Photos Courtesy of Randy Nuzzo

Ever since its inception, the Rock the Bay Poker Run has been a staple in Maryland performance boating, providing boaters with a first-class experience and a sense of community not found at other Poker Runs.

Now in its 15th year, Rock the Bay shows no sign of slowing down. More than 30 boats showed up the weekend on August 25th to unleash their power on Chesapeake Bay.

The weekend kicked off with the annual dock party as Poker Runners took over the docks of Anchor Marina and the Nauti Goose Saloon.  Both venues welcomed the runners with open arms. The festivities were underway and it was time to Rock the Bay. 

“Down on the docks, boats had their music playing, interior LED’s on,” said Jennifer Turner, Event Coordinator for Poker Runs America. “It created a great relaxed and social atmosphere on the docks.” 

What makes Rock the Bay special is the group of Poker Runners who attend the run year after year.

“It’s a tight knit community,” said Turner. “This group of boaters plans their summer around coming to Rock the Bay.”

Most of the Poker Runners are Maryland locals and the Rock the Bay Poker Run is their opportunity to get out and unleash their power on the Chesapeake. There’s an inclusive atmosphere at Rock the Bay, as these Poker Runners bring a variety of boats. Anywhere from a 27’ Formula and smaller Bajas run with 50’ Outerlimits as they shake up Chesapeake Bay. 

With blue skies above and calm waters below, an absolutely perfect day for boating awaited the poker runners as they departed Anchor Marina and the Nauti Goose Saloon Saturday morning.  They wasted no time in pegging their throttles, storming off towards the card boat in front of Jellyfish Joel’s.

Nick’s Fish House served as the lunch card stop again this year.  The run has been stopping at Nick’s for several years now and the restaurant has always welcomed the poker runners with open arms and served up an absolutely delicious meal.  After refuelling, the runners hit the water again, headed towards their next stop.

All new for its 15th year, Rock the Bay featured a great new card stop at Joppatowne Marina, the home of CMS engines on the Gunpowder River. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and Joppatowne didn’t disappoint.  When the poker runners arrived, they found the party at Joppatowne was already well under way.

“Joppatowne really went above and beyond,” says Turner.  “It was more of a party than a card stop.  There was a live band, a bar, a barbecue and a classic car show with anywhere between 200-300 cars. All the poker runners had a great time and we hope we can return next year.”

In celebration of the brand-new card stop, the Joker went wild at Joppatowne. Jim Thomas from Cape Coral, Fla., drew the joker card and walked away with an extra $500 in his pocket.

The Firehall in North East, Md., served as the venue for Rock the Bay’s dinner and awards ceremony this year. Woody’s Crab Shack catered the event, providing a mouthwatering buffet spread with all the fixings.  From roast beef to pasta, Woody’s made sure the poker runners were well fed.

David Landsman from Fallston, Md., took home the award for best graphics with his 50’ Outerlimits, Gold Digger.  Best engines went to Richard Thomas from Ft. Myers, FL for his 39’ Top Gun, All Fired Up.

There was fierce competition this year for best-dressed crew.  John Diakoulas from Hunt Valley, Md., in his colorful 42’ Outerlimits, School’s in Session, went head to head with Frances Maryak and his 35’ Formula Yeah Baby!

Dressed in bright yellow jerseys and sporting graduation caps, Diakoulas and crew were dressed to the nines.  The headmaster of School’s in Session attended Rock the Bay, dressed in his ceremonial robes and graduation cap. Maryak and crew were dressed in stunning dark red jerseys with Team Yeah Baby across the front. 

Click the photo to read our profile on John Diakoulas and the crew from School's In Session

The crowd chanted for their favorites and the two were neck and neck.  In the end, Diakoulas and the crew from School’s in Session took home the prize for best-dressed crew.

When the cards were revealed, Jim Thomas from Cape Coral, Fla., had lady luck on his side.  With a 97732 flush, Thomas easily took home the gold. Thomas navigated the waters of the Chesapeake like a pro in his 39’ Nor-Tech, Just Let It Go.

In All Fired Up, Thomas took second place with his 910JQK hand. 

Piloting a 46’ Black Thunder, Hot Flash, Richard Gorrera from Joppa, Md., played a 67QQQ hand, earning him third place overall.

Then came the time to crown the 2017 Champion of the Chesapeake.  The winner of Thunder in the City, an earlier Poker Run on Chesapeake Bay, is invited to challenge the winner of Rock the Bay.  Whoever has the best hand between the two events is crowned champion.

Francis Veilutato Jr., brought his winning AA999 hand from the Thunder in the City Poker Run, but was no match for Jim Thomas’ hand.  At the end of the day, Jim Thomas was crowned the 2017 Champion of the Chesapeake.

With great weather and great water, the 2017 Rock the Bay Poker Run was a great success. Keep an eye out for the return of the run to North East, MD on the weekend of August 24-25, 2018.