FOR many years, poker was seen as a game to be played only in casinos or in smoke-filled rooms at the back of saloons. In recent years, gambling on the internet has made poker one of the UK's top leisure past-times, with thousands of people playing every day. Now, a pub-based poker league has been set up in Huntingdonshire where players compete for points, not cash, with a more social element to the game. Instead of risking large amounts of money on the turn of a card, players can relax in the knowledge that a one-off fee of \u00A36 is all they stand to lose. Tom Burton, who lives in Brampton, has been running the Cambridgeshire branch of the UK National Poker League for the past six months. He says the pressure-free atmosphere of the league is an ideal way for people to practice their skills, or learn the game for the first time. "The great thing about the league is that it is open to everyone, regardless of whether they have been playing for years or are a total novice," he said. "We have had quite a few players come along who have never played a game before in their lives but we have been able to give them a quick tutorial and away they go." Up to 25 players gather three nights a week at different venues across the region to test their skills against each other. Points are all that are at stake - with the top player each month receiving a trophy and the chance to play in a national final. "It is strictly for fun - gambling laws prevent any money being staked at the tables - and this means all players can compete in the relaxed atmosphere." Tom added: "What makes poker so attractive is the thought that any hand can beat any other hand in a given situation. "Mathematically, the worst hand to have in poker is a seven and a two of different suits, but that can beat the strongest hand in poker - two aces - if the cards fall the right way." Some bodies have expressed concern about the addictive nature of poker. It is estimated that Britons gamble \u00A33million by betting on-line every day. However, Tom insists his pub poker league is a long way away from real gambling. "The league is all about having fun and socialising, not about some of the horror stories you might hear about on-line poker." The UK National Poker League runs at three venues in Huntingdonshire, all beginning at 7pm: Sundays at The Barley Mow, Hartford, Mondays at The Old Sun Inn, Eaton Socon, and Wednesdays at The Dragoon, Brampton. INFORMATION: For more details, visit www.uknationalpokerleague.com or contact Tom Burton on 07787526168. The league is looking for more venues in Huntingdonshire. Any interested pubs should contact Tom.