Have Fun with a Poker Run on Your Next Hike
Getting out and around the great outdoors can be exhilarating, but it can also be tough to include hikers of all skills.
All manner of people enjoy being out and hiking around the countryside, but some are more skilled than others. Think of your last few hikes. Did you have to slow down for someone to keep pace? Or was there another member of your group eager to press on ahead? This might not be an obvious issue in a smaller group, but it could hinder some walkers if you are a member of a walking club.
That’s why the next time you go out in a big group, you could take inspiration from something called a poker run. A poker run is a straightforward concept that began in motorsports but has slowly spread across various activities. Whilst initially a motorcycle event, Australians have recently indulged in poker runs in kayaks and boats. Usually, when arranged officially, a poker run raises money for charity, but you can easily tailor the idea. Instead of raising money for charity, why not adopt a poker run to make your next hike accessible to all skills?
The basics of a poker run are simple. When on a motorcycle, each rider has to travel through five checkpoints on a journey, usually set some distance apart. At each checkpoint, a rider breaks for a short while and is given a playing card. At the end of the journey, every rider will have five playing cards, from which they make a poker hand. As long as the riders understand the poker hand rankings, they can decide who has the best hand, and that person is declared a winner. There may be a prize for the winner, but the idea is to bring people together at the end of the day to compare hands, swap stories and enjoy a social end to a fun day of riding.
Over time, that idea has evolved with boats, ATVs, kayaks and even runners embracing the poker run. There is great scope for taking these principles within your walking group and changing them to make sure everyone is kept together on a walk. Here’s how.
Let’s assume your walking group is eight (or more) people. Firstly, plan a route that has five checkpoints, four along the way and a finishing spot. It can be as arduous or as easy as you like, taking in iconic trails or just paths and byways local to you, but you must allow for all skills of walkers. Pair everyone up according to their abilities, so the slowest two go together, through to the fastest walkers. This will ensure that each pair stays together and does so with relative ease for their enjoyment. Now, give the quickest couple the playing cards, and send them on their way, allowing the others to set off a short time after. This ensures that the skilled walkers arrive at the first checkpoint before everyone else.
Once they do, it is their job to remain there until all the other groups have come past. If there are four groups, they award themselves a random card and take three more for the other pairs. Crucially, they give the rest of the deck to the first set of walkers through the checkpoint. Those walkers are then likely to be the first to arrive at point two and can hand out the second card. Once all walkers have passed through checkpoint one, the group handing out cards sets off again.
At each checkpoint, the first group picks up the deck, and everyone else gets their card. It will make your hike like a relay and ensure that different walkers all get to socialise with the rest of the group, despite not keeping the same pace. At the end of the walk, each pair will have five cards to make their poker run hand. The first refreshments after the hike are on them!
If you are a walking club, you may want to use the premise as a fundraiser but have designated marshals at each checkpoint handing out the cards. That’s fine too; a poker run should be easy to organise and fun for all, both in terms of the hike and the poker social at the end.
Contributed by: Evan Howarth