Erie and Mentor poker runs earlier this year, and he’s optimistic that they’ll be much the same tomorrow.
“My runs are more than four hours on the water, even though that’s what everyone signs up for,” he said. “Regardless of the weather or water, my group still hangs out and has a good time. At the end of the day, that—not the weather or how rough the water was—and safety are what really matter.”