Industry Insiders: WPT at Sea Manager & Dealer Jason Gargac Living the Dream
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).
Here are some of the profiles we've done in the past:
Get to Know Jason Gargac
Jason Gargac is a 38-year-old army veteran from St. Louis who has been married for 17 years. He worked as a bounty hunter until the pandemic sidelined that career path.
“I went from making really good money to going up to a month without bringing in a dollar,” he explained. For two years he supported his family by selling books on Amazon before rekindling the idea of dealing poker. “I went to a local poker organization here in Kansas City called Cash Cows Poker which is run by Eric White – another WPT at Sea Manager and WSOP floor supervisor – and asked him about becoming a poker dealer.”
A product of the Moneymaker Boom, Gargac cited both him and Jamie Gold as influences.
“I had everything come full circle for me this year as I have had the opportunity to deal both of them this summer, Jamie Gold at WSOP and Chris Moneymaker in Tunica,” said Gargac. “I had considered becoming a poker dealer probably nine or so years ago when I was transitioning out of the military in 2014. I had heard back then that you needed to start on table games to get a chance to deal poker in a poker room, and I had ZERO interest in dealing other table games so I just didn't pursue it. After COVID, I talked to Eric about becoming a poker dealer and he gave me some advice shortly after I saw an advert on Facebook about WSOP hiring for dealers.”
Gargac saw this as an opportunity and began practicing his pitch on his own at home, dealing out boards, and reading hands. He would go on to attend dealer school in May 2022, and after passing was on to work his first WSOP!
"Nobody believed me when I was telling them it was my first time dealing there and showered me with compliments.”
“I was incredibly nervous, but I played in the Employee Event and saw how nervous those dealers were and it made me realize that I wasn't the only one freaking out which made me calm down. Nobody believed me when I was telling them it was my first time dealing there and showered me with compliments.”
In that first summer, he went from never dealing before to dealing WSOP and getting asked to do high-roller events with the restart crew. Since then he has dealt for the likes of the WPT, MSPT, and RunGood Poker Series (RGPS), just to name a few.
“When I first considered getting into dealing poker I had heard about dealers working on cruise ships in the temporary rooms. In early 2023 as I was dealing other stops and preparing plans to deal WSOP in Vegas again I stumbled upon a Facebook post by Emily Delaine that was the job posting for WPT at Sea. I immediately sent her a message and was hit with a pretty quick dilemma. They needed dealers ASAP, but I had already committed to WSOP, and the stops I was dealing didn't leave me much time to do cruises with WPT at Sea.”
Gargac proceeded to work a hectic schedule to do both traveling dealer gigs he had committed to but also WPT at Sea stints.
“It was incredibly stressful for me, but I'm so glad I pushed through and did it! I seriously love everything about WPT at Sea … My wife got so jealous of my dealing and posting pictures on Facebook and sending her pictures that she went to dealer school and got to come onboard with me in September! Now we're both ready to sail with WPT at Sea as often as we can!”
He added: “Overall, I love exploring new places, so getting off the ship and experiencing new places is a blast for me regardless of where we are. Even as I've been to many of the ports multiple times, I try to experience something different each time. Radio Beach at Bimini has some absolutely incredible views, one of the most beautiful beaches we go to.”
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.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.