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Poker enthusiast brings game to Riverdale seniors

By Justin Boron

After a sly glance at her two hole cards, Marcelle Doyle boosted the big bet to 10 chips.

It was a steep raise at 8:30 in the morning for a poker game at the Riverdale Senior Center.

But Doyle's aggressive play is what made her the reigning Texas Hold 'em champion of a series of tournaments held for seniors each week in Riverdale.

"You've got them bragging rights for the whole month," the 56-year old Riverdale resident said.

Anyone who enters the senior center can see her picture and plaque posted on the front wall, making her a poker celebrity among the center's members.

The nods of respect she gets are nice. But Doyle said her championship crown also draws frequent attacks from her adversaries.

"They come up and say, 'You won't be (champion) for long,'" she said.

Doyle said the competition doesn't phase her because she grew up with it.

Doyle's family moved to Clayton County from California in 1987 after her brother's job with Western Airlines was consumed in a merger with then expanding Delta Air Lines.

Before that, her family played poker in the South Central district of Los Angeles.

Tony Antoine, Doyle's brother, said it wasn't as if everyone obsessed about gambling.

"It was a way for everybody to get together," said Tony Antoine, Doyle's brother.

Families and friends would move from house to house to socialize over a laid-back card game.

Still, the recreation of the game didn't prevent the neighborhood matches from becoming heated, Doyle said.

"You'd sometimes lose your temper," she said.

The games would get so tense, Doyle said sometimes the young children had to be excluded.

"After it got too cut throat, we had to put them aside," she said.

When her family left behind their regular games in neighbors' kitchens and living rooms, Doyle said they came to Georgia where most people weren't too excited by the game.

A deck of cards, a package of plastic chips, and poker's recent media craze changed that.

Doyle and her sister-in-law, Marie Antoine, said they asked one of the senior center's program directors if they could start a regular poker game.

Once the center put up a plaque for the poker title, the game took off, said Eddie Burgess, a program director at the center.

"I really think its going to get a lot bigger," he said.

While the championship is a big deal in the center, Doyle has had bigger wins.

Her largest one to date is a $5,000 video poker prize, which likely will be her biggest since she said she doesn't really play for money.

Doyle often takes trips to Biloxi, Miss. But the poker enthusiast said she doesn't sit down at a live table.

"I'm too chicken."

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