Where is the most successful poker room in the world today? Not in Las Vegas, though on the Strip the Mirage is tops for elegance and downtown Binion's retains its tradition as a good ol'- fashioned gamblin' hall. The poker room which probably earns the most money anywhere is at Foxwoods, the Indian gaming resort in leafy Connecticut.

The poker room here "wins" (net profit before expenses) $55,000 a day. It has 50 tables, ranging from low limit $1-3 Hold 'em and seven-card stud, all the way up to $100-200 games, plus no-limit. Foxwoods' earnings from poker are minimal compared with its overall win from casino gambling, now approaching $1bn a year. It is the most profitable casino in the western world.

The poker attracts pros and amateurs alike. Besides enhancing Foxwoods' general appeal, via well-publicized tournaments, poker also figures in Foxwoods' current re-building phase, which includes a high-rise hotel and expanded casino floor. There will be a new poker room with 30 extra tables plus a non-smoking poker area. This is a fascinating innovation. My only reservation in my life-long enthusiasm for the game has been the passive smoking one endures. But you might as well ask darts players to stop drinking as ask poker players to stop smoking. The game is based on risk. What will happen, I wonder, if there is a fast- action game with smokers on one side of the new room and a tight, boring but non-smoking game going on across the floor? Win the money, of course, and then get the fresh air.

Foxwoods is a three- hour drive from New York or Boston. The poker room charges by the half hour. In a $20-40 limit game, the cost to each player is $5 a half hour. The dealing is fast and accurate, so many hands are played. What's more, the casino has a credit card system whereby players earn points for every hour played, which can then be cashed for goods or services in the casino. In a recent three- day visit, I managed to rack up enough points to score a very large dinner for free. Well, why not? Man's gotta eat, smoke or no.