By Sean Chaffin
Why aren’t more moms becoming poker players? It’s a question that baffles Esther Foley (pictured), a Fort Lauderdale resident, and mother of two who was still in the field on Day 2 of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown as players moved closer to the money.
“I don’t understand why women, especially mothers, aren’t poker players,” says Foley, who has 3-year-old and 18-month-old boys. “Being a mother, going through labor, going through just rearing a child in general, makes you such a strong person. Because while poker involves a lot of skill, it’s really about the ability to be resilient, a test of will.”
Women naturally have the stamina, Foley believes, to do well in the game.
“Sure it’s a grind,” she says, “but it’s nothing compared to what most moms go through, or most women go through in general.”
At the Tables
Poker runs in the family for Foley. Married to full-time poker player Nick Sinishtaj, her brother-in-law Tony Sinishtaj also plays full time and won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in Season XV for $661,283.
Both help her with her game, and all three were in the field here for the Showdown. Foley was the last one in the family still in the field on Day 2 as players went to dinner break.
With about $28,000 in live tournament winnings, Foley’s top cash came in 2017 when she took eighth in a $350 event in Pompano Beach for $10,203. She’s hoping to add to that here at the Seminole Hard Rock – her home casino.
While she enjoys tournaments, cash games are a little easier as a mother. Foley pops in here or there for a quick getaway or to get her poker fix. She plays here every few weeks, and finds a trip to the poker tables more relaxing than hitting Starbucks or a visit to a spa.
“When my kids start bugging me or I’m having a rough day: diarrhea, throw up, the mom stuff – I go play poker,” says Foley, who also enjoys baking and arts and crafts with her children. “It’s a great way to just leave your problems at home.”
Ultimate Poker Fan
Like many players, televised poker attracted Foley to the game. She was thrilled to be seated in the Showdown seeing some of her poker idols. Foley makes it clear – she’s a huge poker fan and is well-versed on some of the top players in the game.
Her biggest poker inspiration, however, isn’t in the field this weekend.
“When I was younger one of my idols was Allen Cunningham,” she says. “I love Allen Cunningham. If ever meet him I’ll just die. I just love his game. He has such a great mind for poker. I just think he has a brilliant mind for the game, so that’s what really got me into poker.”
Cunningham isn’t a bad poker role model. He has $11.8 million in live tournament winnings, including $1 million on the WPT with two final tables. Foley is certainly in her element at the Seminole Hard Rock.
“I got to see a lot of legends here,” she says. “I got to see Erik Seidel and I almost lost it. I wanted to come up and ask for his autograph but I didn’t. I’m a huge poker fan. I also saw David Peters – I love him.”
Just before the break, Foley doubled up after her pocket Queens held up against ace-eight. She now has 160,000 in chips and hopes to keep the dream alive.
“For the last four or five years I’ve been trying to win a WPT satellite ticket because I can’t afford the $3,500,” she says. “I’ve always just come up short each satellite. I played a satellite again on Thursday and I won a ticket.”
“I got really nervous because this was my very first WPT event. I’m really excited about being here because the WPT gives you so much playability. You can showcase your skills and really get a chance to play against the top players.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.
Looking to win your way to a World Poker Tour event for your shot at becoming a WPT champion? Play for your chance on ClubWPT.com, where eligible VIP Members can play for over $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events, no purchase necessary.