Poker Runs America rewrites the history books after hosting the first-ever poker run where more than 20 teams had the chance to win the purse of a lifetime!

Originally Appeared in Poker Runs America Vol 10-9

By Steve Fennell. 

Celebrating thier new found fortune. (l-r) PRA’s Bill Taylor makes a toast to the winners of the $100,000, David Luciani and John Lang.

A few years ago, when I was having lunch with Mike Fiore of Outerlimits, he suggested I put together a first-class power event that would take poker runs to an entirely new level. Not long after, during a casual business meeting in Sarasota, Florida, with Skip Braver and Neil Hernandez of Cigarette Racing, they proposed the same type of concept to me – an event that could be hosted at a five-star resort with an extravagant payout never before seen on the poker run circuit. Just last year, at the Toronto International Boat Show, long-time performance enthusiasts, Barry Humphrey and Ed Poirier, approached me asking me to host a similar event – one where poker runners had chance to win a larger purse and enjoy all the comforts of an elegant resort.

Now, after two years in the planning, it happened. During our High Stakes, High Roller Poker Run held at the posh Hilton Lac-Leamy hotel in Gatineau, Quebec, a team took home 100,000 big ones! David Luciani and John Lang of Team Lawrason’s were these people.

To raise the bar even higher, Bill Taylor, president of Poker Runs Inc., gave the event another exciting twist by offering a $30,000 donation to a charity of John and Dave’s choice – one that is very close to their hearts. The charity organization is Hustle For a Cure – The John D’Amico Fund.

Established in August 2007 and in partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Hustle For ACure has a strong initiative to raise proceeds and awareness for pediatric blood cancers and research.

John D’Amico is a native of Toronto, Ontario, and a famous NHL referee linesman who succumbed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. During the time of his illness, he devoted much of his time educating the public with hope of promoting further research for the disease.

A kind, caring individual, John had a passion for children and when he wasn’t on the ice, he dedicated most of his time and countless hours to children’s’charities.

President of Poker Runs Inc. Bill Taylor presents a cheque of $30,000 to Hustle For A Cure - The John D’AMico Fund. (l-r) John Lang, Bill Taylor, Angelo D’Mico of Hustle For A Cure and David Luciani

John also led an exciting professional career, refereeing for the Toronto Hockey League, then for the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA). In 1963, after working the line for a special NHL exhibition game in Kitchener, Ontario, John was offered a pro contract from NHL referee-in-chief, Carl Voss, and his first regular season game was on October 12, 1964. John enjoyed many highlights in his career that included refereeing four Canada Cup tournaments, the Challenge Cup and Rendezvous series (that replaced the All-Star games in 1979 and 1987), 247 playoff games, 20 Stanley cup final series, 52 Stanley Cup final games and six international hockey series. When he left the ice in 1987, he became a supervisor of NHL officials and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

“My father had a passion for charity and it was something that was very close to his heart,” said Angelo D’Mico, John’s son. “This is a great opportunity for us and a perfect time to initiate a campaign in Canada and North America.”

In fact, Poker Runs America and Power Boating Canada is the first organization to donate proceeds for the Hustle For a Cure – The John D’Amico Fund and is proud be part of it.

“This is something that’s also very close to my heart and something I strongly believe in,” said Bill. “I can still remember John refereeing countless amateur and NHL games first hand over the years and I can still recall when John dropped the puck on my stick when I was playing in Montreal.”

This isn’t the first time Bill Taylor and Poker Runs America have supported children charities. “For more than 17 years, I have been supporting children charities and helping children is very special to me. Throughout the generosity of our poker run participants and our own corporate contributions, we have been able to raise a very impressive amount for children’s charity.”

In 2002, Poker Runs America and Power Boating Canada hosted a live and silent auction prior to the Lake Ontario Hall of Fame Poker Run, raising more than $70,000 to benefit the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, the largest amount ever to be raised for the organi- zation in one day. With such a successful inaugural event, the live and silent auction became a benchmark for the annual poker run for the two following seasons, raising a total of more than $200,000!

“I am honored to add this new charity to our long list of organizations we have raised proceeds for, and I am extremely proud to be the first company to support this charity.”

The 47' Poker Runs America Fountain

It’s also common at any given poker run to see Bill and his staff organize several charity efforts to benefit countless local and national children’s’ charity groups including Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, and The Huronia Hospital Foundation. Poker Runs America has also supported the Cripple Children’s Society, The Community Care Access For Seniors Assisted Living and The Rotary Club for several seasons when the 1000 Islands Poker Run was hosted in Gananoque, Ontario.

“Every year, through our poker run events, we make strong efforts to support local and national organizations,” said Taylor. “With the magnitude of some of our runs, we have the means of pulling together and giving something very beneficial back to the local communities and most importantly, giving something to the children is my favorite.”

THE PLAYING OF THE CARDS

2007 will certainly be a year to remember. The weekend of August 24-25 brought together the elite of the elite poker run teams who came to play for a winner-takeall up to $100,000 at our High Roller, High Stakes all-inclusive Poker Run. Held at the luxurious five-star Hilton Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada – the power spectacle went down in history as the poker run with the highest stakes ever to be offered at an event of its kind in the world. And it won’t stop there.

Organizing a poker run of this magnitude is no easy feat and the playing of the cards Saturday evening was as intense as witnessing the full-throttle action by many of the players including Gilles Lauriault in his 47’ Black Thunder, Vic Priestly with his 43’ Nor-Tech, and Edward Roundpoint’s electrifying 38 Donzi ZR.

Unlike our conventional events, five cards were handpicked individually by a team member from five shuffled decks and were played three-up and two-down before being posted. To ensure the utmost security, the players were monitored under video surveillance, with the Poker Runs staff standing close by.

Following the selection of the cards, which included Wilma Ross as she carefully drew her hand as expertly as she handles the throttles on an APBA race course, all eyes were fixed on the gaming board and there was no turning back as the fate of the players was left in hands of lady luck. With intense card hands, including a strong, relentless lead by long-time card shark Alec Cloke, with Charles Brown never too far behind, it was John Lang and David Luciani who ran their 43’ Nor- Tech, Lawrason’s, powered by twin Mercury Racing 1075’s, to astounding victory with a straight flush, earning the largest payout ever in poker run history.

“When Poker Runs America sales manager Todd (Taylor) first approached me to come to this event, he informed me of its unique concept and it turned out to be exactly what I thought it would be. In fact it was even more so,” said David Luciani. In pure astonishment, and with the winning trophy in hand, David performed an extensive victory dance around the ballroom. “There was so much electricity in the air. This has been a great summer for us at these events and the whole concept of the High Roller, High Stakes Poker Run was absolutely sensational.”

John and David are partners in Lawrason’s Inc, a Pool/Spa and Janitorial chemical manufacturing business, as well as Min-Chem Canada Inc, a specialty chemical distribution business, with offices and warehouses in Oakville, Ontario; Montreal; Quebec; and British Columbia.

Both John and David have a strong passion for boating. David grew up along the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, where his parents owned a cottage. As a teenager, David and his friends would cruise out to open water in his 24-foot boat and sit on the sidelines and admire the impressive fleet of Bill Taylor’s annual Georgian Bay Poker Run in the 1980s, hoping one day he could join in on the fast-paced excitement of the power-packed events. His dream had come true. This is the team’s first season on the poker run circuit, having participated in the Georgian Bay, Alexandria Bay, 1000 Islands, and the recent Platinum Invitational events, and it certainly won’t be their last. It’s safe to say John and David have been on a winning streak as they also earned bragging rights by winning the Best Engine Compartment award at the Georgian Bay Poker Run in July.

THE DAY OF THE POKER RUN

Surrounded by the old-world charm of Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Ontario, the Hilton Lac Leamy Casino in Quebec has always been one of the most favorite stops on The Poker Runs America tour. From its exclusive dining and exciting entertainment to its first-class accommodations and services, the Hilton Lac Leamy is a resort where opulence is king.

This year, the poker run attracted the crème de la crème of the performance boating community. More than 20 teams came from all points of the compass to play hard.

The teams began arriving at the nearby Marina de Hull Friday afternoon where a VIP limousine service complete with icecold beverages and snacks waited to chauffer the players to registration and their deluxe hotel suites.

As the sun began to dip below horizon, the sound of power still echoed through the valley from the series of heavy-metal arsenal that pulled into the hotel docks, led by Rich Brown’s 46 Black Thunder, SCi’s, Wilma and Brian Ross’s 38 Donzi with Mercury Racing HP500 EFI’s, and Barry Humphrey’s 39 Outerlimits powered by twin Mercury Racing 700 SCi’s with NXT drives. A special guest at the event was Bob Jenkins, President of Black Thunder Marine, along with recently appointed Black Thunder Marine dealer, Michel Brousseau, owner of Marina Brousseau in Saint-Sulpice, Quebec, and Gilles Lauriault, who is also a partner in Marina Brousseau, and owns North South Yachts in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

At 6:30 p.m., the teams met at the Welcoming Party and Brazillian Barbecue at Restaurant La Rome, which overlooks Lac Leamy and the scenic hotel grounds. The players relished the sumptuous buffet barbecue, which consisted of an assortment of fresh cut beef, pork and ham, fresh seafood, salads and an array of decadent desserts. Following the barbecue, Poker Runs America pulled the stops out even further and invited all the players to an exciting Las Vegas Revue, “Flower Power.”

Everyone was invited to a Las Vegas Revue.

The next morning following the 10:00 a.m. mandatory driver’s meeting in the Beethoven Room, the players made their way down to the slips to prepare for the run. At the command “Gentlemen Start Your Engines”, the power fired up simultaneously and the sounds of pure performance echoed across the water. One by one, each team made their way out to the open water behind the Poker Runs America 47’Fountain pace boat and throttled up to the first stop at Rockland Municipal Marina where Mayor Richard Lalonde along with hundreds of spectators greeted and admired the performance fleet in action. The Town of Rockland even distributed gift bags of souveniers for the players. After a brief pause, the pack was off again for the long-distant blast to the lunch stop at the famous Fairmont Château Montebello, the largest log-structure in the world.

If there’s any testament to its five-star-plus rating, the Château Montebello has hosted many dignitaries in it 78-year history including former President Ronald Regan, Princess Grace of Monaco, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. Just prior to the run, United States President George Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon brought their delegations to the Château Montebello for the meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership. In addition to attracting the rich and powerful, the Chateau Montebello’s sprawling grounds speaks for itself.

The Fairmont Chateau Montebello, the perfect lunch stop for our High Stakes event, is a world-renown resort. If there’s any testament to its five-star-plus rating, it has attracted many dignitaries in it 78-year history including former President Ronald Regan, Princess Grace of Monaco, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford.

The poker runners reconvened over lunch, sharing stories of the run while enjoying the gourmet buffet of fresh salmon, roasted chicken, sautéed vegetables and a series of delicious desserts.

The afternoon brought even more excitement as each team made their way out of their slip for the next stop to the Golden Anchor Marina in Hawkesbury, where poker runners played a bonus card for a chance to win a set of elegant Gevril Swiss timepieces, valued at more than $10,000.

On the trip back to the Casino, Poker Runners strutted their power and with the boats expertly trimmed, players such as Bill Duckworth in his 51’ Outerlimits, Michel Theoret in his 42’ Formula, and long-time poker runner, John Landry with his 38’ Wellcraft Scarab featuring new twin 850 hp Saris Racing/Performance Marine engines, glided across the water at top speeds in perfect form. When the power pack hit clear, open water, it was a magnificent sight to see four Nor-Tech cats (owned by Lawrason’s, Ken Jensen, Alec Cloke and Marc Gendron) hit impressive speeds. It was also interesting to see Vic Priestly in his 43’ Nor-Tech V-hull up front with the pack, cutting through the water like a hot carving hot knife through butter.

Back to the elegant Beethoven Room for cocktails, an open bar, and full course dinner and banquet, all the players enjoyed the vast selection of vintages served at the tables supplied by Michel Brousseau and Marina Brousseau, to not only celebrating a great day on the water, but the fact that Marina Brousseau is a recently-appointed Black Thunder dealership.

Bill Taylor then took center stage and kicked off the evening with a speech explaining how an event of this magnitude started and also thanked the players for being part of such a special event, before handing the microphone over to long-time Emcee, Dave Kirkland.

Prior to the announcement of the winner, Dave announced the recipient of the matching Gevril Swiss time pieces. Marc and Christine Gendron took this victory after enjoying a fantastic day on the water in their 36’ Nor-Tech SuperCat.

“This is the best time I’ve ever had at an event and it will certainly be a tough act to follow,” said long-time runner Alec Cloke. “You made it again happen Bill. You definitely have a winner.”

The High Roller, High Stakes Poker Run was an instant success, ushering in a new-style event where you can come to play for a big payout and enjoy the pure rush of exhilarating performance in a most elegant setting.

THE WORD IS ALREADY OUT

In May 2008, Poker Runs America will be hosting another High Roller, High Stakes Poker Run on luxurious Captiva Island, Florida. This event promises not too disappoint with beaches as long as the eye can see, breathtaking golden sunsets and firstclass accommodations. To push the envelope further, the stakes are raised even higher as there will be extravagant payouts each day over the two-day event. While we haven’t officially sent out registration forms, we have already received confirmation from seven interested teams for the event. Be sure to watch for further updates of this series of High Roller, High Stakes Poker Runs in an upcoming issue or visit our website at www.pokerrunsamerica.com.

THE PLAYERS

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Poker Runs America is North America premiere promoter of poker runs. Their website and magazine showcase the latest in offshore racing and high-performance powerboats, along with event listings and a rundown of all the latest racing tech.