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Celebrate! Celebrate!

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Dec 06, 2017


A lot of good things have happened in my personal and business life since my last column. First of all, I turned 64. The cliché “time flies,” is definitely true. It seems like just yesterday I was in my twenties working at the post office and playing poker as a hobby after work. Then in my thirties, I was living in Las Vegas and making a living grinding low-limit poker. My forties were mainly spent working as the publisher of Card Player magazine and a partner in Card Player Cruises. My fifties were spent working as the studio announcer for World Poker Tour and continuing to expand Card Player Cruises. Now, in my sixties, Card Player Cruises is my main pastime and we just celebrated our 25th year in business!

My awesome business partners, Jan Fisher and Mark and Tina Napolitano, and I started planning our 25th anniversary cruise more than a year ago. The momentous cruise started on my actual birthday so we had a double celebration on embarkation day. Shortly after I began my welcome-aboard speech, I saw a “chef” coming down the aisle carrying a huge cake. He was wearing goofy glasses, a big fake nose, and false teeth.

My first thought was, “Oh my God, they’re sending me a stripper for my birthday! How am I supposed to react in front of 300 people?” Lo and behold, when the “chef” took off his disguise, it was actually my brother, Rich Plante, who had flown in from St. George, Utah, to surprise me. After the tears, I resumed my speech and thanked our many loyal customers for supporting us over the past 25 years. To celebrate our anniversary, the main event on the cruise had a $300 buy-in and a $25,000 guarantee. With 137 entrants, the prize pool actually reached $41,400.

I’m very proud of the fact that over the past 25 years, Card Player Cruises has hosted more than 50,000 poker players on more than 150 poker cruises, has chartered entire cruise ships four times, and has cruised to more than 30 countries. We’ve hosted joint ventures with the Heartland Poker Tour, the Senior Poker Tour, the Card Player Poker Tour, the World Poker Tour Boot Camp, the Ladies International Poker Series, IHost Poker, and America’s Poker Tour. We’ve rented villas in Mexico, riverboats in Dubai, and castles in Europe to entertain our guests. We’ve hired ATVs, dune buggys, and speedboats for our thrill seekers. We’ve had more than our share of exciting adventures like getting massages from elephants in Thailand, riding camels at the pyramids in Egypt, holding sloths in Honduras. We’ve gone whale watching in Alaska, and raced go carts down a mountain in New Zealand. We’ve been to the Mardi Gras in Brazil, distributed supplies at orphanages in Vietnam and Cambodia, and attended an authentic big, fat Greek wedding in Mykonos, Greece. We’ve been to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, the Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, seen the Komodo dragons on Komodo Island in Indonesia, and gone up as high as possible in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. (There’s no so such as being bored on a Card Player Cruises trip.)

I’m proud of many Card Player Cruises “firsts:” We were the first non-smoking poker room. We were the first cardroom to guarantee a $1 million prize pool in a limit hold’em tournament. (By the way, we missed the guarantee by $400,000 and had to pay that amount from our company funds, which almost bankrupted us before we had a chance to become successful.) We were the first cardroom to adopt AND enforce a strict no-abuse policy. 

I’m proud of our cardroom staff. I’ve often said that if there were an Olympic event with the staff from every cardroom in the world competing in professionalism, skill, and friendliness, I am certain we would win the gold. Throughout the past 25 years, we have had many fine employees; our current managerial staff of Mary Gregorich, Zack Lawmaster, Daryl and Bev Thomas, Debra Williams, and Pat Gutierrez, and our incredible poker dealers are some of the best in the business.

I’m proud of the Card Player Cruises’ customers. We have many, many repeat cruisers. Many of them travel with us multiple times each year and some even go on every cruise. They have become friends, not just customers. They are fun-loving, adventurous, and all-around just good people. 
It’s been fun walking down memory lane. Jan Fisher and I were thrilled and honored to be surprised with a scrapbook presented to us on our anniversary cruise by Kellie Costa and Joanne Holmberg. They had secretly put together letters from many of our cruisers as well as photos from the past 25 years. What a thoughtful gift!
In closing, I want to thank each and every one of you who have been involved in any way with Card Player Cruises throughout the past 25 years. If I live to be 89, I hope I’m able to attend and help celebrate Card Player Cruises’ 50th anniversary!
Now, let’s play poker! ♠

Linda JohnsonLinda is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She is available to host poker seminars, corporate poker events, and charity tournaments. You can contact her through her at