A Meeting Of The Minds

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What do a small-town politician, a group fitness manager who moonlights as a nurse, a retired public school administrator and a civil engineer have in common? First, they’re all poker-run organizers. Second, they all gathered last Saturday in Nashville with more than a dozen of their fellow event organizers, and they were joined via video conference by 10 more of their colleagues from around the country.

Third, they all have day jobs. None makes a living as an organizer.

Independent poker-run organizers met for an unprecedented gathering in Nashville last weekend. Photos by Brian Radtke/Media One 7. (click image to enlarge). Photo courtesy/copyright Brian Radtke/Media One 7

To call this meeting historic is not an exaggeration. Spearheaded by and the Florida Powerboat Club and Poker Runs America, for-profit poker runs have been part of the high-performance powerboating scene since the early 1990s. (Little-known fact: Everglades Marina owner Ralph Martin—the father of Performance Boat Driving School founder Tres Martin—actually began hosting invitational poker runs for his customers in the early 1980s.)

But last weekend’s gathering of independent, primarily single-event poker run organizers from across the nation was the first of its kind.

When meeting attendee John Woodruff, formerly the lead organizer of the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run in Georgia, described poker-run participants as “like-minded individuals with the same passion of raising money for charity” during the meeting, he wasn’t just talking about his former customers. Though he might not have realized it, he was describing everyone in that Hampton Inn conference room.

So what is the American Poker Run Organization beyond the obvious definition of those who participate in it? That’s a fair question, and one that doesn’t answer easily because the group’s objectives and goals are still in formation. You could call it an informal trade group as its members have not decided on any sort of “formal” structure, and they may not actually adopt one.

But at this point, calling it a cohesive and enthusiastic poker-run organizer “discussion group” would be most accurate.

Or you could just call it brilliant. That’s what I’m calling it, anyway.

During Friday and Saturday night dinners, members of the group got to know one another better and bonded.

For the better part of six hours on a Saturday, I sat spellbound listening to these people talk about their aspirations and challenges. I didn’t know, for example, how tricky it can be to run an event on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-created waterway. I didn’t know how events run largely by committee could operate so smoothly and seamlessly, or at least appear that way to an outsider looking in. Now I do.

None of what they do is easy. To a person, they organize events because they love it. They even manage to have a lot of fun along the way.

Whatever this remarkable group becomes, I can promise you that its primary objective is improving the customer experience for its poker-run customers. Saturday’s meeting was not a group of organizers sitting around U-shaped table and complaining. Instead, as Mr. Woodruff put it so well, it was a meeting of “like-minded individuals who share the same passion” discussing the mechanics of event organization and sharing experience-based information and solutions, all with the primary goal of making things better—for you.

Last Saturday’s gathering was a true meeting of the minds. And while it’s just a beginning, the poker-run world is already better for it.

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Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.

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