An amateur poker playing grandmother from Peterborough will compete against some of the sport’s leading professionals for a top prize of $1 million after qualifying for a major tournament in the Bahamas.
Nicole Ray hopes “beginners’ luck” will help her outsmart some of the game’s top players after winning a $15,000 trip to the exotic island, but having never played a live poker event she is hoping somebody will help her before she flies out early next year.
The 51-year-old from Woodston said: “I have a very readable face which does not help. I could do with somebody teaching me. I’m going to have to put the heavy sunglasses on so they can’t read my eyes!”
Grandmother of four Nicole will compete against more than 1,000 players in the three-day tournament at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where the entry fee is $10,000.
Her remarkable rise from poker rookie to tournament player began earlier this year when she spent $27.50 to take part in a PokerStars Spin & Go online match, where she competed against two other players.
Her prize for winning was to be placed in a $500 online tournament where the top 100 players would be sponsored by PokerStars to play in the Bahamas.
Nicole said: “It took seven hours but I came 87th.”
Nicole’s strategy was to win enough big hands to increase her pile of chips, then she kept “folding and folding and got through” while the other competitors lost all their money and were knocked out.
PokerStars is putting up Nicole’s $10,000 stake to compete in their prestigious event - which will be televised - with another $5,000 going towards flights, accommodation in the luxury Atlantis Paradise Island hotel and spending money.
The prize is for two people so Nicole is taking her poker loving daughter Helen with her.
Nicole said: “I’m really a bingo player. I thought I was never going to go near poker.
“Then Helen won a trip to play in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and inspired me.”
Despite winning a trip of a lifetime Nicole is wary about flying for the first time in 40 years and leaving behind her three dogs, but she admitted: “I’m also really excited because it’s a bucket list thing for me.
“I’m looking to play in a casino beforehand.”
Guitarist Helen is helping her mum out with some advice before she makes her debut appearance in a live poker tournament.
She said: “It will be fantastic if she does win. I’m not too worried about her apart from the poker etiquette. I need to teach her that.
“It’s my dream to play in the tournament but I’m happy I get to watch.”
Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars director of corporate communications, said: “Poker is a competitive game filled with winning moments and PokerStars is delighted that Nicole’s winning moment will give her an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas and free seat to play in the Main Event of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) where she will compete for potentially life-changing rewards.
“Nicole will join 300 PokerStars players who won their way to the Bahamas by playing in our online tournaments and getting the opportunity to meet and compete against the most popular poker players in the world.
“Regardless of the results of the competition, we’re confident that we will make Nicole’s trip to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure an unforgettable experience.”