For many parents, the prospect of their final child leaving home fills them with dread. It takes a long time to get used to the empty nest. How can they possibly fill all the spare time? Andy and Jenny Steele have no such problem.
They already know exactly what they’ll be doing, even after their daughter heads to university this autumn. In a nutshell, it will involve doing a lot more of what they’ve already been doing for the past year or so, only with no house-sitter left behind.
“We’ve just been qualifying online through PokerStars,” Jenny says, sitting outside Casino Barcelona as the European Poker Tour (EPT) is in full swing inside. “We went to Malta in June, which was fantastic, then we came here. We went to Malta last year as well, through PokerStars, and now we’re going to try to qualify for Cyprus in October, which is my birthday weekend. That would be a nice celebration to go to that. We’re looking forward to doing all them.”
Andy adds: “We’re lucky enough that our youngest child is 19 and our son is 24. She’s going off to university, so it’s kind of freed us up. It’s great. When we work, we work, but then we can travel.”
If the name Jenny Steele sounds familiar, that’s because we met her last year in Barcelona when she was riding the wave of a €5 online qualification ticket to the €5,300 Main Event.
This year, it’s been all about the Power Path, with husband Andy winning a nail-biting online satellite and earning a Silver Pass, which the couple immediately agreed they’d cash in for the Estrellas Main Event.
A ONE-ANTE SATELLITE WIN
When they’re at home, Andy and Jenny play online in different parts of the house. But as Andy made the final table of a $109 Power Path Step 3 event, Jenny turned spectator.
“In the final, there were eight passes and we were down to nine,” Andy says. “I was severely low on chips. There was another guy, he was just a few hundred below me. It was really down to the wire. I had to make a call to just fold, sit out. I was down to an ante. But I knew the guy was going to be forced all in next hand. It was good for me. He got knocked out, so it was fantastic. It was nerve-wracking, but I enjoyed it.”
Jenny adds: “And for me because he was upstairs playing and I was downstairs watching on my computer. He didn’t know I was watching. I was on the edge of my seat as well. But it was brilliant that he won, thank God, because we’re here now.”
The Steeles have both been playing poker for more than 15 years. Andy played first and used to attend a small tournament in the back of a bingo hall in their hometown of Newry, Northern Ireland. Jenny reluctantly played bingo until the boredom of it persuaded her to jump into the poker, and she has never looked back.
Andy remembers the moment well. “Jenny says, ‘I’m going to jump into this tournament’,” he says. “And I was, ‘Really?’ And she loved it. She won the first tournament and ever since then, I’ve been on the sidelines.”
MAKING THE MOST OF FREE TIME
The couple runs a commercial printing business, which has busy periods around holidays, but then allows them to shut up shop and travel in the downtime. They make a very persuasive case that married couples are at a distinct advantage playing poker, both strategically and as a way of making the most of what the game can offer.
“It’s nice being husband and wife, being poker players, because we get it,” Jenny says. “We bounce hands off each other, strategies off each other. We do help each other quite a lot. And we get to travel together. We get to experience the whole thing off felt as well. When we’re not playing poker, we get to see the rest of the world, enjoy ourselves and meet lovely, lovely, nice people.”
The activities calendar here in Barcelona is one of the best on the whole tour, and both Andy and Jenny have made the absolute most of it. They attended the welcome drinks on the first night — “Great location, music, few drinks,” Andy says — and while Andy played the Estrellas tournament, Jenny was recruited by Team Spraggy and Fintan at the Multi Activity Day at the exclusive Les Comes private estate.
That involved 4×4 rides, archery, axe-throwing (“Amazing,” Jenny says) and an assault course (“Lethal, absolutely lethal”) before relaxing in a private swimming pool and feasting on a top-notch barbeque. “It was fantastic.”
In between, the couple took the catamaran trip along the coast, which is free to all PokerStars qualifiers. “You can’t get much better than that there,” Andy says. “Absolutely amazing, especially from $11.”
That was the total of the investment Andy made to qualify through the Power Path, and the pair are huge fans of the new satellite path. Players aren’t tied to a single event and can bank the pass to use when they wish.
“That’s the great thing about the Power Passes, it’s like a credit note,” Andy says. “You can go from 50c to these fantastic locations. You can pick and choose opportunities to win amazing money, and if not you’re in a fantastic place with great people, so it’s all good.”
THE STEELE FAMILY AFFAIR
As you might expect, the Steeles’ children are also pretty excited by their parents’ new obsession. Jenny says, “Our daughter is starting to ask [to come on the trips] and we will bring her. We promised her. She wants to come and explore and get to see what it’s all about. Both our kids are big supporters. They text us all the time. They’re wanting us to do really well. They really are so good. They understand a good bit now, just from us talking about it all the time.”
In the meantime, both Jenny and Andy are just making the most of everything the EPT has to offer. They say they enjoy talking to players who have risen through the ranks to be elite pros, learning a few new tricks along the way, but are equally happy mixing with other qualifiers and plus-ones, who perhaps don’t have any interest in playing.
“The event is amazing because of the off-felt activities,” Andy says. “It is, it’s a good environment where you don’t have to be a professional. It’s there if you want it, the higher stakes. But there are lower stakes, it’s still affordable.”
He continues: “For a husband and wife, there’s always stuff for a partner to do off felt. Things like the boat trip and the adventure day out. And then you’ve got the welcome party and the player party. It’s a package all round. That’s the way we see it.
Yes, we want to keep the poker serious and you always want that trophy and the prize, but if it doesn’t work out with the poker, there are fantastic other things to do. You can turn it into an enjoyable holiday at the same time without any big expense — especially if you’re going from 50c or $11. It’s fantastic.”
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