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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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Nyla Wells, 44, is a mother of four. But when her daughters are in school, she puts her motherly duties aside and heads to a different kind of table.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on many days, she can be found at one of the local Indian casinos, partaking in one of the fastest-growing leisure activities — poker.

"I do good," said Wells, of Mira Loma, as she sat at a table at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland. She learned to play poker in her grandmother's poker house. "I win about 85 percent of the time."

Two centuries ago, poker was considered a game of cheats and hustlers, found only in Old West saloons or on Mississippi riverboats. Today, the face of poker has changed and poker players are emerging from all walks of life.

"Poker is clearly shedding its back room, rough and tough image, as more people find out how intrinsically interesting it can be," said Steven Lipscomb, creator and co-producer of the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour." "Influentials in Hollywood and the business world have embraced poker as a charismatic game of strategy, psychology and showmanship."