When it comes to poker runs, there are few events as scenic as the 1000 Islands Poker Run on August 16-17. From historic mansions on the shorelines to crystal-clear water, the poker run offers a memorable weekend for performance boaters.

More than 80 boats are expected to participate in the poker run now in its 33rd year in the 1000 Islands region. The Canadian city of Kingston, Ontario, plays host to the event hosted by Poker Runs America.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in North America,” said Bill Taylor, founder and owner of Poker Runs America. “It’s where the wealthy people from New York would spend their summers. All of those homes are still there to see from the water.”

There was plenty to see at the 2018 1,000 Islands Poker Run. (photo by Randy Nuzzo)

Thousands of spectators turn out over the weekend to view the performance boats at the Confederation Basin Marina Friday evening and then watch the boats leave for the run on Saturday morning. The poker run starts on Saturday with Kingston town crier Chris Whyman announcing the event.

Once the boats leave the Confederation Basin, they’ll travel to Brockville and the Tall Ships Landing for lunch. After the lunch stop, participants pick up a card at Prescott Bridge and then at the 1000 Islands Boat Museum in Gananoque. The final card is picked up back at the Confederation Basin.

“This year will the joker is going wild,” Taylor said. “We’re going to add some jokers in at the card stops so that will entice (participants) to hit every stop. It might be the difference between a winning or losing hand.”

The entry fee includes two participants and a boat slip for two nights (Friday and Saturday). A welcome party takes place Friday night in downtown Kingston with breakfast and lunch provided on Saturday. The run also includes a banquet dinner and award ceremony to unveil the winning hands. Prize and/or cash goes to first- through fifth-place finishers.

Taylor said a lot of the participants will spend an extra day or two in the region to explore the islands. The poker run provides a great overview of the area, Taylor said.

“The water is crystal clear,” Taylor said. “People have told me when they put their boat into the water, it comes out cleaner.”

There are still some slots available for the 1000 Islands Poker Run, Taylor said, but participants need to sign up soon to be assured a slip. For boaters that don’t want to participate but be part of the action, Poker Runs America always needs marshal boats for the course. (Click here on how to register or volunteer.)

This year’s charity benefactor for the poker run is Big Brothers Big Sisters. Past 1000 Island Poker Runs have supported area children’s hospital and military veteran organizations, Taylor said.

Poker Runs America has produced 66 events in the region since Taylor started poker runs more than three decades ago. And there has never been a rainout. “That should go down in the record books,” Taylor said. “Someone should notify Guinness World Records.”