She was born in Turkey, raised in northwest Florida and moved to Fort Lauderdale to pursue her dream of being a model.
Now Tugba Ercan is getting attention. She's one of the four Royal Flush Girls at this weekend's World Poker Tour/Lucky Hearts Poker Open main event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. In her second season, she was selected from a casting call that ended up in Los Angeles with World Poker Tour management. Royal Flush Girls are basically goodwill ambassadors, interacting with players and hanging out at the WPT's social bar. They're also active in social media for the company.
Ercan, 31, lives in Victoria Park, and has a part-time job in a hospital wellness center in Fort Lauderdale.
What's it like being a Royal Flush Girl?
It's been one of the busiest years of my life. Our season kicks off in August and ends in May and there are six of us who rotated. (Four per event, one for each suit of the deck). But last year I was fortunate and they needed me for every event. I just love travel, it’s one of my absolute favorite things. I’m going to countries I’ve never seen before.
Tell me about living in Florida and how you ended up here.
I was was born and raised in Turkey, then came to stay in the summer of 1996, to stay in Crestview, near Gadsden. I ended up graduating from the University of South Florida with a degree in exercise science.
But ever since I was a little girl, I feel like I was meant to be a model. I was always in front of the camera. My grandfather fed things, because he was really into photographry.
So after graduating you worked as an exercise physiologist in cardiac and pulmonary, then just decided to go for it in modeling?
I took a leap of faith and moved down here to be close enough to South Beach, but not the L.A. craziness. And I got in touch with a few agencies.
Is it a difficult job?
I was a little hesitant at first because a lot of the poker players are very introverted. When you’re walking into this role, you see a lot of personalities. So it’s all about having that personality that will make people feel comfortable and maybe open up a little. It’s more than being a pretty face.
How's your poker game?
Still learning. When I started I didn't know anything, so I bought Texas Hold ‘em for Dummies, and I went to a World Poker Tour boot camp last month. I tried to go undercover, but they introduced me at the end. I play a lot on the ClubWPT web site, so I'm learning.
Tell us about your day job.
I work at Holy Cross Hospital in the Zachariah Wellness Pavilion. It really is rewarding for me to be surrounded by people I can help.
And patrons know you're a Royal Flush Girl?
I like to keep my stuff private when it comes to modeling, but in 2008 when I was a finalist in a Hawaiian Tropic contest, the next day at work after it aired, they said ‘is there something you haven’t told us?’
What's your Twitter handle?
@tugbaercan. Follow me!
Tuesday's finals will be livestreamed starting at about 2:30 p.m. Go to WorldPokerTour.com.