By now you’ve no doubt heard about the World Poker Tour (WPT) and their upcoming WPT Voyage, which will take place from March 31-April 6, 2024 as they take over an entire Virgin Voyages cruise ship – the 1,400-cabin Valiant Lady – for a six-day poker festival that features $1.5 million in guarantees, including a $5,000 buy-in, $1,000,000 GTD WPT Main Event.
Leading up to the WPT Voyage, PokerNews will be profiling several staff members of the WPT at Sea Poker Room in our “Industry Insiders” series. For those that don’t know, the WPT at Sea is the actual poker room aboard Virgin Voyages (currently on the Scarlet Lady cruise ship but soon to expand to others).
Check out our profile on WPT at Sea Poker Manager Kirk Saunders here.
Are You Ready for Poker’s Spring Break? Adam Pliska Talks WPT Voyage Cruise
Get to Know Andrea DiBattista
One smiling face poker players can expect to see when cruising is that of WPT at Sea General Manager Andrea DiBattista, who grew up in Norwich, Connecticut.
“Norwich is a small city that does not have much in the area other than two large Native Casinos,” she explained. “Most of the people that grew up in the area at that time ended up working there for a short period at least. When I graduated high school in 1998, I started working as a coin cashier at Mohegan Sun. The economy of the once industrial area of Norwich had gone downhill a lot. The casinos were a booming industry at the time and were employing thousands and thousands of people. For young people with no college degree, who came from a working-class family, this was a great way to support your family. I was genuinely excited about getting my foot in the door, even if I decided to switch departments.”
Eventually, in 1999, DiBattista found her way into poker dealing school despite knowing nothing about the game.
“People in the class were learning how to read hands, and I had no idea what beat what. I was a young mother who needed a job that would make enough money to contribute to my household. The pressure was on for me to practice and do well. I was working at the local Friendly’s scooping ice cream, in poker school, and taking care of a baby. Now I look back and laugh a little, but I also know how grateful I am that I pushed myself the way that I did, this literally was a life-changing moment.”
“Being a single mom and trying to work full time on a non-flexible schedule started to take its toll on me so I decided to deal again.”
After passing her audition, DiBattista dealt for a few years before working her way up, and in the early 2000s relocated to Florida to work in the poker industry.
“I quickly moved up to being a Dealer Coordinator, which I really loved doing. I also ran tournaments, ran chips, sat at the podium, whatever was needed. Being a single mom and trying to work full time on a non-flexible schedule started to take its toll on me so I decided to deal again so that I could be at all of my daughters soccer games, track meets, and school functions.”
When her children were grown, DiBattista got back into the management game, and in Jacksonville worked some WPT events, even dealing some final tables. From there, she decided to take her poker knowledge and skills on the road.
“After about a year of being a travel dealer, I was getting to know my roommate and we had several conversations about our poker experience … She offered me a job writing SOP’s, which would put me on the Scarlet Lady for two months (12 sailings). I, of course, hesitated because of the uncertainty of how things would play out, but after a few more conversations I said yes.”
She continued: “WPT at Sea has such a positive, refreshing spin on poker. WPT at Sea keeps poker fun and exciting. We have first time players and experienced players who are all there just to enjoy themselves. By the time they leave, we are all Facebook friends and everyone has made memories that will last a lifetime. That’s what it’s all about. Do not be intimidated by the game. We are there to have fun. We want to teach you the game so that you are comfortable at the table!”
WPT Voyage vs. WPT at Sea – What’s the Difference? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
What is WPT at Sea?
Not to be confused with WPT Voyage, WPT at Sea is an actual poker room on the Scarlet Lady ship (and soon-to-be other Virgin Voyages). That poker room is operating on the high seas right now as you read this.
“After witnessing the magic of cruise-line poker with Virgin Voyages last season, we instantly sought to establish a permanent fixture,” said WPT CEO Adam Pliska. “Scarlet Lady provides the perfect residence for WPT at Sea, which will bring the WPT poker experience to the high seas.”
The room features eight custom poker tables staffed with professional dealers. For cash games, the rake is a reasonable 10% up to $10, which is much lower than other cruises. As for tournaments, buy-ins on a typical sailing range from $80-$320.
Recently, WPT at Sea has held a $240 buy-in Main Event, which awards a WPT prize package to a future sailing.
The room caters to players of all experience levels, from absolute beginner to seasoned pro. For the former, the staff holds beginner training courses on each sailing, and dealers also offer their services if 1:1 instruction is desired.
WPT at Sea goes wherever the ship does, meaning those who go for the poker will also get to experience new and exciting destinations. The room is closed when the ship is docked so sailors are incentivized to get off the ship and check things out. But fear not, when everyone is back on board it doesn’t take long for cards to get back in the air.
Here are some other things to know about WPT at Sea:
- The WPT at Sea poker room doesn’t accept cash. Sailors handle all transactions via their wearable devices (all sailors have a bracelet they wear that allows them to be scanned at various outlets across the ship), meaning buy-ins can simply be charged to your account. Likewise, tournament winnings are credited to the account as well (you can cash out either at the casino cage or at the end of the cruise).
- Private and meet-up games are allowed at WPT at Sea.
- There is a casino area next door that features a wide variety of slot machines, roulette, craps, Blackjack, and other table games.
- The WPT at Sea poker room has windows, so you can get a view of the ocean outside.
- The poker room has its own set of private bathrooms.
- Not only is there a bar located in the casino just outside the poker room, but drink serves are quick to serve the poker-playing sailors.
- WPT at Sea offers up to 25% off and up to $600 in free drinks depending on the cruise, so be sure to inquire when you book.
- WPT at Sea is very active on Instagram, which you can follow by clicking here.
WPT at Sea is taking reservations through the end of 2024. To learn more or book your cruise,visit wptatsea.com.
Check out the WPT at Sea Poker Room review here on PokerNews!
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.