The “Sturgis” of Poker Runs

By Eric Colby
Photo’s by Freeze Frames and Todd Taylor 

The 2018 edition of the Tickfaw 200 poker run is in the books and the event is turning into one of the premier happenings in performance boating.

“Our motto is we are the Sturgis of boating,” said Joey Fontenot, owner of the host marina, Blood River Landing, in Springfield, La., and the owner of the event, referring to the annual motorcycle ride-in at Sturgis, S.D., that basically takes over the town for its duration.

Like Sturgis, Springfield is a town of about 1,000 people and the citizens welcome the poker runners. “There’s no poker run in the world that does three days where you can pick up cards,” said Fontenot. “Nobody’s in a rush because they know they have three days to do it.”

While Fontenot owns the event, Casey Harrison is the promoter and he sets the schedule of events and received much praise on social media following this year’s run.

Fontenot said that for next year’s event, the organizers are considering adding a fourth day so boats can run from Wednesday through Saturday. The 400 boats that participated in this year’s Tickfaw 200 picked up cards at eight locations, the Canal Bank Bar, Lagniappe, the Prop Stop, Gator Den, Riverside Bar, Morton’s, the Blue Crab and the Blind Tiger from Thursday through Saturday. Two of the stops were accessible by land, but what fun is that?

JW Davis and Brittany Dunn of Davis Watersport and Davis 4 x 4 from Virginia.

Players needed five cards to qualify and they could purchase two additional cards ($20 for first card, $40 for second card). All the money from the additional cards went into a progressive pot. Cards were dealt starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday and participants had to be in line by 7 p.m. Saturday to play.

This year’s fleet included the 48’ MTI catamaran, Windship, Todd Campbell’s 57’ MTI center console and Devin Wozencraft drove all the way from California with his 28’ Skater sponsored by his insurance company. 

“How do you tell a guy who drove all the way from California that a poker run is only one day?” asked Fontenot.

John Woodruff’s 48’ MTI, Windship, is among the most famous poker run boats in the country.

One of the draws of the event is the access to a seemingly limitless number of waterways and destinations. “When we leave here, we can go to the Gulf of Mexico and Cuba if we want to,” said Fontenot. “Stops are not an issue. We are limitless on the amount of water we have here.”

The Livingston Parish Tourism Board helps promote the event, but Fontenot said he doesn’t ask for sponsorships. The entry fee is $240 per card hand, not per boat, and families are encouraged to attend. There’s a gator farm and water park nearby to keep kids entertained.

Tommy and Dawn Rocheal (left) and owners Sandra and Mark Kirkland with their 31’ Scarab from Houston, Texas.

Fontenot continues to make sure that proceeds raised at the Tickfaw 200 go right back into the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Department Marine Division. They raised $40,000 for the group this year and last year bought the department three Hummers. During last year’s hurricanes in Houston, the Livingston Parish Sheriffs department took its high-water rescue vehicles down to Texas to assist with rescue and recovery efforts.

To say thank you to the boaters, the sheriffs boiled crawfish and raised money for the children’s Christmas fund. Live bands played every night at the Fun House bar at the marina.

This year, the organizers promised to pay out $5,000 for a Royal Flush of Spades. Best hand earned $2,000, while second got $1,500 and third picked up $1,000. The worst hand was worth $200.

Beau Renfroe brough his 36’ Skater from Georgia and feautured Jason Ventura from Brand X on the throttles.
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