When I think of poker, what come to mind are dark rooms full of cigar smoke, tumblers of whiskey, stone-cold stares, and occasional explosions of laughter. This isn’t the case for Knoxville’s 11th annual Tennessee River Rally Poker Run. This poker game involves watercraft ranging from run-abouts to performance boats.
I had to ask John Johannes, the founder of this event, what a “performance boat” is. He used to race them, and he referenced the ’80s TV show Miami Vice and the boat that they used to catch criminals. So now that you have the image of Don Johnson flying across the water in a cigarette boat in a hot pursuit, guess how fast these performance boats can go? Johannes told me that they go as fast as 90 mph in the ocean and up to 150 mph in clear flat water! These are quite a spectacle and boaters who own these crafts travel a race circuit during the summer months. Johannes assured me that these captains were some of the “safest boaters on the water.” This year the performance boats will be traveling to downtown Knoxville past the University of Tennessee and Neyland Stadium around noon on Saturday, June 8.
“This is not a race and it is not just for GO-FAST boats,” I was told by Fort Loudon Marina manager Bret King. There is a separate course for run-abouts and pleasure boats.
“It is an opportunity to run your boat in beautiful East Tennessee with friends and family while making four stops along the way to pick up cards for your poker hand(s),” writes Johannes writes on their website. The Poker Run is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, at Fort Loudon Marina in Lenoir City and ends at their party barge. At the dinner party located at Calhoun’s, around 6 p.m., everyone reveals their five cards to the audience, and the best poker hand wins the jackpot of $1,500; second and third best hands win $1,000 and $500 respectively.
It is not all just fun and games—these boaters are socially conscious. A portion of this year’s proceeds will go toward a new playground that will accommodate special-needs children in Lenoir City’s Rock Springs Park. The event is presented by the Lenoir City Civitan Club, the oldest civic club in Loudon County. On the Friday evening before the Poker Run, around 60 clients of the Sertoma Club are sponsored to enjoy boat rides and a picnic. Our local Sertoma Club houses and assists 150 mentally challenged adults. Both of these worthy charities edify our community through service, and add to the popularity for this event. It doubles the pleasure when you “party for a purpose.”
The Poker Run also draws revenue and awareness for our part of the Tennessee River. Participants have come from as many as seven different states and the farthest about 200 miles away. I have been told by many transplanted Knoxvillians that they moved here because of the beauty of our Lake. I believe in its beauty and versatility for many different water sports and enjoyment and that is why we at the Fort Loudoun Lake Association are dedicated to keeping it clean and committed to systemic change for pollution prevention throughout our watershed.
Angela Howard is the executive director of the Fort Loudoun Lake Association. Visit fllake.org for more info.