In the year 2001, Nick Willis, manager of the Leverick Bay Resort and Marina, thought it would be a wonderful to create an event in which local boats would navigate around the BVI and pick-up playing cards at designated stops in order to formulate a poker hand; best hand wins the competition.
Nick Willis, originator of the idea for a BVI Poker Run, is the type of character you’ll never find in a corner bored. A proactive individual, constantly in search of something new to do, a project to be involved in, Nick also understands how to rally others to join in the effort, whatever it may be. Whatsoever the mission, wherever the current takes him, Nick does things with flair, and a contagious gusto for life, discovering fun in everything he does while making sure everyone around him has a good time too. That’s just one of the numerous winning qualities that have made him renowned in his neck of the woods and very likely the basis of the Leverick Bay Poker Run’s success year after year: it’s a community-centered and all-in-fun based activity where everyone is welcome to join.
So yes, first and foremost, it was about having fun.
But where did it all begin? You can’t speak of Nick Willis without also mentioning Monica, his wife and good-natured collaborator. Some fifteen years ago, Nick approached her with an idea that he’d roughly sketched out on paper, an initiative that seemed like a great initiative to her too. Together, they started contacting everyone they could think of who might want to be on board with the new project. Jimmy Bou was one of the first calls, with whom Nick discussed the possibility of bringing in boats from Puerto Rico. Bou, a good judge of who is apt to not pass up an invitation for general tropical debauchery and has a tendency for joy, proceeded to summon various boating enthusiasts from said island.
That first year, as he sat watching the water, looking for the entire world like he had not a care in life, Nick was actually a bit worried that no one would show up after all. Then, the first boat arrived (from Puerto Rico), and then another (also from Puerto Rico), and in the end, twelve boats showed up for that First Leverick Bay Poker Run back in 2002. For Nick Willis, the event was a huge success.
Later on, as the event grew in popularity and its reputation was spread through word-of-mouth and various promotional efforts, the Poker Run turned into a sort of national holiday in the BVI. Last year's Poker Run was the largest ever, with over 200 participating boats (a large percent from Puerto Rico; the island’s support has been unwavering), many coming in from far and away.
For a number of years now, due to the continued growing success of the event, Nick has been able to earmark a large portion of the funds raised through event-entry and donate it to local charities. The last Poker Run benefitted with cash not only the official event winners but also $10,000 were donated to the Virgin Gorda Diabetes Association, $1,000 to the Virgin Gorda Animal Rescue, $1,000 to the Virgin Gorda Cars Associations and $1,000 to the Virgin Gorda Track Team.
All in all, the Poker Run was an idea that landed in the Nick of time, so to speak, and we have Nick Willis and his willingness to create something enjoyable for the whole community to thank for it. We bet this year will be the best one yet!