Photos by Speedboat Magazine.
The ironic thing about the Texas Outlaw Challenge Poker Run is that there is absolutely nothing “outlaw” about the five-day event that has grown into one of the most popular performance boat gatherings in the country.
Paul Robinson has produced and promoted the Texas Outlaw Challenge for the past nine years and he has kept everyone in line by keeping the participants busy. “The one complaint I get is that you can’t do everything on the agenda at our event,” said Robinson.
Everything at the Texas Outlaw Challenge happens for a reason, even the National Shootout that took place this year on the morning of Friday, June 24th. Local favorites Kenny Mungle and Michael Lee Lockwood ran 167 mph in their 32’ Skater, Gone Again, to set the fastest speed of the weekend. Kenney Armstrong ran 146 mph in his Mercury Racing-powered MTI catamaran and Art Dinick ran 143 mph to take top honors in the Custom Engine Cat category. Finally, Tyler Crockett ran 106 mph in his 26’ Joker V-bottom to take the title in Custom Engine Vee.
“The National Shootout is first agenda item of the event on Friday morning to get the speed fix taken care of,” said Robinson. “Then they settle down for the weekend.”
When the 230 boats registered for the poker run this year, Robinson handed out more than cards and a course chart. The poker runners also received a handheld GPS. They turned in GPS units after the conclusion of the poker run so Robinson could make sure that no one was running excessive speeds.
“These are high end toys and after the shootout on Friday morning, if someone is running high speed during the event, the boaters self-patrol themselves,” said Robinson.
But that doesn’t mean that the Texas Outlaw Challenge isn’t intended for the participants to have fun. The central location provides performance boaters from the east and west coasts the chance to come together. The festivities began on Wednesday June 22 with the VIP Pre-Party at Endeavour Marina in Seabrook, Texas. Robinson said the event gets tremendous support from the cities of Seabrook, Nassau Bay and Kemah, especially the latter which shuts down its Main Street for the weekend.
On Thursday, the boats started arriving and launching at the Kemah Bridge Boat Ramp. From 11 a.m to 2 p.m., the teams could enjoy the Outlaw Stake-Out Party at the Galveston Yacht Club where they could pick up a bonus playing card. From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., there was a Stampede Street Party with boats on display in downtown Kemah.
On Friday, things got serious with the Outlaw Shootout that took place from 9 a.m. to noon on Galveston Bay. It was also Day 1 of the Gunslinger Poker Run, which is for bigger boats than can run faster than 100 mph. From noon to 4, they ran to their first card stop at Armstrong’s house and then picked up their second card at the TopWater Grill. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the ladies took center stage at the Miss Outlaw Bikini Contest at the Cabo Club in Clear Lake. At the same time, there was a High Horsepower Outlaw Dock Party at Endeavour Marina.
The Gunslinger run continued on Saturday at 10 a.m. with a noon stop at Floyds on the Water sponsored by Legend Marine Group. There were a total of 11 card stops. At the same time, the Pony Express Poker Run for smaller boats took place on Clear Lake. The boats in that event started at 11 a.m. and there were seven card stops. The Seabrook Boat Yard Pool hosted a party and lunch and gave spectators the best view of the poker runners. At 4 p.m., the cards were drawn for the Pony Express Run at the Endeavour Marina Patio and then the participants enjoyed dinner at Sam’s Boat Restaurant. After the Gunslinger run wrapped up, the poker runners had dinner on the Kemah Boardwalk and then the hands were drawn at Landry’s on the boardwalk.
One of the biggest draws of the Texas Outlaw Challenge is the awards that Robinson gives out every year. They are replicas of vintage guns used in the old west and they’ve gained quite a following. “People come back the next year to try to win the outlaw Challenge award gun,” he said. “From what I’ve been told, it’s the coolest award on the poker run circuit.”
This year, the Texas Offshore Challenge raised money for nine charities including the Shriners Children’s Hospital, the Bridge Women’s Shelter, Boys and Girls Harbor, Clear Creek Environmental Foundation, the Kemah Lions Club, Sentinels of Freedom Gulf Coast, Special Spaces and Galveston-Houston Families Exploring Down Syndrome. On Thursday, the poker runners gave 70 kids from Boys and Girls Harbor and The Bridge Women’s Shelter rides in their boats.
On Sunday, the weekend wrapped up with a champagne brunch sponsored by MarineMax and those participants who could stick around enjoyed the Wounded Knee Raft-Up and Pool Party.
For next year’s 10th anniversary on June 21-25, Robinson already has big plans. “To me success is being invited to return to our locations and cities,” he said. “All the facilities here are huge. We can accommodate two times the number of entries.” Even with 400 boats, you can bet that Robinson will keep them busy.