With poker runs events exploding all over North America and Europe in recent years, it has always been difficult for a new run to stand out. Poker Runs America/Power Boating Canada’s Sault Ste. Marie Poker Run has come out with flying colours, standing out as a shining example of what a poker run should be. The Algoma region has some of the most beautiful water and destinations the world could ever offer: you simply must see it to believe it. If you’re looking for a great boating event in the North, this is the event for you.
Located in the heart of the Algoma region, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, is one of the best boating destinations in the world. Residing on the world’s largest freshwater lake; Lake Superior, Sault Ste. Marie truly is a boater’s paradise. The emerald green waters, blue skies above, and luscious green trees surrounding the waterway provides breathtaking scenery that is unrivaled. It’s no surprise boaters come from around the world to experience the majesty of “The Soo.”
Although known amongst boaters as an absolute paradise, “The Soo” is known for many other things, including being home to Canada’s first female astronaut, Roberta Bondar. Sault Ste. Marie is also home to a plethora of professional hockey players, with the city providing over 40 players to the NHL.
2017 was a phenomenal year for the Poker Run tour, and this run was the highlight. Poker Runs America returned to “The Soo” on August 4-6, 2017, where thousands of spectators lined the northern shores to watch the run.
Late Thursday, the boats began to roll into town. The city supplied ample parking for all the participants, including the Station Mall parking lot. And by Friday afternoon, fans began milling around the boats, trying to get an up-close look at the gladiators of the sea.
“This sure is something you don’t see here every day,” remarked a local as he stood in front of Need for Speed, an electric purple Nor-Tech 5200 Roadster, owned by Stephane Paquin from Berthierville, QC, parked in the mall parking lot. Whether the boats were in the Station Mall parking lot, or docked in the Roberta Bondar Marina, there always seemed to be a crowd nearby.
Friday afternoon was the big day, one of the world’s fastest and most exotic powerboats entered town: the 6000hp, 50’ Mystic, My Way, owned and operated by Bill Tomlinson. The turbine powered boat proved to be a crowd favourite; from the moment the boat arrived to the moment the Twin Lycoming Turbines whined to life, there was always a crowd surrounding this 50’ Cat.
This year’s event brought a great variety of Canadians and Americans to the event. We were thrilled to see many regulars from the Poker Run circuit in attendance. Husband and Wife World Champions, Brian and Wilma Ross brought their 38’ Donzi, Learning the Ropes. Pat Higgins brought Go Fast!, one of the most well-known Outerlimits on the water today. It’s a 43’ canopied race boat made into a Poker Run Edition with all the bells and whistles you can imagine in the cockpit. Then, for his second consecutive year, Lawrence Coelho brought his 28’ DCB, Rapid Rabbit travelling all the way from Tulare, Ca.
Also, this year’s event brought a number of new Runners, including Michigan Poker Runner, Tom Maczik and his 36’ Sunsation, King of Queens, Joey Hauger in his 38’ Donzi, Sol Purpose and Timm Vandeburg in his 42’ Fountain. Each of these boats brought big muscle to Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
With the two borders sharing the waterways and one of the friendliest border crossings in the world, means no problems bringing the big power up north, making the Sault Ste. Marie Poker Run a true CAN/AM northern event.
Special mention must be given to local Poker Runner and owner of Milne Transport, Gord Milne. When Go Fast! and other Poker Runners, including the 42’ Fountain of Poker Runs America, needed to fix their boats before the big run, Milne graciously opened his shop doors for them, allowing them to work all night to get ready for the big day.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the Poker Run in this boater’s paradise. With sunny skies above and calm waters below, the Second Annual Sault Ste. Marie Poker Run got underway.
Crowds lined the marina and everyone tried to catch a glimpse of the power as the boats roared to life. As they idled their way out of the marina, a crowd on the waterway watched in anticipation. It was time for the boats to unleash their power and bury their throttles into the dashboard. They stormed off in pursuit of their first card-stop at Richard’s Landing.
After picking up their first card, the Poker Runners continued their charge towards the lunch stop. Located in Hilton Beach, ON, the Tilt’N Hilton once again opened their doors to the participants. With a gorgeous patio overlooking the marina, it served as the perfect lunch stop, providing Poker Runners a delectable spread in a casual atmosphere. At this point, The Joker went absolutely wild as he handed out two lucky cards carrying cash, courtesy of Gateway Casinos Sault Ste. Marie.
It was a thrilling run across the water to Thessalon and then back to the Roberta Bondar Marina. Following the run, the Poker Runners made their way to the Bushplane Heritage Center, host of the banquet and awards ceremony.
Poker Runs America/Power Boating Canada were extremely pleased to return to this venue again. With vintage airplanes surrounding the dining area and the bay doors open, it made for an extremely unique atmosphere and something you can only experience in “The Soo.” Following the wonderful social hour hosted by Sault Ste. Marie, the scenery of the Bushplane Heritage Center was enhanced by the five-star banquet, with perfectly cooked prime rib being served up to the Poker Runners. Pairing perfectly with their complimentary Sandbanks wine, the dinner was a first-class affair never to be forgotten.
This year fans were able to vote for their favourite boats in the People’s Choice Awards. After seeing the boats in the Bondar Marina or the parking lot of the Station Mall, the public cast their vote in person, or online for Best Graphics, Best Engines, Best Dressed Crew, Best Audio and Best Rig.
After the ballots were tallied, Russell Kidder and his purple 353 Formula, Child Support, took home Best Graphics and Best Audio. Bill and Monica Reiffer won Best Dressed Crew for their sharp red-white-and-blue jerseys and Bill Tomlinson took home Best Engines and Best Rig with My Way.
Then came the time to reveal the cards and crown the winner of the 2017 Sault Ste. Marie Poker Run. 2016’s winner, Wayne Legge, looked on in anticipation, wondering if he could make it a repeat performance. Once everyone’s hands were revealed, newcomer Tom Maczik came in third with his 36’ Sunsation, King of Queens and with a KK776 hand, and Lawrence Coelho came second with 101010K6. The big winner of the weekend was Bill Tomlinson, who took home first place and the $10,000 grand prize with his 777QQ card hand.
Following the banquet, the Poker Runners were treated to a VIP experience with a private room filled with appetizers and high-stakes gambling at Sault Ste. Marie ‘s Gateway Casino.
On Sunday, Poker Runs America/Power Boating Canada offered “A Ride of a Lifetime” where fans could purchase a ride on a performance boat with all proceeds going to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sault Ste. Marie. A handful of Poker Runners graciously offered their times giving fans a ride of a lifetime on Sunday in the name of charity. In total, close to $5,000 was raised for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sault Ste. Marie.
The entire event doubled in both spectators and participants. Not only is the Algoma Region a boater’s paradise, this VIP event will be a first-class affair for years to come. This event is definitely turning into the defining northern run, as boaters are already requesting special docking for the 2018 event. The Third Annual Sault Ste. Marie Poker Run is scheduled for July 27-29, 2018.
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS
Best Audio and Best Graphics – Russell Kidder – Child Support
Best Dressed Crew – Bill and Monica Reiffer Taking Liberty.
Best Engines and Best Rig – Bill Tomlinson – My Way