In the last 20 years, I’ve been to the Lake Cumberland Poker Run in Kentucky at least three times. I was there once before it was run out of State Dock—they ran it out of Jamestown Marina in 1999. On my last Cumberland run about 10 years ago I didn’t get very far because the guy I was riding with had mechanical issues with his boat and we only made it to two checkpoints.
But last weekend my wife, Jackie, and I did it for the first time in our own boat, the Top Gun Flight 1130 Cigarette Racing Team 38 Top Gun. Another first for us? We had the best hand in the poker run. I don’t think we’ve won one before. (Obviously, we can’t “play” in our own Florida Powerboat Club events.) In 30 years of touring the country and experiencing poker runs, we’d never stood on the podium and, believe it or not, it was exciting for us. We won $5,000 thanks to a full house pulled by Jackie, but left the money for local charities.
What strikes you first when you boat on Lake Cumberland? In addition to its beauty, the sheer size of the waterway is amazing, especially when you set out to run from one end to the other. On Friday morning before the main event, we started at 10 a.m. and ran continuously, for the most part, until 1:30 p.m. By then, we’d hit nine checkpoints.
In another first for the South Florida-based couple, they pulled the best poker hand of the event.
Of course, we couldn’t pass up a trip to the massive raft-up, which has gone from mild to wild during the years, on Harmon Creek. It’s quite an eye-opener. Idling through the area took well over an hour. I must have shifted more than 150 times, but it was effortless thanks to the Mercury Racing digital throttle-and-shift setup.
Once we’d had our fill, we headed back to the houseboat community at State Dock. The houseboats were loaded with a very spirited poker run group, and many of the boats had “themes.” More than a few had foam—some of you will remember the days of foam parties—flowing from the top deck. To say that atmosphere was festive would be an understatement.
High-performance marine insurance man Devin Wozencraft convinced Stu and Jackie Jones to run through 76 Falls.
Of course we saw many people we’ve come to know through Florida Powerboat Club events during the years. But we also managed to make a lot of new friends. And the questions flowed. What’s it like in The Bahamas? How is Key West every year? What do you like about the Emerald Coast?
And we loved it. Obviously, the Lake Cumberland Poker Run was a getaway for Jackie and me, but like the other events on our annual poker run tour it gave us the chance to answer questions about and promote our own events. Helping people make event decisions that best suit their tastes and schedules is a big part of what we do.
As Stu and Jackie Jones witnessed, the Harmon Creek gauntlet was its usual massive self.
Saturday’s poker run was a breeze. We hit the first checkpoint early and then headed to lunch at Marina Rowena, which is just 15 minutes by boat from State Dock. Several poker run groups joined us, as did Devin Wozencraft in his 30-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran. He also convinced us all to head for 76 Falls to enjoy the scenery, chill out for a bit and maybe even get a little wet from a ride underneath the falls.
Though I was game, I thought that sounded a little extreme until we arrived and I watched other boats do it. So I followed their lead and, sure, we got a little water in the boat. But it was freshwater and the experience was refreshing, though I did learn later that there are many cows in the pastures up-river. So their waste, if you will, often ends up in the Cumberland River. Just some local knowledge for you.
Bottom line? We had an amazing time the Lake Cumberland Poker Run. This weekend, we’re headed to Georgia for the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run. It’s stop No. 7 on our eight-event poker run tour this year, and we can’t wait to experience it in Top Gun Flight 1130.
Fresh from their Lake Cumberland adventure, Stu and Jackie Jones are headed to the Pirates of Lanier Poker run in Georgia this weekend. Photo by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Helmkamp Photos.
Maybe Jackie will even pull another winning hand.
Editor’s note: Stu Jones is the founder and president of the Florida Powerboat Club. This is his first article for speedonthewater.com.
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