Not every trail we hit is an off-the-charts wild wheeling adventure. Some are less death-defying and more relaxing fun. For example, we just spent a weekend playing poker in South Carolina. But this wasn’t cigar smoking, whiskey sippin’, dark smoky room gambling. This was backroads cruising, sightseeing, and some sticky muddy rockcrawling type card play. We spent the day on the Clemson 4-Wheel Center’s annual Poker Run and had a fun time losing.
A poker run is part scavenger hunt, part poker game, all while out exploring in your 4x4. The Clemson-sponsored event brought out about 110 4x4s, and their drivers were all given a list of directions to follow for a 100-some-mile route. How does a poker run work? Along the way are checkpoints, and at each checkpoint you pick a card from a standard deck of cards and record that card on your checklist. At the end of the day the best hand wins prizes. Also along the way are additional wild cards that can be earned to up your ante for winning. It was a fun way to get out in the Southern countryside, and since everyone was driving a 4x4 there were plenty of dirt roads, cool little gas station stops, and challenging four-wheeling if you wanted to earn that wild card.
Tires were spinning for traction on the slippery red muddy rocks
If you’re from the Southeast and are looking for a good relaxing weekend in your wheeling rig, you may want to check out next year’s Poker Run. Find out more at www.clemson4wheel.com.
Step By Step
The Poker Run started at the Clemson 4-Wheel Center in Clemson, South Carolina. There were many dirt trails and some 4x4 obstacles on the route, but there were also plenty of bypasses and scenic wooded roads for those less-modified 4x4s like Donnie Blackman’s stock ’87 Grand Wagoneer.
The way a poker run works is you follow a set of written directions to various checkpoints. These could be a gas station, an old store with a water wheel, a post office, dirt road, and so on. At each checkpoint you pick a card from a deck and record that card on your play sheet. At the end you turn in your play sheet and the best hand wins. There are also wild card destinations where you can earn a bonus card to help your hand.
One of the wild card destinations was the Grimshawes historic post office. This small wooden shed was the smallest working post office in use from 1903 to 1953. The players had to get a photo of their 4WD in front of the post office in order to earn the wild card to help their poker hand.
Jason Burrel was one of the few to actually climb this obstacle and earn a wild card. He roasted his Krawlers via RCV axleshafts and, once good and sticky, shot up the slick climb.
Michael Cox works for Clemson 4-Wheel Center, and the off-road portion of the poker run was actually a trail obstacle set up in his parents’ backyard. His ’00 TJ has a Wagoneer 44 stuffed with a Spartan Locker up front and a rear Ford 8.8 with a Detroit Locker and 4.88 gears. The 35-inch BFGoodrich tires were spinning for traction on the slippery red muddy rocks.
This big red TJ lined up for the rock obstacle and gave it a serious beatdown fighting and clawing at the sticky red clay. Josh Jetton owns this well-built Wrangler equipped with Dana 60s, ARB Air Lockers, and 38-inch BFGs.
AJ Ellenburg from Walhalla, South Carolina, was hammering on his ’88 YJ when the Dana 44 front barfed a ball joint. The Jeep has coilovers up front and a spring-over 9-inch rear pushing 39-inch Iroks.
In a field of Jeeps this little Tacoma stood out as both cool and different. Josh Barlow from Greenville, South Carolina, had no problem keeping up with most of the seven-slat-grilled poker players in his little regular cab wheeler.
Clemson 4-Wheel’s proprietor, Fred Perry, is one of our favorite guys to wheel with. He has gobs of experience and is always willing to give pointers on obstacles as needed. Here he is giving Ricky Cobb some guidance on the rocks in Cobbs’ stock ’65 CJ-5.
The hillclimb also had a beginner line where those with Jeeps who were still growing up could try out their hardware without fear of carnage.
Matt Haines’ big ’83 CJ-7 has a healthy V-8 spinning 42-inch Iroks via a front 60 and a rear 14-bolt. The clean Jeep was standing tall on a spring-over suspension to clear the big rubber on Hummer H1 wheels.
At the end of the day everyone reconvened at the Clemson 4-Wheel Center for some great Southern bar-b-que and the awards ceremony. Though only a few won the actual poker game prizes, there was a plethora of raffle prizes also and an impromptu Jeep show judged by an out-of-state magazine writer. In the end almost everyone left with either a prize or a full stomach.