As Florida poker continues to adapt to a new era of players and conditions, many rooms are looking outside the state for experience and fresh ideas. Jacksonville Kennel Club did just this by hiring the former poker director of Wynn Las Vegas, Deborah Giardina, as its new director of poker operations.
Giardina brings knowledge, influence and a new sense of confidence to the JKC organization. She has been involved in the poker industry for more than 20 years and has had numerous jobs throughout her career. Giardina is a prime example of how hard work and dedication can skyrocket a person to the top of an organization. From dealer to director, she has learned the skills and has invested her time to improve each poker room she joins.
Ante Up’s Garrett Roth spoke with Giardina about her road to success and new Jacksonville position.
What is your background leading up to your recent job? I played poker recreationally with my family growing up as a kid. My dad had a poker night with his friends, so I was raised with cards. I am a mother of four so before I got into gaming, I was involved in raising my kids. I was also a real estate broker at the same time. When the market fell out in the late ’80s, it wasn’t a great time to be a broker, so I switched. I got into the gaming industry in 1990 in Colorado and that’s when I became specifically interested in poker.
How do you like your new position in Jacksonville? I love it, it’s great! People here are very friendly. Coming into a good operation is refreshing. Typically, I do start-ups where I come into a brand new establishment and write all the regulations, hire all new people and run training classes and here I am coming into an existing operation. With the limits coming off last July, it changed the face of poker and their business, so they reached out to me to have someone that has the experience with the type of poker products that they can now offer. I am coming into this operation where the dealers are very friendly and the people are nice and everybody is looking forward to bringing this product to the level that it needs to be.
What is the most important aspect of running a poker room? There are several aspects and it is tough to determine which is most important, but customer service and the integrity of the game are at the top. We have to make sure that the integrity of the game is completely flawless. We provide an environment for the players to have a fair and safe game while having a good time.
They are going to get that here at Jacksonville Kennel Club, either at Orange Park or St. Johns. Our poker operation has the friendliest people that I have come across in the country and I have opened and worked for many places. People that come to our rooms are going to get a professionally dealt game and southern hospitality.
What are your goals for your new rooms? We want to bring Florida poker to the map. We believe that the poker industry in Florida is the last frontier for poker in this country. It is beautiful here in Jacksonville with great beaches and golf courses.
This can be easily marketed and brought into the limelight as a destination for poker players. The games are great and we expect to get national coverage and attract the pros because we will be able to offer things that they can’t get at other destinations. In addition, you can be 18 years old and play here in Florida, so I expect that we can attract some younger European players as well for some major poker events. We intend to fine tune different pieces of this operation so that you will have a first-class game that is friendly and comfortable with stellar integrity to play in.