After honing her clairvoyant powers at daughter Bianca’s bedside as she battled she was fighting leukaemia, Cheryl Simmons, 53, from Whitstable, Kent, became a medium to the stars – before switching decks and taking up poker.
Cheryl, who now plays poker up to five times a week and wins as much as £15,000 in one go, said: “Tarots and poker both take a lot of mental energy.
"I still read the tarots. I consult them before deciding which games to go to.
“Unfortunately, they never tell me exactly how to play, but if I look at the cards, they help to guide me to specific places.”
Cheryl first started reading tarots in 2001 – a critical year for her as daughter Bianca, now 29, started her three-year battle with the blood cancer, leukaemia.
She said: “I had always been interested in mediumship and psychics, but I think when something like that happens, it makes you question a lot.”
“I had a tarot card reading and it really helped me, so I wanted to give back, by learning how to read them myself,” she said.
Sat by then 13-year-old Bianca’s bedside Cheryl taught herself tarot reading – turning her hobby into a business after her daughter went into remission in 2004 following a successful bone marrow transplant from her brother, Dane, 27.
She said: “I ran a shop selling mysterious gifts and gave tarot readings in the back. I was very successful and went on to run tarot parties for individuals and companies, including BP.
“I have given readings for well-known faces, too, like Jodie Marsh and Theo Paphitis from TV’s Dragons Den.”
Then, 10 years ago, Cheryl turned her hand to another card skill – poker.
She said: “I’d always loved card games and something told me to give poker a go.
“There’s a lot of psychology involved in poker and I realised how much I enjoyed it. It takes a long time to become really skilled.
“I always say it takes a few minutes to pick up the basics, but a lifetime to master it.”
Still a tarot card reader, Cheryl now also plays poker all over the world.
She said: “It’s very, very sociable. I’ve met some very interesting people and been to some wonderful places.
"I spend a long time studying and playing it. I particularly enjoy playing online using a satellite feed to take part in tournaments across the world.
“Also, when you are playing poker as a woman, men try to flatter you but then you can out manoeuvre them.”
“But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman – it is a battle of wits.”
On June 28 Cheryl will be amongst the players gathering in Las Vegas, USA, for one of the game’s biggest tournaments, the 888poker sponsored World Series of Poker.
She will be entering the Ladies’ Event at the Rio Hotel Complex.
The three-day tournament, which costs $1,000 (£738) to enter and has a six-figure top prize also nets the winner a coveted WSOP gold bracelet.
“It’s amazing money,” admits Cheryl. “But I would also love to win the bracelet – a woman can never have enough jewellery!
“I played in the Ladies’ Event two years ago and, unfortunately, just missed out on winning anything.
“The buzz and atmosphere of the WSOP is a unique experience. It is the equivalent of the World Cup for poker.
"I'm also looking forward to playing one or two tournaments against some of the best male players in the world. So, watch out, because I’m feeling flush.”
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