Top 10 Lessons I Learned from the 2024 WPT Voyage

I’ve just returned home from the work-ation of a lifetime. Having never really been on a mega-cruise before, there was a lot that I had been looking forward to on the 2024 WPT Voyage, but even with my anticipation at peak levels, the week-long experience honestly just blew any expectation I had right out of the water.

I’ve covered many poker events over the years and I’ve become pretty adept at striking the right balance between fulfilling my work commitments and enjoying downtime. I must admit that this was probably the biggest (and, well, only) professional challenge I faced while aboard the ship. Fun was oozing out of every porthole and I’m grateful to have had more than my fair share of it!

Throughout our week aboard Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady, and, indeed, in the ensuing couple of days, the World Poker Tour and 1,800 or so cruise passengers have been sharing a steady stream of pictures documenting the amazing experiences we had on their social media channels. While that’s to be expected, I’m opting to try and take things one step further. It’s quite worthwhile to document experiences, but it’s arguably even more important to try and learn from those experiences.

Now that we’re a couple days removed from that truly one-of-a-kind adventure, I took some time to have a good long think about what I gleaned from the trip. With that in mind, I’d like to share the top 10 lessons I learned from the 2024 WPT Voyage.

2024 WPT Voyage

2024 WPT Voyage: Top 10 Lessons

1. How to Take a Spring Break

I’ve never really actively taken a “proper” Spring Break, in the conventional, cultural sense of the phrase. To paraphrase from The Shining, “all work and no play makes life pretty dull”. It’s not just the break itself that’s great to have, it’s also the anticipation of said break. I’d been looking forward to the WPT Voyage for close to half a year, and as the months passed by, the excitement just ratcheted continuously upwards.

Just going through my collection of pictures and videos, I keep on pinching myself and asking not only “did THAT just really happen?” but also “in retrospect, how deeply would I have regretted NOT grabbing hold of this opportunity to take a break?”

I get that the stars don’t always align to hit the big PAUSE button, but what on earth are we working so hard for all the time if not to ALSO enjoy life beyond just “getting through it” one day at a time?

2. Witnessing a 50/50 Gender Split at the Poker Tables is Pretty Amazing

I noticed it the moment we hit international waters and poker play began: there were SO many women playing! The 2024 WPT Voyage was an ultra-rare instance where “the real world” directly intersected with the poker world. It’s expected that you’d have a 50/50 split between men and women on a cruise, but in the poker world that split usually hovers somewhere around 93/7.

For years now, so many of us in the poker industry have been working towards trying to bring more women into the game. To this end there’s been no shortage of well-intentioned ideas and initiatives, with some seeing more success than others. It would seem that the World Poker Tour might have unintentionally stumbled across the greatest idea of all.

There were plenty of activities to engage in and amenities and attractions to enjoy for both men and women onboard the Valiant Lady as well as on our two shore excursions to Grand Cayman and Bimini Island in the Bahamas. When you provide entertainment options for everyone, then everyone will show up!

Let the major players in our industry take note, and hopefully find ways to replicate this. It doesn’t have to be a cruise; just create and provide an atmosphere that caters to both men and women equally. If you build it, they will come.

3. We CAN All Just Get Along: 30 Women Unanimously Agreed to Pay the Bubble

When you think of “a typical poker tournament atmosphere”, it’s undeniable that the vibe at Ladies events is always just a cut above. The 2024 WPT Voyage Ladies Event was no exception:

What WAS exceptional, however, was the scene as 30 women instantly and unanimously agreed to pay the bubble in said event.

Chop negotiations between just two men, let alone among multiple men at a final table can notoriously take ages. And it’s understandable when big money is on the line. But there’s something we guys can learn from the ladies on this: sharing is caring, and a communal “feeling of abundance” goes a long way to making everyone happy.

4. Souvenirs Are Great; Gifts for Loved Ones Are Better

A few folks onboard the ship asked me what my plans were at our first port of call, Grand Cayman. I responded that there were just two things I wanted to do: Visit 7-Mile Beach and find a gift for my wife, Miriam.

You see, Miriam was supposed to have joined me on the 2024 WPT Voyage, but unfortunately her plans changed (thanks, Hezbollah 😡). Her presence was quite literally the one thing missing from my poker work trip that would have made things absolutely perfect. I actively felt her absence throughout.

Luckily, I happened upon the Cayman Perfume Lab just a few minutes’ walk from shore, where right before my eyes they mixed a sublime floral scent unique to the country’s flora.

Miriam perfume

I had literally never bought Miriam perfume in 21+ years of marriage, but sometimes you just have that gut feeling that you’ve happened upon the perfect gift. Carrying that bottle with me throughout the remainder of the 2024 WPT Voyage helped me keep Miriam even closer to my heart. Watching her open the surprise gift upon my return home and her reaction to the scent was just priceless.

5. Private Poker Games Are Alive and Well, Even on the High Seas

As mentioned in our 2024 WPT Voyage results article, there was a high-stakes cash game running throughout the cruise featuring Matt Berkey, Rob Yong, and Jean-Robert Bellande, among others. And when I say “throughout the cruise”, I mean pretty much every possible moment that we were sailing through international waters.

Who needs sleep when there’s nosebleed poker and money to be made, right? I, like you dear reader, can only imagine the sums won and lost at that private poker table aboard the Valiant Lady, but we can all be pretty certain that the swings in that $200/400 NLHE game were pretty massive.

6. Poker Players LOVE Mixed Games

You don’t need to work too hard to get players seated around a table for No Limit Texas Hold’em. By contrast, to get a mixed game going you always need to work a little harder (think “herding cats”). So I came prepared, having brought my very own set of game variant plaques from home. And, boy, let me tell you, they came in pretty handy!

I figured that at some point over the course of the 2024 WPT Voyage we’d manage to get one mixed game going, but the players’ excitement for “anything non-Hold’em!” well exceeded even my own optimistic expectations.

Mixed games ran every single day during the 2024 WPT Voyage, for a total of 26 hours across five sessions. Not only that, but we had a list many players long as well wanting to join. Even the dealers got extra excited at our table, relishing the opportunity to “think, and not just be on boring auto-pilot like in the Hold’em games” (their words, not mine!).

Even with A+ events, the World Poker Tour always looks to improve on their stellar performance; the company’s motto is quite literally “the best is yet to come”. Here’s hoping we did our part to get them to take notice of the emerging and increasing popularity of mixed game poker.

7. The Joy of a Poker Win is Very Real

Each of the fine folks below is already well-known and well-regarded in the poker community. When well-liked people manage to make it to the winner’s circle or to notch a big score in a poker tournament, the public outpouring of love for them is wonderous to behold. And the joy plastered all over these winners’ faces mirrors that love.

Congratulations, once again, to Caitlin Comeskey, Matt Savage, and Ben Ludlow, among the many other winners onboard the 2024 WPT Voyage.

8. The Importance of Letting Loose Our Inner Child

When you’re at the helm of an operation like the World Poker Tour, there are innumerable things to worry about when running a singularly unique week-long poker cruise. In a nutshell, you have to make sure that you and your team are delivering on the promised experience to the players who’ve shown up to take your WPT Voyage, and to that effect, there’s probably a reams-long list of items to tick off on to-do list. That’s just on-site, after engaging in the endless preparations for such an undertaking for well over a year. Oh, AND you ideally also want to be hitting your tournament guarantees!

That’s the yoke carried by WPT CEO and President Adam Pliska.

Now, take a good long look at the picture below.

Adam Pliska jump into pool

After witnessing Adam launch himself fully-clothed into the Valiant Lady’s pool… only to be gamely followed by multiple WPT team members, whatever tension I had had about that aforementioned work-play balance completely disintegrated.

Sometimes the circumstances are just such that you can let your guard down and be a kid. You can embrace the fun and just celebrate a life being well lived. That this happened at the beginning of the 2024 WPT Voyage spoke volumes and set the tone for all of us aboard Virgin Voyages’ seafaring vessel.

And, by the way, the WPT ended up absolutely crushing all their guarantees. 👏

WPT Team in pool

9. Have (Poker) Experiences with Your Friends

The collage below is meant to be representative; there were literally dozens upon dozens more of you onboard who I loved hanging out with and for whom the time you spent with me I’m supremely grateful.

WPT Voyage Robbie friends collage

And my gut tells me that EVERYONE on board shared a similar experience. The ClubWPT folks captured this beautiful spirit of camaraderie and friendship exquisitely on the video below.

Don’t be afraid to take relationships to the next level, either! Prior to the 2024 WPT Voyage, there were quite a few of my fellow sailors who I knew solely by name on social media. Now, I’ve had conversations with them. Now, we’ve hugged. Now, we’ve had meals together. Now, we’ve explored exotic destinations together. Now, we’ve played poker together.

Sharing special experiences like these with friends not only adds years to your life, it adds life to your years.

10. The Importance of a Soft Landing, and “the Next Thing”

After having our heads in the clouds for a week, spending a few magical days floating around a Caribbean paradise, it can be difficult to get back to our respective realities. No matter how much we might love our lives and treasure our day-to-day, it’s always tough to get back to the regular grind.

So, how do we ensure that we don’t crash into some sort of depression? That we manage to stay positive and upbeat despite the amazing 2024 WPT Voyage now being behind us?

In my view, the answer can be found within that WPT motto: “the best is yet to come”. Having that next thing to look forward to, whatever it might be — your birthday, a family gathering, a spa day, a night out to eat, your next home poker game, anything exciting really — is how you ensure a soft landing.

So, as I wistfully keep reminiscing about the week that just was, and swiping through my photos and videos, I can thankfully also take heart that I’ve got “that next thing”. The countdown clock is set at about a month-and-a-half. WPT Montreal, here I come!



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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