Phil Peterson’s Key west Poker Run started some 41 years ago as just an idea to drum up some business during a normally slow time of year for his motorcycle business in Miami and Key West. Phil thought if he had a Poker Run to Key West in August and made an event of it, that would do the trick. Phil and a handful of local motorcycle riders, mostly from the Mustang Motorcycle Club decided to try it. The Run started early Saturday morning with sign up at the Miami Store, a ride to Key West hitting five restaurants or bars to draw a card and arriving in Key West in time to get cleaned up for the Awards Dinner, Dance and Bike Show. The best hands would win prizes and as an added attraction they had a Best Dressed Contest (where riders and their passengers would wear matching boots, pants and shirts with their helmets panted to match their bikes) so not only was the bike judged but also the riders we judged for the best looking couple and they were awarded trophies. On Sunday morning they would have a Field Meet showing off their rider skills and scored for different events i.e. slow race, roll a barrel with your front tire, ride over the teeter-totter plank etc. Competing for trophies) In those days there where small well organized riders clubs with a lot of camaraderie and friendly competition between clubs. Everyone would return home on Sunday afternoon and this went on for many years in the early days of the Poker Runs.
Today the Poker Run has grown into a major event with police estimates of ten to fifteen thousand riders. In the recent years it has managed to sell out all of the Key West Hotels with more and more riders staying on nearby Islands and traveling into Key West for the day or party that they want to attend. Drew Peterson, Phil’s son, now manages and promotes the Poker run and believes another way that we can grow this event is to make it a Key’s Bike Week with a Key West Poker Run. So this year the plan is to have motorcycle rides, events and attractions throughout the Upper and Middle Keys to attract riders to come and stay for the Week and Island hop. There are thousands of hotel rooms and places to stay thought-out the upper and middle keys. The idea is to ride down and ride all over the Keys for the first three or four days and enjoy many of the things you can do like, snorkeling or dive trips, fishing and fishing trips, kayaking, jet skiing, para-sailing and of course enjoying Paradise while eating, drinking and shopping. Then there is the Poker Run which will start one day earlier this year on Thursday. Poker Run stops will open on Thursday morning when the first stop Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo opens at 9am. The run ends on Saturday at 5 pm in Key West at the last stop which is the Conch Republic. So far all of the first four stops Gilbert’s on Key Largo, Post Card Inn on Islamorada, The Island Fish Co on Marathon and Boondocks on Ramrod Key plan on having special events and parties all week long with each of them having one big party day in that week. You will find all of the hotel accommodations listed by mile marker and rates with phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all of the Keys by visiting Petersonsharley.com and clicking on the Poker Run link.
New this year, the Peterson’s are working with Yuengling to give away two new Harley-Davidson Motorcycles at their annual New Model Open House/Pre Poker Run Parties. On Saturday September 14th at Peterson’s Harley-Davidson of Miami and on Sunday September 15th at Peterson’s Harley-Davidson South one lucky winner at each location will win a new motorcycle or a $10,000 Peterson’s gift certificate.
Again, the yearly recurring events in Key west will happen auto–magically as they do every year and as they are listed at Petersonsharley.com in the poker run link and in the agenda or programs. Events like the 6th Annual Upper Duval Crawl on ThursdayNight, Vendors Village on Green street on Friday and Saturday, Sunset Festivals at Mallory Square, The Hog Roast at Schooner Wharf BarFriday Night, Duval Street Party closed to motorcycle parking and foot traffic only Friday and Saturday, Rick’s / Durty Harry’s Bike Show by Big Bike Rider’s Association Saturday, Sloppy Joe’s Biker Beer Garden sponsored by Yuengling Beer, 19th Annual Blessing of the Bikes by the Christian Motorcycle Association, Biker Bash Pool Party at the Southernmost Hotel Collection all weekend, Biker Bloody Mary Brunch at the Southernmost Beach Café on Sunday. The main event is the awards for the best poker hands and the one game of Texas Hold-em for the New Harley-Davidson 883 Iron held at what used to be called Cowboy’s now under new owners it is called The Rose Tattoo Bar .
Again this year, you can sign up on line now for the Poker Run at petersonsharley.com or in person starting September 1st , at one of the Peterson’s Harley-Davidson Dealerships. You can also sign up in Key West at the Conch Republic Seafood starting September 19th and you can do the Poker Run in reverse or draw all five cards on the spot. Buy as many hands as you like and increase your chances. Sign up for the Poker Run is ten dollars a hand and you will also receive a discount price of five dollars for a parking band for each motorcycle. The band will give you free parking on Duval Street for the Friday and Saturday Street Parties. If you do not sign up for the Poker Run you will have to buy a Duval Parking band for ten dollars on site when entering Duval Street. All proceeds go to help local charities like the Diabetes Research institute and the Key West Rotary Club so sign up and help a good cause.
New this year is a contest for the Oldest Official Phil Peterson’s Key West Poker Run t-shirt with $500 going to the winner, time and place to be announced. There will also be the Furthest Traveled Contest the winner must have ridden their motorcycle the entire distance, to be announced at the final awards at 11 pm Saturday night.
Make plans to attend and enjoy this world famous annual charity event all for a good cause. Sign up and stay up with the latest updates on the Poker Run at petersonsharley.com