Speeding away from Leverick Bay, participants for this year’s poker run out of Virgin Gorda were tasked with making the five stops needed to build what they hoped to be a winning poker hand. (Photo: MAR JAVIERTO)

The 20th Leverick Bay Poker Run on Sunday was the second after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the event to take a three-year hiatus, and organisers dubbed it a success despite a botched armed robbery early in the afternoon.

“We had an increase from last year,” said co-organiser Alex Yates. “For participation, we had people coming from Turks and Caicos, St. Croix and Puerto Rico. So it was a pretty good turnout. The weather was great too.”

147 poker hands

At around 11:45 a.m., 89 boats powered out of Virgin Gorda’s Leverick Bay headed to the first stop on the route, according to Mr. Yates. All told, the participants bought 147 poker hands at $250 each, he said.

The Raw Skills Track Club raised “just over” $7,000 from raffle ticket sales, according to co-organiser Joel Brillert, and the poker run itself is expected to bring in between $10,000 and $20,000 more to be donated.

“[There will] also be some funds left aside for some of the other charities,” Mr. Yates said. “To the Virgin Gorda Charitable Trust and also the Animal Rescue Association.”

The circuitous route, which began at Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda at 11:45 a.m., followed a path around Mosquito Island and The Dogs.

After picking up their first oversized playing card at Loose Mongoose on Beef Island, the contenders headed to Foxy’s Taboo on Jost Van Dyke for another. Then they threaded the needle between Great and Little Thatch islands on the way to a lunch stop at Pirate’s Bight on Norman Island.

After re-fueling their bodies, participants sped to Ocean’s 7 on Peter Island before finally returning to Leverick Bay, where the best hands were compared.

In a similar turnout to last year’s Leverick Bay poker run, spectators and speedboats gather on Virgin Gorda in preparation for the 20th dash around the Virgin Islands. (MAR JAVIERTO)
Botched armed robbery

While the boats were completing the route, the attempted armed robbery took place shortly after 1 p.m. back at Leverick Bay, police said.

“According to reports, two masked gunmen entered an office at the resort, held the manager at gunpoint, and demanded cash,” according to a police report issued Monday. “The suspects eventually fled empty-handed.”

The attempt took place after all the poker run participants had begun their dash around the territory, according to Mr. Brillert.

“Ironically, all the participants had already left the resort before [the robbery] took place,” Mr. Brillert said Tuesday. “And so they were ignorant to the fact that was happening. So when the crowd returned at approximately 3 p.m., they really didn’t know the difference.”

According to Mr. Brillert, spectators typically disperse after poker run participants leave mid-morning, returning just before the boats begin to crest over the horizon.

“So the only way that [the robbery] affected the event negatively was spectators were not able to get there for that 2-3 p.m. time slot,” Mr. Brillert said. “So we saw approximately 30 percent less spectators at Leverick Bay, and we believe it’s due to that incident.”

The attempted robbery resulted in one injury. According to 2:39 p.m. message from Virgin Gorda Villa Rentals to a local WhatsApp group, the police forensics team had just arrived to Leverick Bay after the injured food-and-beverage manager was taken to the clinic.

Later that day, the victim was released from the clinic. On Tuesday, however, he returned to the clinic for further diagnostics, according to Mr. Brillert.

“He’s back in the clinic today,” Mr. Brillert said. “He’s still got symptoms of a concussion.”

Asked if the manager was pistol-whipped, Mr. Brillert replied, “I don’t think it was a pistol. It was the butt of a rifle, but yeah.”

Boats gathered at Leverick Bay Resort and Marina in 2023 after collecting playing cards from stops across the territory during the Leverick Bay Poker Run. The event returned after a three-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. (File Photo: MAR JAVIERTO)

The poker run was founded in 2001 by Nick and Monica Willis, former managers of the Leverick Bay Resort and Marina.

The first year, 12 boats showed up, and the event grew steadily in subsequent years before being stalled by the pandemic.

For the 20th anniversary this year, a new “Founders Award” was introduced in honour of the Willises.

“That was particularly special, and we’re gonna continue doing that award from now on to the group that has the most team spirit and energy and vibe,” Mr. Yates said. “So that’s a special, special trophy that has really nothing to do with your hand or your cards or anything.”

The first-time winner was Brian Swann, who also drew the second-place poker hand. With more than 20 people in matching uniforms, Mr. Swann’s team took the trophy because they “best represented the spirit of poker run,” Mr. Brillert said.

Allison Vaughn contributed reporting for this story.