Joy Pozek

Making Her Own Luck

By Cindy Robinson   JoyPozek
Photography by Lindsay Gifford

Local cosmetologist, actress, golfer, and competitive poker player Joy Pozek feels she could talk for hours about her wonderful life, but this wasn’t always the case.

“I married very young, and all I did was work and take care of the house and the children (daughter Amber and son Matt). It was all my husband would ‘allow’ me to do,” Joy said. “I was in a very suppressive relationship. When I got to my 40s, I said ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ so I changed things.”

That first change began even before her marriage ended. “I started acting with a junior college theatre group as a way to get some ‘me’ time.” After divorcing and moving to Atlanta, she began acting at the Roswell Village Theatre. “That’s where I met my present husband, Al. We were cast as husband and wife in two shows.”

After the two became a couple, Al brought Joy to St. Simons for a visit. “I always say he had to carry me kicking and screaming back across the causeway to go back to Atlanta,” she laughed. It wasn’t long before the two decided to leave Atlanta and make the move to St. Simons. “I auditioned for a play here two weekends before I moved and got the part. I moved down first by myself during Easter weekend 1997. “Getting the part was a great way to get to know people and spend my time. It was a Neil Simon play, The Good Doctor– probably the worst play the Island Players has ever done! Al moved here that fall, and we got married the following Valentine’s Day at the lighthouse.”

Joy opened her own hair salon, Salon 16, and immersed herself into the local acting scene. “I’ve done quite a few plays with the Island Players, as well as Brunswick Actors Theatre.” Joy said she felt drawn to acting because “you get to be someone else.”

She also discovered another pastime—golf. “Al started teaching me how to play.” Joy was soon joining other ladies to play. “I like the Paisley Birdie Golf scramble. It’s relaxing and fun for people who are just getting started at golf, and a good way to get to know people at the same time.”

Her newfound love of the links gave Joy the idea of pursuing another adventure. “Al said when we got married he would never tell me what I can or cannot do. So, five years ago, I approached him about my girlfriends—Liz, Shirley, Bonnie and I—wanting to do a golfing trip to Ireland. There was no way he would go to Ireland to golf for a week in the rain,” she laughed. “He’s a fair weather golfer with the perfect temperature, the perfect conditions. Al said, ‘Just do it.’” The trip was better than she hoped for. “It was absolutely an amazing experience. I’m so glad I went, but the funny thing is, I decided I never want to do a trip like that again without him.”

Joy is currently dedicating more of her free time to playing poker, another passion Al shares. She said she felt drawn to the game because “poker is kind of like golf. You never quit learning, and you never know what’s going to happen.” The couple not only plays local charity poker tournaments, but now also travels to tournaments around the country.

“People always recognize me by my hat,” Joy said. She acquired her wide-brimmed hat while playing poker at a casino in Tunica, Miss. “There was this guy who played as a representative of Harrah’s called Speedy Gonzales... He told me I needed to wear a hat to cover my eyes. Apparently, I have what we call a ‘tell’ – it can give away your hand. So, I went to the gift shop and they had two hats, a red one and a black one. I bought the black one for $5!” Unfortunately, someone stole her original hat and she had to replace it. “It was a lot more expensive: $15!”

Something else makes Joy and her hat readily recognizable. “About seven years ago, I started playing in the Susan G. Komen Rally for the Cure (poker tournament) putting pink rally ribbons on my hat for each of my girlfriends and acquaintances who had or has breast cancer. I get tons of comments, especially from men at the poker tables, telling me who they know, or are related to someone who has had or now has it.”

Joy said the hat also serves another purpose. “I don’t always wear my hat when I first sit down. I size up the table first, but when I put the hat on, I get respect. It is very hard for women in poker to get respect. Many men still feel it’s a man’s sport and hate being outplayed or outsmarted by a woman. But we’re just there to play; we have to buck up. That’s what I do.”

Recently Joy and Al headed to the granddaddy of all tournaments—the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas—something they’ve been doing the past 12 years. The series is comprised of weeks-long card tournaments. “There are people at the World Series from all over the world. Our first year, a man sat across from me and asked, ‘Are you from St. Simons Island?’ I couldn’t believe it! I said yes, and he said, ‘You knocked me out of a tournament there a couple of months ago.’ I told him, ‘You might want to be careful or I’ll do it again!’ And I did!”

Regardless if this is their lucky year at the Series or not, Joy said she loves her life. “Do everything you can to help, or do for everyone you can, but don’t let “you” get lost in it. Never forget to take care of you. I’d never be where I am today if I hadn’t come to that realization.”

Up Close:
Flair for hair: Started doing her dolls’ hair when a little girl. “By the time I was 12, I was doing all the neighbors’ hair. After high school, I went straight to cosmetology school.” She’s been working at Char’s Salon 4 ½ years after deciding to close her own salon. “I didn’t need the stress of ownership anymore.”

Military roots:
Born in Kentucky but grew up all over as self-described “Army brat.” Last year, she was guardian on Coastal Georgia Honor Flight, which flies U.S. veterans for free to Washington, D.C. to visit their national memorials. “My friend Chandra helped start Honor Flight here. For my birthday, I asked people to donate to Honor Flight. Chandra saw my $500 goal on my Facebook page and said, ‘You need to up that.’ I upped it to $1,500 and made it to $1,700. It was such a great experience. My dad was in World War II and Korea. I took part of his ashes and placed some near the World War II and Korean memorials. Then, I read a sign—you couldn’t do that. So, I asked for forgiveness!”

Special tee time:
She and her three golfing girlfriends go the Daytona Swing three-day golf competition each year. “It’s a lot of fun; you can win some money. We also try to work a poker tournament. I’ve got to get all my vices in while I’m there! And, what happens in Daytona stays in Daytona!”

Four-legged family:
A mixed breed dog, Maggie, and two cats, Micky T. Mouser and Minnie T. Mouser—all adopted. “Al takes Maggie to the pier every morning and most evenings, depending on what she wants to do.”

Joy left her hat…
on the airport shuttle after arriving in Las Vegas, but no fear. “One of my girlfriends saw what happened and ordered me one on Amazon to be delivered. Our Poker Chick’s group takes care of each other.”

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