A veteran of the Florida Powerboat Club poker-circuit, Maryland’s David Landsman and his fellow organizers Jimmy Jernigan, Jennifer Crocetti and Victor DiMarco knew exactly what they wanted—a high-quality, fun-filled experience—from a poker run when they brought one to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and its surrounding Chesapeake Bay waters three years ago. And in its first year, the Rockin The Harbor Poker Run event attracted a solid 50 boats. The event, which tapped into the area’s thriving go-fast boating scene, was off to a strong start.
On any number of levels, last weekend’s Rockin The Harbor Poker Run in Baltimore was a jaw-dropper. Photos courtesy Shane Devries
Though the COVID-19 pandemic forced Landsman and company to scrub the poker run in 2020, it came roaring back last weekend with 70 boat and some 300 participants.
“We actually had 80 boats signed up,” he said. “But 10 boats broke the week before—I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Not that Landsman, who owns a sultry 43-foot Midnight Express center console called Game Changer, was at all disappointed with the turnout for the weekend-long happening. The fun began with a dock party and bikini contest at Harbor East Marina next to the Four Seasons and Harbor East Marriott host hotels in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area.
The following day’s poker run course took participants past historic Fort McHenry to Annapolis Harbor and its famed “Ego Alley,” a channel flanked by waterfront bars and restaurants, where the boats had to run slowly in single file.
The fleet then headed south for a card stop at Red Eye’s Dock Bar, one of Maryland’s best-known watering holes for the go-fast boating crowd, on Kent Island Narrows, before taking off for a stop at Tolchester Marina. For the final stop, the organizers chose Tiki Lee’s Dock Bar—the host venue for this month’s top-speed shootout and kilo runs—in Sparrow’s Point. And from there they returned to their Harbor East Marina staring point for an awards celebration and dinner.
During the day and after dark, the Baltimore Inner Harbor host venue delighted participants.
“The party that night was great—we rented the entire Oceanaire restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel 100 feet from the marina,” Landsman said. “The general consensus? It was a blast.”
“Next year, we are going for a banquet room at one of the hotels,” he continued. “The event is growing year by year, and it sucks to have to tell people we’re full.”
Among the participants was Maryland-based Chad Jones, who owns a 35-foot Statement Marine center console powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 400R outboard engines. Not only did Jones sign up for the run, he supported it as a sponsor to promote his locally based Cross Country Mortgage business.
“I kept asking Dave, ‘How are you going to top 2019?’ ” said Jones, who also did the first-year Rockin The Harbor Poker Run. “Well, he blew it away this year. The whole thing was at another level. From the way we were treated at the docks to the parties, it really felt like a VIP experience.
“I had 11 people on my boat, and everybody commented on how great it was from the moment we checked in through Sunday,” he added. “The event was so good. People should be coming here from everywhere next year.”
For his part, Landsman had just one complaint, the one shared by go-fast boating event organizers around the country.
“The last-minute sign-ups had us running around like crazy, ‘order more food, order more bags,’ ” he said, then chuckled. “I think next year we’re going to have a lower early entry fee to encourage people to get on board early. The last-minute registration fee will be higher.”