Seeing adults dressed as pirates on and around the shores of Lake Lanier could mean only one thing … the annual Pirates of Lanier Poker Run is taking place. 

The annual event organized by a local nonprofit, Lanier Partners of North Georgia Inc., attracts boat enthusiasts from around the southeast and beyond all to raise money for charity.

More than 175 boats were registered for the event, which took place on Saturday, July 17. The main events were hosted at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands and Lanier Islands Legacy Lodge.  Participants also visited Gainesville Marina, Holiday Marina, Lazy Days Marina, Port Royale, Aqualand Marina and Habersham Point to gather cards.

“After having to cancel last year’s event, Lanier Partners was excited to bring back the 12th Annual Pirates of Lanier Charity Poker Run,” said W. Dale Ozaki, president of Lanier Partners of North Georgia Inc. “The event had over 175 registered boats with hundreds more on Lake Lanier to view and spectate. Boats of all sizes were involved including several out of town participants from as far as Texas and Oklahoma.”

The Black Diamond crew from Oklahoma rolled into town with two sleek black catamarans and another boat used as a personal fuel tanker. The boats gave spectators quite a show when they opened up and were speeding down the main channel of the lake on Friday and Saturday.

The fun kicked off for the 2021 Pirates of Lanier Poker Run presented by Lakeside Marine and Motorsports on Friday afternoon for the Cheeseburger in Paradise social and the stereo competition by AVC. Later that evening, the welcome party and captains’ meeting were held.

The main event was held Saturday, where the object of the Poker Run was to collect cards and at the end of the event be left with the best poker hand of all the participants. Each boat set out from their home dock or marina on the lake and they went around to eight stops on the lake to pick out a card.

If participants were not quite satisfied with their “natural hand” or the hand that they were dealt at the various stops, they could buy additional cards on Saturday evening. These were simply the “best hand” winners.

The participants had a blast and helped Lanier Partners raise more than $100,000 that will be split between Camp Sunshine, Camp Twin Lakes, Boys and Girls Club of Lake Lanier/Hall County and the Edmonson-Telford Center. Even all the winners from the event gave their winnings back to be donated. 

This year, Lanier Partners added a new award, the Hero Award. This award goes to local individuals who are honored for their heroism and life-saving actions on Lake Lanier over the past several months. This year’s Hero Award was presented to three individuals — Kyle Zimmerman, Jon Guven and Brock Shepherd. Zimmerman risked his life to make sure there wasn’t anyone else on board a boat engulfed in flames on Mother’s Day. Guven and Shepherd were credited with saving the lives of two swimmers who had jumped off their rented boat on April 18 and could not make it back to the boat. 

The Lanier Partners’ next fundraiser will be its annual Christmas event where boats are decorated and they parade up and down the lake in December.  For more information on the Poker Run or Lanier Partners, visit lanierpartners.org. 

2021 Pirates of Lanier Poker Run Winners

Best natural hand

1st — Huey Rowe-Anderson ($2,500)

2nd — Steve Schmidt ($1,700)

3rd — Eric Richards ($500)

Best hand overall

1st — John Russell ($2,500)

2nd — Jarrett Gorlin ($1,700)

3rd — Jessica Ford ($500)

Best stereo sponsored by AVC

1st — Geoff Boden

2nd — Lynn Christopher

3rd — John Russell

Best overall boat

Irish Pearl

Best sponsor boat

Twisted Oar

Best dressed crew


Best decorated boat

Blue Skies

Featured photo above: Boats and their crews got dressed up in their best pirate attire for the 12th annual Pirates of Lanier Poker Run. Photo by Jan Hite Nichols

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