Slated for June 5-6, the inaugural Erie Poker Run sold out all 60 slots shortly after registration opened a few months ago. But performance boats are, well, performance boats, especially when it comes to bringing them out of dormancy for events that happen early in the boating season. Attrition during the past two weeks has opened up 13 spaces for performance-boat owners and their crews for the Pennsylvania-based event on Lake Erie.
Of course organizer Anthony Scioli, who also handles the successful Buffalo Poker Run in Western New York, would love to fill each of those $350 slots before the run begins. But he’s not disappointed with the reception to his inaugural Erie event, much less freaked out about the last-minute loss of participants.
“The boats that are coming are pretty impressive,” he said. “I am super happy with the quality. For a first-year event, I can’t complain. It’s not too shabby—and it’s not like we just have 15 boats. In addition to some of the boats coming from our participants, our sponsors American Custom Marine and Double R Performance and bringing some great boats.”
Scioli said he lost 15 entries—and picked up two new ones—during the past two weeks to mechanical issues and winter projects that “aren’t quite finished.” A stand-up guy to the core, Scioli refunded all registration fees immediately to those who had to cancel.
“I wanted to do the right thing,” he said. “I guess I learned that I should take more boats early in the season than I have room for and hope some people cancel, but I didn’t want to do that. This is our first year, and I wanted everyone to be confident in the event.
“I have six more slips that opened up going online now,” he added. “Emails will go out to all the people who are already registered who want them, but I think most people will want to stay where they are in the raft-off area in front of the Sheraton, our host hotel, because they think that’s where the party will be. With 750 feet of seawall, I don’t think they’ll be rafted off with more than two or three boats in a row, but it should be a great time there.”
Veteran high-performance powerboat photographer Tim Sharkey will—as planned from the start—capture the event. Veteran marine industry writer Tony Esposito will be on scene to report for speedonthewater.com, as well as write a feature for the May/June issue of Speed On The Water digital magazine. Both Friday night’s welcome party and Saturday night’s poker run awards dinner will be held at the Sheraton, which still has rooms.
While Scioli is hoping to fill the final slots between now and June 5, he won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t.
“I think a lot of guys were optimistic about when their boats would be ready, and I can appreciate that as a boat owner myself,” he said. “What are you going to do? It is what it is. I am more focused on making sure the entire event this year goes perfectly and smoothly rather than selling out every spot. And as I said before, 47 boats is not too shabby for a first-year event.”
Editor’s Note: To register for the Erie Poker Run, visit the Elite Poker Runs website.
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.