By Ken Carmichael
What is a “poker ride?” Basically it’s an excuse to get out, ride and have some fun. Several organizations in the local area offer poker rides from time to time with about the same format. There is a designated trail, an entry and exit point and stations along the way where you secure the cards for your poker hand. There are prizes for the winning hand and often door prizes too. Sometimes food and drink are provided. Nearly all poker rides can be completed in a day. Cost for a poker ride varies considerably, although most are under $20 and some offer a reduced price for early registration. Poker rides are a fundraiser project, which provide operating funds for the sponsoring organization.
Probably the best way to understand how a poker ride works is to describe what happens at the Fish Trap Lake poker ride on Saturday, May 10 sponsored by the Inland Empire Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen (IEBCH). Fish Trap Lake is located on 5,000 acres of land administered by the BLM just off Interstate 90 about 20 miles west of Spokane. The poker ride trail is about 7-1/2 miles long with an optional 4-1/2 miles which can take the rider to the waterfall at Hog Canyon Lake. The trail meanders through wooded pockets and over open prairie. Early riders are likely to see deer and there are always plenty of birds.
At station one riders select the first “card” of a five-card poker hand by tossing a chip into one of 54 cups, which represent cards. At other stations cards are selected by throwing a dart, rolling a marble and spinning a dial. The winning hand is judged at the days end. The best poker hand wins $150 in gift certificates from selected stores. The second best poker hand wins $100 in gift certificates and the worst poker hand takes home $50 in gift certificates. In addition, Corral West Ranchwear donates two beautiful belt buckles for the two best hands. Numerous door prizes are also awarded.
Organizing a poker ride requires considerable effort. Fifty volunteers work the IEBCH ride. Half of them work at the stations and half are “outriders” stationed along the trail to assist participants.
Cost of the ride is a modest $13 per rider for those who reregister by May 7 which includes one poker hand. Those who feel lucky can purchase additional hands for $4 each, just like bingo. Registration on May 10, the day of the ride, will cost $18. Since family participation is encouraged, riders 17 and younger ride free. You can pick up a registration form at one of several feed and tack stores in Spokane, call Ken at 509-466-2225 or download from our website at www.iebch.com.
Proceeds from this poker ride are used by the IEBCH to further their mission to “...preserve and enhance the right to use horses and mules for recreation on public lands.” They also support training in “leave no trace” camping technique.
If you feel lucky this summer, or are just looking for a nice ride in a different area, why not join a poker ride. They are fun. Good Luck!