Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 5: Poker run

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Ride, Sally, ride: Winner of the season's last poker run in San Pedro, Sally Backalukas flashes the cash and a wining smile at the finish, Pedro's Hotel.
Ride, Sally, ride: Winner of the season’s last poker run in San Pedro, Sally Backalukas, flashes the cash and a winning smile at the finish, Pedro’s Hotel on Saturday night.

“A poker run is an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, horses, or other means of transportation must visit five to seven checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run. The event has a time limit, however the participants are not timed—winning is purely a matter of chance.”

— Wikipedia

OK, that is basically it. We don’t use snowmobiles or horses on Ambergris Caye, but under “other,” you can add golf carts. Lots and lots of golf carts.

But more on that in a moment.

On Saturday, after a visit to Cayo Coffee to watch Paul, Marci and Amarilis roast up a fresh batch of Back Street, and back-to-back Pilates and yoga classes at Zen Arcade (Rose taught three classes that morning), we figured breakfast might be a nice idea.

So, in my best John East voice I say “Where else but Estel’s?”

And a good call because the restaurant was closing the next day for its annual low season break.

Like John, I’m pretty much a creature of habit when it comes to breakfasts. In fact it was just over a year ago that Rose and I met John and his own lovely Rose here at Estels for breakfast. We’ve been good friends ever since.

My usual Estel’s order has changed only slightly over the past year: I substituted fryjacks for English muffin to go with my black coffee, two eggs over easy, bacon and potatoes. Yes, breakfast is served all day.

When Shirley and Ed Butterick, much beloved neighbors in our area, announced plans to return to the  States we held a party at Coco Loco's ...
When Shirley and Ed Butterick, much beloved neighbors in our area, announced plans to return to the States we held a party at Coco Loco’s …

Just after putting in our order, our neighbor Ed Butterick joined us. Ed is leaving the island on Sunday, to join his wife, Shirley, in San Diego where they will now live and care for Shirley’s ailing mom.

Ed and Shirley, both retired, moved to Ambergris Caye within days of us. They lived right across the street and rode bicycles purchased at Castillo’s Hardware, just as Rose and I did. (May I add, they made a far better choice of fenders and baskets than I did. Their fenders actually keep the road mud off your back! Imagine being gripped with fender envy ….)

What was most admirable was the way Ed and Shirley seemed to fearlessly tackle island life. They went everywhere, did everything, knew everybody. They took the water taxi to Belize City at least three times to go shopping. We’re still talking about doing that.

Their plans to live out life in Paradise were cut short by family responsibilities back home. When Shirley left to set up their new residence – Shirley and I both raised our kids in adjacent San Diego neighborhoods and I suspect they probably met at one time or another —  Coco Loco’s held a well-attended farewell party.

... and let this be a warning to anyone else who wants to leave. You will be forced to wear funny hats and recite 10 Monty Python jokes from memory before you can get off the island! Actually the hats were part of an obscure New Foundland ritual involving kissing of a fish, Skreech rum and recitation of many verses -- all adapted for Belize. Well, it is a farewell they won't soon forget. Nor will we.
… and let this be a warning to anyone else who wants to leave. You will be forced to wear funny hats and recite 10 Monty Python jokes from memory before you can get off the island! Actually the hats were part of a Newfoundland ritual involving kissing of a fish, Skreech rum and recitation of many verses — all adapted for Belize. Well, it is a farewell they won’t soon forget. Nor will we.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to see Ed and share breakfast.

Also in Estel’s was Paul, chief organizer for the monthly poker run, among his many other other duties for Pedro’s Hotel.

As he told us about the run, Ed casually mentioned that he’d never been on the poker run. Nor had we.

The next step was obvious.

So that’s how I ended up bouncing around on the back of Ed’s Club Car (He and Shirley had upgraded from bicycles months ago.) from bar to bar, collecting playing cards and pounding back rum and cokes.

Poker run is a monthly social diversion cooked up by the gang at Pedro’s Hotel.

You visit five bars, meet lots of people, sometimes drink too much, collect playing cards in the hopes of drawing a good hand by the end of the night. And, if you are really lucky, you could take the whole $700 BZD pot at the end of the night.

I will confess that by the end of this particular night – at the bar in Pedro’s Hotel, as it turns out —  I was far more focused on the two enormous pizzas before us than on either my cards or the pot of cash.

Part of the crowd at Lola's Pub during the Saturday night Poker Run.
Part of the crowd at Lola’s Pub during the Saturday night Poker Run drinking shots. This is a teamwork exercise, as the four shot glasses are mounted on a  ski and require cooperation, communication, stability and four people of about the same height to succeed — just like in the real corporate world, I’ve been told.

The whole thing started at the Beach Bar at Caribbean Villas, another part of Pedro’s (Peter, actually) growing “empire.”

Because Ed, Rose and I showed up on time, we were ridiculously early.

Ah. Island time.

Someone recently told us “Whatever time something is supposed to begin, that is when I begin to leave the house.”

Within an hour the trickle of poker runners turned into a deluge, all fisting their $25 BZD entry fees, and pretty quickly a $700 pot was announced. I have no idea if that is a lot for a poker run or not.

John and Rose arrived and quite a few of our neighbors, mostly first-timers as well. It felt good to recognize so many faces, even if I couldn’t remember all the names. (Age, old age, I tell you …)

First card drawn, next stop was the Road Kill Bar, only a few minutes from Caribbean Villas. The long green line of golf carts had barely warmed up before we’d arrived.

Quick note: While it is called a poker run, there are no points for speed or reckless driving between bars. On the other hand, the bars were all close enough that I think I could run the circuit (sticking to grapefruit juice or something for the night).

Good lord, I have no idea why I would want to do that. Just speculating.

Lola Pub's Trevor smiles with admiration while Derek, from BIGSUP paddleboarding,  executes the difficult two-fisted /four-drink maneuver in a crowded Lola's Pub.
Lola Pub’s Trevor smiles with admiration while Derek, from BIGSUP paddleboarding, executes the difficult two-fisted /four-drink maneuver in a crowded Lola’s Pub. In  the background is Paul, the poker run’s  maestro of ceremonies.

So, while we’ve passed by Road Kill a thousand times, this was a first for us. Same with the next bar on the list, Lola’s Pub in downtown San Pedro on Coral Reef Drive. The next was an old standby, Wayo’s Beach Bar.

Yes I’m leaving out lots of detail here. No I did not take notes (which would be useless to read I’m sure), nor did I take many pictures and yes the rum and cokes flowed like water. Sorry. I’ll do better next time.

Last stop, of course, is Pedro’s Hotel where serious men pored over the directory of participants and the cards they were dealt at each stop and compared them to the pat hand on the table.

With the scrutiny of Talmud scholars they pronounced Sally, only back on the island two days, as the winner.

Moments after Sally’s victory dance, the heavy bell at the bar rang and a round of drinks went out to all. Thank you, Sally.

For me, I am grateful that we had time to spend with Ed before he leaves, and grateful that he did the driving.

If anyone can recall whether I was enjoying myself on the poker run or not, could you please drop me a note and explain my behavior in detail?

But I kid …..

Only now, I find out this was the last poker run of the season. Kind of sad, but then, I have no idea what season they are talking about nor how long it will last. Certainly something to look forward to, definitely  when or friends come to visit.

The whole series:
Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 5: Poker run

Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 4: Roasting coffee

Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 3: Where’s the beef

Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 2: What’s SUP!

Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 1Solo snorkel

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2 thoughts on “Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 5: Poker run

    Megan said:
    September 4, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Oh! I hope we catch one while we’re there in January!

    Like

    Emily said:
    September 8, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I’ve read a lot of posts about Poker Runs, but this one may be the very first that made me wish I’d gone on one! Nicely described!

    Like

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