With the recent surge in poker popularity-tournaments seemingly run round the clock on cable TV-it's little wonder the phenomenon has spread to the indoor car show circuit. Rick Perry, the promoter of the San Francisco Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle Show, recently raised the ante by having two different amounts of cash that could be won by the owner of a show-winning car.

Perry has always covered his bases by awarding a top d'Elegance prize to winners in three different categories-Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle-helping to assure him that the best vehicles in the country will compete. Yet Perry implemented a new payout structure this year to push the stakes a little higher. This year, if you won your division with the d'Elegance Most Elegant Rod award, you received $2,000 plus other prizes. But if this event was the debut of your vehicle, you got a bonus of $5,000. If you wanted to hedge your bets, you could still be eligible to win one of dozens of other awards, or at the very least just show up and have a good time!

The San Francisco Bay Area has always been a hotbed of rodding activity. It was once crowded with indoor winter shows, but now only Perry's remains. Given the exclusivity, it's a safe bet that the cars on display-chosen from among hundreds of applicants-will be a sight to see.

Of course, indoor shows always bring a little showbiz razzle-dazzle to the table, too. Featured attractions, whether they're cars or TV stars, have always factored into the indoor show scene. This year, stars of the big and little screen were in attendance, signing autographs and talking it up with the crowd. Chip Foose, star of TV's "Overhaulin'," drew cars for everyone in line. Much of the original "American Graffiti" movie cast (including Cindy Williams) signed autographs and talked about the film that made such a huge impact on American culture.

But the event wouldn't be happenin' if it weren't for the 500-plus vehicles filling the huge Cow Palace facility, which boasts 300,000 square feet of display space. Nearly every style of car was featured, and even the suede crowd got space in some of the outside buildings (Perry was the first promoter we know who invited the "rat rod" contingent indoors several years ago). It's a different way of seeing things when you're out in those buildings, and that's just the way those folks like it!

Upstairs in the main arena, every shade of color could be seen as entrants competed for more than $65,000 in cash and awards. When it was all said and done, Dick Long went home with the d'Elegance Most Elegant Rod award for his '37 Ford cabriolet (built by Zane Cullen at Creative Concepts), while Steve Frediani's '51 Ford earned the d'Elegance Most Elegant Custom honor.

The show's esteemed Hall of Fame ceremony saw the inclusion of rod-show icon Gary "Goodguys" Meadors, longtime show judge George Brancasio, and talented car painter Darryl Hollenbeck, whose mother gave the induction speech (a rather touching moment for all). It was longtime show promoter and rodding enthusiast Blackie Gejeian, however, who nearly upstaged the inductees. Blackie has battled health issues recently and, with back surgery scheduled two days before the show, was not expected to attend. But Blackie has never missed a day of any hot rod show held in the Bay Area since 1949, and he wasn't about to let post-operation recovery keep him away. Resilient as ever, he attended the Hall of Fame and then viewed the show, albeit from his wheelchair.

Indoor shows have always been great places to get ideas for future projects, even if it's just paint schemes and colors. You can walk the aisles and look at the faces of those who are off in some other world while they take in what they're seeing. You can almost hear the, "If I had a little bit of money, I'd sure like to have that one, but I'd just change one thing. ..." After all, everybody likes nice cars.

Over the years, the San Francisco Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle Show has proven to be a safe bet for giving both the public and entrants exactly what they want from a car show. The 2006 event had a full house of attractions that continued its winning ways.