With 36 boats registered, the upcoming Tampa Bay Poker Run April 16-19 will be far from the largest event organized by the Florida Powerboat Club this year. Yet in terms of the heavy hardware in its fleet, the annual spring run in the Gulf of Mexico should be impressive, according FPC founder Stu Jones.
The historic Vinoy Hotel is just one of the compelling aspects of the annual Tampa Bay Poker Run. Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image.
“It will be fun to ride around on Mark Fischer’s new Nor-Tech 527,” said Jones. “That’s the cover boat for the latest magazine, which is 125 pages long and almost killed me. And of course there are stellar entries from Skater—Bill Pyburn, Jr. is bringing Pure Platinum— and Outerlimits with Mark Stoddart’s SV 50 and many more of the usual suspects.
“It’s going to be a good mix of repeat attendees who love the Vinoy Hotel (the host venue for the event) and a few newcomers,” he added.
Jones said the 36-boat fleet is typical for the event. Though he’d like the run to attract more participants, securing enough dock space remains a major hurdle.
“The lunch venue itself, The Getaway, is a cool spot, but even there we have docking challenges,” said Jones. “If the event ever went to 50 boats I honestly would have to change the format. Jackson’s Bistro in downtown Tampa is always a fall back as they can handle 100 boats rafting easily.”
Attendees who arrive early can participate in Friday’s Fun Run to the Tarpon Point Grille for lunch in nearby Bradenton. Jones said he plans to have the photo helicopter in the air on Friday and Saturday. This year, he also hired a local drone pilot to capture checkpoint and cockpit close-up footage.
“I need to give special thanks to Jay Pilini, who is sponsoring the Safety Management program, for providing two Pilini 35-foot center consoles with St Petersburg Fire Rescue staff aboard both boats,” said Jones. “This provides a great comfort zone for the relatively fast course on Tampa Bay waters, where commercial barge, freighter and cruise-ship traffic is common.
“Saturday night party will be a chic and trendy dance club version of a campfire hoedown, as the SIP Nightclub provides a private dinner banquet venue for the poker run party,” he continued. “Then it coverts to an electrified dance floor as the club’s doors open to the public and FPC members can let their hair down.”