This year’s Lake Almanor Poker Paddle had it all: Perfect weather and calm water, a great lunch and bloody Mary bar to greet paddlers at the finish at Plumas Pines Resort, and a happy, relaxed crowd that came to enjoy the water, the festivities and a chance to win cash prizes for the best and worst poker hands.
From its initial inception three years ago to this year, the event has grown in popularity, from just 26 paddlers then to 80 this year.
The event was the brainchild of Mary Austin and after a one-year hiatus, she returned this year as the co-coordinator under the direction of Almanor Recreation and Park District.
“We have this beautiful, beautiful lake and almost no organized recreational events that take advantage of it, so the idea was to give the community the opportunity to enjoy our lake and also have some fun vying for the best poker hand,” stated Austin.
She worked hard to line up local sponsors to make the event affordable. Rusty Roof Coffee Roasters underwrote the cost of the very cool water bottles given to all paddlers.
Paddlers had the option to do a 4.5-mile or 9-mile course along the west shore of Lake Almanor, starting and ending at Plumas Pines Resort and paddling south toward Rocky Point Campground and back.
Acting on a suggestion from a large Lake Haven kayaking group, last year the five poker stops were moved from the shore to anchored boats, which has proved hugely popular to participants, especially those with kayaks with pedals, as they are more difficult to beach.
A new addition this year was a ticket for a bloody Mary bar at Plumas Pines, which was a big hit.
Kim Halliday took home the grand prize of $200 with a flush ace/king high. Second place went to Melanie Pearson, who also drew a flush with an ace/queen high. The worst hand “winner” was Patti Logan, who took home a pair of great gift certificates from Bodfish Bicycles and the Coffee Station.
The support of our community makes this possible; the sponsors, the wonderful volunteers who man the rest stop boats, the SAG boats, the registration and setup, and the cooperation of Plumas Pines to stage the event and the catering.
We fully expect the event to continue to grow.