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Once this poker-playing twosome got together, love and success were in the cards.

Phil Reher credits his wife, April Scott, with helping him learn how to play a mean game of cards. It makes sense. She has been a professional poker player for 10 years.

“She is the best poker player in the world,” says the 41-year-old Torrance computer software designer.

But it was Reher, not Scott, who walked away last weekend with $124,200 in prize money at the World Series of Poker at Banion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. His wife, also one of 206 contestants in the low-ball poker event, folded two hours into the contest. Then she watched her husband for nine nervous hours before he emerged victorious.

“It was a miracle,” Reher says. “I have to emphasize you have to get lucky to win a tournament.”

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The couple met about seven years ago at--where else?--a poker party at a private home. Even then, Reher displayed a knack for playing his cards right: He beat his wife at cards and impressed her with his demeanor to boot.

“He had a good sense of concentration and sense of discipline even in a home game,” Scott recalls. “And that is unusual.”

Two years later, they married. In the years since, Scott helped her husband learn some of the finer points of poker. And two months ago, Reher hit the big time for the first time. He won $22,000 in a low-ball tournament at the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens. In low-ball poker, the lowest hand wins, with five-four-three-two-ace being the best possible combination.

Then came Vegas and the World Series of Poker, an annual affair with 16 different card games in all, including the low-ball tournament. For 11 hours Reher sweated it out. Three times he was down to his last chip but staged a comeback. Finally, with a hand of 10-nine-eight-six-four, he edged out Al Kudelka, a professional card player from Houston, to pick up the winner’s booty and a solid-gold bracelet.

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Reher, who had to ante up a $1,500 buy-in to play, said he and his wife will use some of his winnings to pay for an Alaskan cruise they had been planning. Runner-up Kudelka, who took home $62,100 for his efforts, told casino officials he planned to spend his money on his girlfriend, Susan.

“Patience, money management, keeping your cool under adverse conditions,” Reher says when asked what it takes to be a good poker player. “It is no different than any other profession.”

As for Scott, well, there will be other tournaments. The 38-year-old says she has won three tournaments and numerous smaller ones during her career, which was launched indirectly when she took an avid interest in games of all types while growing up in the Midwest.

There are only a handful of professional women poker players in California, Scott says. She herself honed her poker skills by serving as a house player for seven years at local card clubs. House players receive a salary from the club and sit in on games when there are not enough players.

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Scott says her poker-playing style is different from her husband’s. “I tend to play a little more aggressive game than my husband,” she says. “Either I go out quickly, or I go the duration and I win.”

As for how much money she has won during her career, Scott won’t say. She will say, however, that she and her husband, who is contemplating turning pro himself, have a nice home and no unpaid bills.

Do they ever get jealous when one does better than the other at poker? Scott says she doesn’t. After all, she notes, “the money goes into one pot.”


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