Poker Runs Are About More Than Poker

Is "easy money" really so?

Poker Runs Are About More Than Poker
Chuck Larson learns that a poker run is not about the poker.Tim Bower

The poster for the poker run was taped to a wall in the men’s room at the Lake View Inn, positioned at eye level where both my good friend Chuck Larson and his compadre ’Tos Lund could ponder it as they stood shoulder to shoulder.

“I see the ’Bago Blast Poker Run is coming up,” Chuck said.

“I see that also,” ’Tos replied. “Best hand wins $2,500.”

“That’s not chump change.”

“More than we’ve ever won in a walleye tournament.”

“Looks like easy money. We should enter.”

“In your Yar-Craft?”

Thus was hatched another scheme by the Lucy and Ethel of the Lake View Inn. And they actually pulled it off. Or could have pulled it off. If only they had hearts of stone.

When he told me about his plan, I directed Chuck to so he could get a feel for poker-run culture. After scanning the images of speeding Outerlimits and Fountain and Nor-Tech poker-run specials, the boys picked up on one detail: team shirts. There were two surplus blue-and-white softball jerseys on the shelf at Team Sports, on which they printed Easy Money.

The day before the run, Chuck and ’Tos cleaned the empty beer cans and bait cups out of Chuck’s 17-foot Yar-Craft. The bow fishing seat was removed to improve aerodynamics. They ran a vacuum over the carpet and gave the gunwales a coat of wax. Then Chuck pulled out a pair of “Rigged at Lake X” stickers he’d been hoarding for years, which he pasted to his mighty Mercury 115.

“Now we look legit,” declared Chuck.

The morning of the poker run dawned bright and calm, and Easy Money mingled at the breakfast ­buffet, paid attention at the captain’s meeting, and then ­wisely shoved off with the “not so fast” group to gather their poker hand at the five card stops.

That evening, as they opened their fifth card envelope, Chuck and ’Tos could not believe their luck. A third 10 gave them a full house and the winning hand. Team Easy Money ascended to the stage for the presentation of giant ceremonial checks. First up was the third-place hand held by Goose Island from Chicago, whose owner took the mic, thanked the organizers and announced he was donating his $500 to the event charity. Rousing applause! The owner of Loonies from Minneapolis did the same with his $1,000 second-place check. More applause!

Later at the Lake View bar, Chuck explained that a poker run is not about the poker or the prize money — it's a fun day on the water for a good cause. And Easy Money got a standing ovation when they gave back the $2,500 grand prize. When Chuck left the bar, he had that ­poster rolled up in his hand, a memento of a moment of glory for a guy with a small boat and a big heart.