October 9, 2019

Poker Run riders draw cards during a stop during last year's event.

File Poker Run riders draw cards during a stop during last year's event.

FLORIDA KEYS — The thunder on U.S. 1 this weekend may not come from the clouds.

Thousands of motorcycles will rumble through the Florida Keys on Oct. 11 and 12 for the Phil Peterson’s 46th Annual Florida Keys Poker Run, a two-wheeled event that raises money for South Florida charities and nonprofit groups.

“The Poker Run is much like it has been for many years, with a few new twists,” said Drew Peterson, owner-operator of Peterson’s Harley-Davidson South in Miami.

“All the stops on the way down will be on the right-hand side, the bayside, going down,” he said. “Five planned parties will be on the [northbound] oceanside coming back.”

The first riders could start arriving around 9 a.m. Friday, stopping to draw cards for a poker hand. All six card stops in the Keys will close at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

Hog Heaven Sports Bar in Islamorada hosts the grand finale awards party starting at 10 p.m. Saturday, where holders of the 10 best poker hands “have the opportunity to play one round of Texas Hold ‘Em for a new Harley-Davidson, winner takes all.”

The Poker Run’s official turnaround spot is Ramrod Key, at Boondocks Grille and Draft House, mile marker 27. Stamped poker-hand sheets must be turned in by 6 p.m. Saturday at Boondocks. The 10 qualifiers for the final round will be notified by cell phone.

Many riders are expected to continue traveling down to Key West to complete their journey through the Keys. However, no formal Poker Run rally events are scheduled in Key West.

Riders can register for the Poker Run at either of the two Peterson’s Harley-Davidson dealerships in Miami-Dade. Those who sign up at Peterson’s ($10 per hand) will receive a “bonus” seventh card, giving them an extra chance to compile a good six-card hand.

Gilbert’s Resort on Key Largo “traditionally is the first stop and also will be a sign-up spot for those who didn’t sign up at Peterson’s Harley, a ‘last-chance qualifier’ if you will,” Drew Peterson said.

Card stops after Gilbert’s include the Florida Keys Elks Lodge, mile marker 92 in Tavernier; Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar, mile marker 82 in Islamorada; The Florida Boy Bar and Grill, mile marker 68 in Layton; Overseas Pub and Grill, mile marker 49 in Marathon; and Boondocks, mile marker 27 on Ramrod Key.

Volunteers from local Rotary clubs and other organizations will staff the card stops as a fundraiser for their charitable activities and for Phil Peterson’s Charities Inc.

As the Peterson’s Poker Run riders head north Friday, an afternoon “pool party” will be held at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, on Knights Key near mile marker 47.

Later Friday evening, Sparky’s Landing at mile marker 54, near Key Colony Beach, hosts a post-ride party.

Northbound riders on Saturday afternoon can stop at Sparky’s Landing to look over motorcycles competing for awards in a six-class show hosted by Full Throttle Magazine. The Saturday finale at Hog Heaven follows.

For those who stay in the Keys until Sunday, a Survivors’ Party will be held. Check with Poker Run officials for a definite location but the Overseas in Marathon was tentatively listed as the site.

The late Phil Peterson opened his first motorcycle shop in Key West, then helped launch the annual Keys Poker Run “as an idea to drum up some business during a normally slow time of the year.”

Peterson’s Harley will donate a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle (not including taxes), cash prizes, awards and advertising. All proceeds from poker hands, donations to stop crews, sponsors and T-shirt sales will go to local Rotary clubs and children’s charities. For more information, visit petersonsharley.com.