On August 5th, 2016, the scenic waterfront of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario transformed into a haven for power boating enthusiasts. It’s what happens when 25 offshore racing teams roll into town for a weekend event. In this case, the event was the first annual Can-Am President’s Cup poker run, which is run by Poker Runs America.

There may have been some uncertainty about the success of this event in the beginning stages. It was mid-winter when Tourism Sault Ste Marie and Poker Runs America met to scout the city’s waterfront as the potential host for this brand-new event. Yet imagination and insight prevailed, as even in winter, it’s easy to see that Sault Ste Marie is an ideal spot to host such an event.

Sault Ste. Marie Skyline

Most of the teams already had their boats in the water by the time we arrived in the Soo late on Friday. After checking into the Delta Waterfront, the host hotel for the event, we headed over to the nearby Roberta Bondar Marina to check out the hardware on display.

A poker run is a unique event. It’s not a race. Speed has no outcome on the winner. Assuming the boat has enough power to complete the course in the time allotted, almost anything that floats can run.

Float Plane Ontario

But the President’s Cup isn’t your average small town poker run. It was billed as a top-tier event on the Poker Runs America calendar, so the big guns were brought out to play

The smallest vessel in the fleet of participants was a 26-foot Baja. The highlight of the show was a toss-up between the 52-foot Nor-Tech 5200 twin-hull Need for Speed and the 45-foot Outerlimits monohull GoFast. Both vessels made as much of a splash in the parking lot with their custom-matched tow rigs as they did on the water. Spectators were lining up to take pictures.

Ontario Poker Run Action

Back on the water, there was no shortage of horsepower on display as we walked the docks in the marina. Most of the teams were making final adjustments to their boats in preparation for tomorrow’s run.

I soon realized that even though a poker run was not a race, and there was no prize for finishing first, the participants had a different idea. I can’t say for certain if there were any gentlemen’s bets in place, but I do know that several of these crews were determined to be the first boat back to the dock.

After our sightseeing adventure, we headed over to the covered pavilion for the opening ceremonies. The speeches were short. The music was loud and there were plenty of vendors showcasing their wares.

Sault Ste. Marie Marina

Polaris was the center of attention with a spread of their new Slingshots. I haven’t decided if they’re a motorcycle or a car, but either way, they sure drew a crowd.

It was shaping up to be a busy weekend, so we didn’t have time to venture far for food. Fortunately, The View restaurant at the Delta has an excellent menu. It’s an upscale eatery, as you would expect at a Delta-branded property, but the food is top notch and the view from your table can’t be beaten.

Saturday morning the real fun began. I set my camera up on the boardwalk and soon there were hundreds of people lined up to take in the parade. Each of the powerboats made a slow pass up the river, giving the crowds a great view. Other spectators chose to watch the action from the water onboard their own boats.

Sault Ste. Marie Boardwalk

Once the final boat completed its parade lap, the poker run began. Tens of thousands of horsepower throttled up and the 25 powerboats blasted off to their first stop on the poker run.

The poker run route consisted of four stops, on both sides of the border. Crowds were on hand at each stop to admire the boats. The second stop included a lunch break for the participants.

Can Am President's Cup Start

At each stop, the boat crew would pick up a single card. When they arrived back in Sault Ste Marie, they received their final card. At the awards reception, the cards were revealed and the boat with the best poker hand took home the $10,000 prize.

With some time to kill before the boats returned, we headed back to the Delta for lunch. This time we enjoyed excellent burgers from the Fluid Boardwalk Patio and Grill. This outdoor restaurant overlooks the St. Mary’s River and their casual menu offers a great selection of items for lunch and dinner. Just a note, it is only open during the summer.

Can Am President's Cup Band

The first boat blasted back into Sault Ste Marie a full two hours before the scheduled end of the race. The rest of the fleet soon followed. It’s clear none of the drivers wanted to run out the clock and risk being disqualified. I’m also sure more than one of them wanted to be first, but that honor went to GoFast, the Outerlimits monohull.

Sunday morning offered perhaps the best part of the event. A poker run of this scale usually has a charitable goal. The Can-Am President’s Cup poker run was no different. Spectators could buy a $100 ticket for a ride in a 92 mile-per-hour powerboat. All the proceeds from the sales went to benefit the local Sault Ste Marie Boys and Girls Club. Considering the popularity of the ride, I am certain a large sum of money was raised for this great cause.

Outer Limits Go Fast

Although this was an inaugural event, planned in the depths of a Northern Ontario winter, most of the participants I spoke to said this was the best first-time event they had ever attended. The people of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario were excited that their spectacular waterfront was hosting such an exciting event and the local businesses were pleased with the turnout.

The plan is to continue this event on an annual basis. The goal is to see a hundred boats participating in the near future. The 2017 President’s Cup poker run is already on the calendar for the August long weekend (August 4-6, 2017). I know I’ll be there. Will you?

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