A family business with a difference: poker

The Birmingham family who have gone into full time poker playing: unusual family businesses

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Sheils family poker business

The Sheils family from Erdington in Birmingham have moved into an unusual family business - the parents and their two sons have all given up their jobs to become full time poker players. Michelle and Matthew Sheils taught their sons Richard and Brandon to play at home, and now they have decided to make pokera family affair.

Between them they compete in an average of three tournaments a week. 19-year-old Brandon won £9,200 in the Ireland Poker Tour Tournament last week, and his 23-year-old brother Richard won £27,000 in a competition at Nottingham's Dusk Till Dawn Poker Club. The Daily Mail reported that the brothers had made £75,000 between them since November last year.

Their father Matthew is a former accountant and his wife Michelle sold her nursery business to become a semi-retired child-carer - with poker on the side. Brandon studied economics at the University of Birmingham, and even did his dissertation on the game.

According to the Birmingham Mail, the family claims to have a formula for success - a mathematical formula that ensures they win more often then they lose (even accounting for chance) - and can therefore make money from the game.

Unusual family businesses

Clearly, it's not a strategy that's going to work for every family - and in the vast majority of cases it would end in disaster. However, it goes to show that family businesses aren't all engineering firms and removals companies. In fact there are some highly unusual family business in operation. Here are five out-of-the ordinary family firms.

Cereal Killers
The Cereal Killer Café in East London, which opened last year to acres of newsprint, is a family business, run by Belfast brothers Alan and Gary Keery. In the opening days of the company their father revealed that he'd been helping build the kitchen and plumb in the dishwasher just days before it opened.

Snail farmers
Dorset Snails is a family firm, which started breeding snails in 2008, and is now the biggest commercial snail producer in the UK - producing around 750kg of snails a week. At the helm are father and son David and Tony Walker.

Pork pies with a twist
The Unusual Pork Pie Company is a family business which has branched out into less common forms of pork pie, including pork and black pudding, and pork with hot peppers. They also make a variety of pies including Cow Pie - complete with horns.

Designer furniture
Douglas and Bec is a father-daughter partnership, marrying his work as a handyman with her fine arts degree. They are now big business in the fashion world of New Zealand, with Doug churning out their creations at the age of 70.

Walking sticks
Ben and Diana Porter started Classic Canes, a walking stick business, in the 1970s, fashioning sticks from the woodlands around their home. The business has now evolved to include 600 products, and is run by their daughter Charlotte Gillan.

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