The moment the last child flies the nest is an occasion of high anxiety for many parents. Having spent the best part of two decades focusing on child care, what are we going to do now?
For Jenny Steele and her husband, Andy, this was never a problem. In fact, the couple from Newry, Northern Ireland, had known the answer to the quandary for many years. Jenny and Andy had developed a passion for poker more than a decade ago, and with their son now in his early 20s and daughter having turned 18, they are gleefully free to turn their attention to cards, and nurture their poker skills with the same devotion they showed to the children.
“As our kids are growing up now, we can just go off and play poker,” Jenny told PokerStars Blog during a break in play on Day 1B of the EPT Barcelona Main Event. “It used to be, like, ‘Get your mum, she’ll babysit, we’ll go down and play some poker.’ But now, we’re like: ‘We can go! We can do that!’ And the kids say, ‘Mum, do it.’ They’re really supportive. They’re so supportive.”
There’s no doubt this support is convenient because Steele has also developed a keen knack for winning satellites to major live tournaments. Steele has previously won packages to tournaments in Marbella, Monte Carlo and Dublin — and recently added Barcelona to the list.
Steele said that she had already booked flights to come to Barcelona to play the women’s event, but then got a strong hankering to take a step up in stakes.
“I said, I really want to play in the EPT Main Event,” Steele said. “So I played a fiver satellite, and won into the next round, which was €55. I played the €55, won that one, into the €530. Played the €530 and won that one. All in one night.”
That seven-hour shift, which started with just €5 remember, accounted for Steele’s presence in the field of this record-breaking EPT Main Event. But even though it was the first time she had played an event of this size, she remained incredibly level-headed for a newcomer.
“I’m nice and calm,” she said. “If the cards are for you, they’re for you. And if you make nice moves, then great. And if you just keep winning, even better. There’s no point panicking and stressing out. Especially because I’ve came here from €5. It’s my first ever EPT Main Event but there’s no point panicking over that. Poker’s poker. The game doesn’t change.”
Back at home, Jenny and Andy run a printing business, which means they take a small kiosk to various shopping centres and print baby photos, wedding photos, and add designs to T-shirts and clothing. There are busy times and quieter times, of course, and (after a bit of persuading), Steele did admit that she had once fired up an online poker table to play a satellite while nominally working.
“I have done it one time, I’m sorry,” she confessed. “It was a quiet shift, from 5 o’clock til 9 o’clock and there were not many people out in the shopping centre. I thought, ‘Hmm. Yeah OK.’ It’s my business, I’m allowed to do that.”She doesn’t remember whether this was one of the successful sessions, but the chances are it might have been. She says her game has progressed steadily since first learning in home games about a decade ago, and then gradually spreading her wings.
Satellites tend to be the principal focus these days, which offer the chance to travel, but Steele is no mere tourist. When asked what her ambitions are in poker, she was unequivocal. “To win an EPT,” she said. “As big as that.”
Andy and Jenny are both committed to improving one another’s game, and each seem content to be either the player or the plus-one. As Jenny was playing the Main Event, Andy was off on a champagne-tasting tour, offered to PokerStars players’ partners, and had a trip on a catamaran booked, another of the activities arranged by EPT staff.
Andy learnt the game first and Jenny picked it up from him, although according to the student, the power dynamic is shifting slightly.
“Me and my husband are a good tag team, he helps me and I help him,” Jenny said. “But I’m better.”