Dozens scramble from capsized California houseboat called the Nut House during poker run

The Nut House was lost, capsized off the shore of Tuolumne County’s Don Pedro Reservoir.

The overloaded houseboat had been for the dozens aboard her Saturday for the lake’s annual Poker Run, three stories of fun. Then she began to list and take on water. When the craft capsized, the Nut House went, well, insane.

“At one point during the event, the vessel became overloaded with too many people on one side which caused it to tip and take on water. Everyone aboard was able to exit the vessel before our boating enforcement unit arrived,” Tuolumne County Sheriff’s officials said in a Facebook post on Monday.

In all, about 35 people were aboard the beached boat near the lake’s Blue Oaks Campground, The Modesto Bee reported. All escaped unhurt.

The pleasure craft had been set up as a check-in station for the yearly event, sheriff’s officials said. Players receive clues to various lake locations. They then solve the clues to pick up poker chips and cards at the sites to build their winning hands, event organizers explained.

The Nut House was one of those sites. But video taken from a passing boat and posted to Facebook by Stephanie Dambacher showed the full house wasn’t a winning hand.

One man scrambled to safety from the rear of the craft as furniture slid across the top deck and tumbled into the water, the video showed.

“Can you imagine?” a woman’s voice is heard on the video.

“So scary and sad,” Dambacher later wrote in her Facebook post that appeared on, accompanying photos of the scuttled houseboat.

Sheriff’s officials in their Facebook post dryly commented on the soggy scene: “There was quite a bit of activity on Lake Don Pedro Saturday afternoon.”

The owner now must hire a private company to retrieve the craft, sheriff’s officials told The Modesto Bee.

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.