Pickleball is hitting the Caribbean sea through the World Poker Tour’s inaugural WPT Voyage, which sets sail from Miami on March 31 with stops in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.
Vince Van Patten, an actor and former tennis star turned professional pickleball player, will host the Vince Van Patten Pickleball Invitational for guests during the seven-day cruise through April 6. Van Patten has been a commentator for the World Poker Tour for over 20 years.
Rooms for the cruise with Virgin Voyages start around $2,300 per person, which includes food and drinks, parties, and 20+ poker events spanning $1.5 million in prize money.
The Vince Van Patten Pickleball Invitational will take place at Pickleball Cayman in Grand Cayman, which is the first docking station and has 12 covered courts and 8 uncovered courts. The WPT expects to have a full ship of around 1,200 guests.
“It’s really getting very popular in the poker world to play pickleball,” Van Patten, 66, told NoVolleys. “I know so many poker players from when I’m in Las Vegas and I meet them at Sunset Park and we play the challenge courts. There’s all kinds of gambling bets we make.”
Van Patten plans for his pickleball event to include exhibitions, a tournament and challenge matches for players to make friendly side bets. “It’s going to be a fantastic week of pickleball and poker,” he said. Top-ranked senior tour pickleballer Mattias Johansson will help organize the Van Patten Pickleball Invitational and play in exhibitions.
“I think pickleball’s going to dominate. It’s crazy to say but I think in 5 to 10 years, tennis will be secondary to pickleball,” Van Patten said. “I think it’s going to catch on in TV in the top pros, I know the ratings aren’t as strong as they’d like right now. I think once it evolves and 3-4 years down the line and everybody’s a household name, I think viewership is going to be great.”
Van Patten Eyes Top Pickleball Doubles Spot, Teams With Ivan Lendl
Before joining the World Poker Tour, Van Patten had an illustrious tennis career that saw him win the ATP Rookie of the Year in 1979.
He reached top-25 rankings in both singles and doubles. In recent years, Van Patten has fallen in love with pickleball and often plays with his wife at the court they built in the backyard of their home Malibu, Calif. “I must’ve made 200 friends in the past two years,” Van Patten said of pickleball.
“At first I hated the sound of the ball, I was a tennis snob—I’m not playing pickleball,” Van Patten originally felt. “In the beginning you don’t hit the ball cleanly and I was missing all kinds of forehands and stupid shots. But then after you play 10, 15, 20 times you go oh my gosh now it feels like I have strings on the paddle. You get the control and you keep getting better.”
Van Patten has competed in senior events on the APP and PPA tours. He’s been ranked No. 6 on the APP’s AARP Champions Pro Singles division. Former tennis legend Ivan Lendl has been Van Patten’s recent partner on the APP’s AARP Champions Division Men’s Pro Doubles.
“I plan to play APP events and PPA,” Van Patten said. “I’m going to concentrate on doubles and really try to master the doubles game. Get the right partner and become the top doubles team in 50 and above. I just played with Ivan Lendl in the big APP tournament we came in 4th in the 60s [age group]. He’s loving the game and getting addicted, he will improve a lot.”
Pickleball Goes Hollywood With Van Patten’s Upcoming Film
Van Patten comes from a family of longtime Hollywood actors–including his father Dick Van Patten. Vince Van Patten was the co-writer and star of the 2019 comedy film 7 Days to Vegas, which he’s now working on a sequel film planned to debut next year with a pickleball plot line.
“7 Days to Vegas was my movie that came out a few years ago about a one-million-dollar prop bet that the main character couldn’t walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in seven days,” he said. “Even his poker friends bet against him. The sequel to this is going to be about a huge money bet on the pickleball court.”