Celebrating its 28th anniversary this year last weekend, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run is the longest continually running event of its kind in the United States. And for 15 years, the Florida Powerboat Club-produced happening has made the calm waters of Grove Harbour in Coconut Grove its first card stop.
When it comes to skyline backdrops, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run is hard to beat. Photos by Jerry Wyszatycki copyright of the Florida Powerboat Club.
That means a lot to Stu Jones, the founder and president of the club and a man who values traditions. And from the first Miami Show Bash in almost 10 years to the run’s Islamorada destination—the Post Card Inn, which formerly (and barely) operated as the Holiday Isle Resort—this year’s Miami Boat Show Poker Run was loaded with them.
“Making Grove Harbour our first card stop is a tradition that’s stood the test of time,” said Jones, now back in his Pompano Beach office and editing hundreds of images from the event. “And this year, that’s where Mercury Racing had its in-water demos for the first three days of the Miami International Boat Show, all showcasing its new V-10 400R outboard engine.”
As hot as it looked in the Miami Convention Center the weekend prior, this Lamborghini-themed Midnight SV 43 Solstice center console looked even hotter on the water during last weekend’s Florida Powerboat Club event.
From there, 50 of the approximately 70 registered boats headed to Gilbert’s Resort and Tiki Bar for lunch and then on to the Post Card Inn.
Unlike card stop No. 1 at Grove Harbour, the event’s final destination has jumped around in the last several years. That made returning to the Post Card Inn venue even more significant for Jones, who is unabashedly nostalgic.
With 70 boats registered, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run fleet delivered a broad mix of brands.
“What probably seems like a simple change of venue was historic because for more than 15 years that property in Islamorada was our final destination for the run,” he explained. “We were delighted to return there—the marina is small but nicely laid and the Post Card Inn has more than 150 rooms on property. By late Thursday, the boats were settled in and the Florida Powerboat Club’s manufacturing and dealer sponsors had a nice, scaled-down ‘boat show’ set up.
“Just steps away, the popular tiki bar was the hub of all activity, as poker-runners passed by on their way to the front lobby to check into their hotel rooms,” he continued. “With plenty of amenities on site, including a beautiful beach, pool and three dining options many members were quite content to stay on the grounds for the majority of their weekend stay. But for those who preferred to venture out in the evening to popular local restaurants, the club had shuttles.”
Club member Michael Ciasulli’s MTI 390X catamaran is a show-stopper.
Jones was far from the only one who appreciated the run’s return to the Post Card Inn.
“We’re very happy it’s back at the Post Card,” said Brett Manire of Performance Boat Center, which had several clients enjoying the run in MTI sport catamarans and center consoles, as well as several Sunsation center consoles. “Check-in was a bottleneck, but considering they had 60 to 70 powerboats and their guests and two weddings it all well.”
Since its inception, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run has been “do as much or little as you want” affair. Friday’s only structured activity was a morning photo and video session for sponsors. Participants were free to explore the area. For those who didn’t want to venture far, the famed (or notorious, depending on perspective) Islamorada Sandbar was a short idle from the docks. For those who felt like taking a lunch run, the options—Hawk’s Cay Resort being among the most popular—were wide open.
For those with no interest of going anywhere, there was the pool, the beach and the tiki bar.
All of this, of course, was ahead of Friday night’s poker-hand play, dinner celebration and awards ceremony. (For the record, club members Beau and Tiffiney Renfroe pulled the winning hand.)
The activity “structure” for Saturday was equally simple. Participants could stay put at the resort, strike out on their own and explore lunch-run-style or run to a raft-up behind the home of Jr. Adan, a club member and one of the majority owners of Doug Wright Powerboats, in Key Largo. A new addition likely to become tradition, the raft-up was a popular call and by early afternoon 30-plus boats were settled along a 300-foot pier at Adan’s residence.
Flying solo in his Flight 1080 Cigarette 38 Top Gun, Stu Jones was delighted with outcome of this year’s Miami event.
More than a few times in the Miami Boat Show Poker Run’s 28-year history, howling winds—not uncommon in the Upper Florida Keys this time of year—have kept all of the boats docked for the weekend. This year’s event was not one of them.
That fact was far from lost on Jones.
“Sometimes we run into challenges for Mother Nature that can turn an otherwise perfect event upside-down and have us jumping through hoops to keep things rolling smoothly,” he said. “As for the Miami Boat Show Poker Run, there were no such challenges. Mother Nature cooperated, with wonderful weather and we had a nice sized event with just under 70 teams participating.
“For the most part, the event ran like a well-oiled machine,” he added. “I’m so happy with the results of this event, the second of our 2023 season, and thankful for all the support for our sponsors and loyal Florida Powerboat Club members.”
Yet another perspective—and one that never gets old—from the 2023 Miami Boat Show Poker Run.
The next event on the Florida Powerboat Club schedule is the Spring Key West Poker Run, March 16-19.
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