Justin Lucas might be the envy of poker run organizers across the United States as he worries about too many powerboats showing up for the Lake Cumberland Thunder Run in June.

Last year’s event topped 180 boats and this year could potentially reach 200 entries for the run on the Kentucky lake. It’s a nice problem for Lucas and co-organizer Dan Weiss to have.

“Last year it was kind of crazy,” Lucas said. “We were prepared for 150 boats, expecting 125 and ended up with 180. This year we’re prepared for 200 but I hope we don’t get nowhere near that.”

The 11th annual Lake Cumberland Thunder Run continues to be one of the largest poker runs in the country drawing participants from as far away as California and Arizona. The scenic lake, which is the ninth largest in the U.S., can easily accommodate the fleet of performance boats.

“I grew up on that lake and I still haven’t seen the whole lake,” Lucas said. “There’s just tons of shoreline, tons of water.”

State Dock Marina hosts the Lake Cumberland Thunder Run that kicks off on Friday (June 14) with a fun run where participants can pick up a bonus chip that can be turned in for an extra card. That evening the third annual Thunder Run Soundoff stereo competition takes place at the marina.

Expect to see plenty of MTI catamarans on Lake Cumberland.
(Photo courtesy Kevin Johns/Instant Memories Photography)

For the main run on Saturday, the first card stop is at Conley Bottom Resorts with a stop in the Burnside area before lunch at Wolf Creek Marina. After lunch, the boats head off to Beaver Creek and pick up their final chip at State Dock Marina.

Lucas said they vary the card stop locations each year so the participants can see a new section of the lake. “I grew up on that lake and I still haven’t seen the whole lake,” he said. “There’s just tons of shoreline, tons of water.”

Live entertainment is a big part of the poker run with bands playing on Friday and Saturday night at State Dock Marina.

“It’s packed full pretty much the whole weekend,” Lucas said. “We’ve always got something going on.”

When asked why the Lake Cumberland Thunder Run has been so successful, Lucas think it’s because they offer the participants a good value. For $225 ($250 after May 31), the captain and navigator receive two T-shirts, two lunches, two dinners, access to the entertainment, one card hand and a spot for the boat.

The Lake Cumberland Poker Run brings in a great mix of boats.
(Photo courtesy Kevin Johns/Instant Memories Photography)

The organizers try to make all the participants feel welcomed.

“If you want to come out and run your anything, we don’t care. Come out and have a good time,” Lucas said. “We accept everybody. I’m going to treat my 20-foot Baja guy the same as the guy in the 40-foot Skater.”

The poker run’s charity is Shirley’s Way, an organization that raises money to financially help people battling cancer. Patients are referred by local hospitals and Shirley’s Way will help with immediate needs such as a house payment, rent, utilities or food.

Lucas said they are prepared for 200 boats on the weekend and know the participants will have fun.

“It’s about treating everybody the same and having a good time,” Lucas said.