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Parades of pirates, poker to sail across Lake Lanier this weekend
Eighth annual Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run Thursday-Sunday
Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run

Pirates will take over Lake Lanier this weekend, but instead of sailing old, massive ships to loot and plunder for personal gain, they will be traveling in individual boats, collecting cards and raising money for children’s charities.

The eighth annual Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run is set to run from Thursday, July 20 through Saturday, July 22 at Lake Lanier Islands, with all proceeds benefitting organizations such as Camp Sunshine, Camp Twin Lakes and the Hall County Boys and Girls Club.

“Right now, we have over 200 boats registered, but, realistically, by the end of Friday night because you can register at the events Thursday and Friday, we think we’ll have about 250 boats,” said Sydney Gordon, vice president of Lanier Partners of North Georgia, which organizes the event.

If you go

  • What: Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run
  • When: July 20-22
  • Where: Lake Lanier Islands Resort
  • Cost: Deluxe boat entry, $175; Super Deluxe boat entry (includes more hands, tickets), $275; extra playing hands, $50; Friday night land lubber ticket, $35
  • More information:

Last year, participants raised more than $250,000 and have donated more than $1.5 million since the event began in 2010.

The boating event is not a race — any type of boat is invited to join, except houseboats and Jet Ski’s. Captains travel to a handful of marinas on Lanier to collect cards, which are used to play a hand of poker at Sunset Cove on Saturday night.

“Our poker run is known for including everyone from pontoon boats to performance boats,” Gordon said. “We want the locals to know we need them in order for us to achieve our goal of raising money for Georgia’s children in need. We don’t want anyone to think that just because they don’t have a performance boat that they should sit out on the fun.”

First place wins $2,500, while second place takes home $1,700 and third place is awarded $500.

Card stops are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and boaters often dress up as pirates.

There are a few changes to the event this year, Gordon said.

“We’re doing an open card stop, so there’s no takeoff or coordinated start time from the [Buford] Dam like in years past,” she said.

The word family has also been added to the event’s name this year.

“We added the word family to add to the feeling of family we get every year,” Gordon said. “We have people come from all over. We have a group coming all the way from Ohio, and they’ve been coming for years.”

New locations and events have been added, too.

The weekend will kick off on Thursday with a meet and greet at Coastal Breeze, a new venue for the event.

On Friday, there will be a welcome party and buffet dinner provided by Jim N’ Nicks at the Lanier Islands Amphitheater. Before that, there will be a beach bash and raft up at Pirates Cove, where a lunch will be provided and the Coast Guard Auxiliary will give a safety speech.

Last year, the poker run was prefaced by a boating accident the night before the run where two couples from Kentucky were killed when their boat capsized. A Georgia Department of Natural Resources report later detailed the cause of the accident was excessive speed, and reckless driving.

An honorary memorial procession of boats from the Buford Dam to the Gainesville Marina was added last year, and this year’s event occurring a week later than normal was meant to honor their families.

While online registration is closed, boaters can still sign up at the events on Thursday and Friday.

For more information on events, locations and times, find a full schedule at