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Full house at Poker Run

December 2, 2018

Only egos were hurt this Saturday during Havasu Chamber’s Desert Bash when a five-year-old earned the best poker hand.

Nearly 250 off-road vehicles lined up on Standard Wash this Saturday to participate in the Havasu Chamber of Commerce’s 8th annual Desert Bash and Poker Run. Havasu Chamber CEO, Lisa Krueger said, “This is the fourth year in this location. We have it down to a science now.” The vehicles were separated into groups of six to keep the dust levels down and prevent congestion on the trail. Kreuger stood atop a hill above the starting line to make sure each group started with plenty of room in between the next.

Safety is the top priority during the poker run. There are 20 search and rescue vehicles placed along the trail to watch for vehicles that may require technical or medical assistance. The search and rescue teams said this was the worst year for breakdowns as they counted at least 10 vehicles needing assistance. Event organizer Niki Nickle also has a father and son team, Dave and Chris McAtlin, to sweep the trail once all participants have started in order to move the poker run along as well as notify the search and rescue teams of broken-down vehicles in between their stations.

With over 200 vehicles cruising down the trail and four checkpoints to collect cards at, it’s important to keep the flow as steady as possible, especially when certain checkpoints offered food, drinks, and a game of corn hole. This year, the sponsors for the checkpoints were Basha’s, Anderson Auto Group, Jersey Mike’s, and Only Orchids. As if winning a cash prize for the best poker hand wasn’t enough, participants were also offered fruit and granola bars, biscuits and gravy, cheeseburgers, candy, and most importantly, porta-potties.

The poker run consists of nearly 60 miles around the Black Mountains, through dusty deserts, rocky roads, hills to climb and tight turns to maneuver. The terrain may be rough and amenities are lacking but when everyone works together, it makes for one incredible adventure. Event volunteer, Kayley Galati said, “This is a good introduction to the desert. Everyone helps everyone along, it’s a team effort. And, thanks to Dave and Chris (McAtlin), the trails are marked perfectly.”

After all the participants reached each checkpoint, collected their cards and crossed the finish line back at camp, they enjoyed food, drinks, campfire, and live music. Vendors included Kokomo’s deli on the go, River Blend Coffee Co., and Bud Light. Once the event organizer tallied the poker hands, the top four were placed on a board along with the worst hand. First place went to a lucky five-year-old, although Krueger made it clear the prize money would go to his parents since they paid for the ticket. The second-place winner, who took home a $200 cash prize, was disappointed to learn he lost to a child but laughed it off because he had such a good time.

Krueger works with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to host this great event. She said, “We have such a great relationship with the Bureau because we follow the rules. When they say leave it better then you came, we make sure to do so. Dave and Chris spend days picking up trash and debris from the event so this year, we created an additional prize for who could pick up the most trash. We like to make it fun!”

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