With the popularity of poker at an all-time high, leave it to Steve Wynn to reach for new heights with his poker operations at Wynn Las Vegas.
Wynn selected Deborah Giardina, an experienced poker administrator from the Midwest, to direct the operations and establish a poker room that would be among the best in the nation.
"Our goal is to provide an environment that will meet and exceed the expectations of our poker players," Giardina said. "Besides an experienced and knowledgeable staff, we will provide a product that will be consistent and player-friendly."
Giardina said the poker room, which will have 27 tables plus a high-limit area, has been furnished with "exquisite" fabrics, woods and materials from around the country.
Dealers and other staff have been recruited from all parts of the nation, and thoroughly trained so that "everyone is on the same page," she said.
She added that player amenities will be the most up-to-date in Las Vegas.
"Of course, we’ll be a non-smoking room, and all our tables will have automatic card shufflers," she said. "We will also have a cutting edge, electronic waiting list, on which a player’s name will be displayed on a plasma screen in the poker room, as well as on the hotel’s closed-circuit TV system."
Poker players who are also waiting will be supplied with a beeper so they can be paged when their poker table becomes available, she said.
The poker room will be located just off the casino, near restaurants and an exotic car dealership, and only a few steps from the self-parking garage.
"I think the Ferraris and other sports cars will really get player’s juices flowing," she said.
Because she is from outside of Nevada, Giardina offers a fresh perspective of how a poker room should be run.
"Poker is a mentally stimulating game — it’s no longer the backroom operation where only the bad boys play," she said. "My involvement is to help bring poker out of that space and to bring in new blood."
Although Giardina won’t go so far as to say Las Vegas poker has some catching up to do with the rest of the country, she said there’s plenty to be learned elsewhere.
"In California, for instance, you can get a full-course, gourmet meal served while you’re playing poker," she said.
Although dining isn’t yet in the room’s future, a resident pro is.
"We’re excited to have Daniel Negreanu as our poker ambassador," she said. "He will be out front, playing with the customers and answering their questions."
Prior to signing on with Wynn Las Vegas, Giardina served as vice president of card club operations at Canterbury racetrack in Minnesota.
As a member of the Tournament Directors Association, Giardina has also served in that capacity managing tournaments for Linda Johnson’s Card Player cruises, and she’s managed poker rooms in Louisiana and Mississippi.
She also served as a consultant to Lyle Berman of Lakes Gaming and helped put together the World Poker Tour at its inception.
Her link to Steve Wynn was through his top lieutenant, John Strzemp, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Wynn Las Vegas.
"I actually met John, an avid poker player, on one of the Card Player poker cruises," she said. "We shared a love of the game and stayed in touch."
Some poker fans may remember Strzemp as the player who finished second to Stu Ungar in the 1997 World Series of Poker.
"My passion for poker, unlike John’s, is as an administrator," Giardina said. "My challenge is to provide a superior product in the best environment so players can best enjoy the experience.
"I’m extremely happy with this new opportunity at Wynn Las Vegas," she continued. "I’ve gained a lot of experience from some very talented and knowledgeable people. It’s time to put that experience to work."