A June 7 Sports item incorrectly said that Shana Hiatt, a host of the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour," is a former Playboy Playmate. Hiatt appeared in the magazine but was not a Playmate. (Published 6/8/04)

Shana Hiatt, host of the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour," has been at the center of the pre-flop-raising, Big Slick-craving, Hold 'Em-playing boom. The former Playmate has also met scores of athletes through her in-laws, the Van Patten family.

So why do they show poker on sports channels?

Okay, that's a good question. Poker is a sport. . . . I sit there and watch these guys play, three days, four days, five days in a row. They're mentally and physically at their peak. They just get worn down. It really is an amazing feat.

They get worn down?

Extremely worn down. I played one game that PartyPoker set up for us on a cruise. I didn't get any cards, and I was just playing really tight, but then I got a headache. All of the sudden, I was playing really erratic, I was being weird. These guys, for days on end, no matter what they're feeling, they still have to go and physically get through it.

Your show has a betting clock. Does that make it more like a sport?

I really like the clock idea. These players are starting to get used to the cameras, so there's more milking involved. They know they're going to fold, but they're just hanging on so they can be on the camera more. By adding the clock, there's no B.S.

You've been around a lot of athletes. How do poker players compare?

I've actually gotten into this whole poker world so deeply, it's crazy. A lot of people say, 'Poker, aren't they all sleazeballs?' No, absolutely not. I'm around the smartest people, the most interesting people, and they're all there for one reason -- to win.

-- Dan Steinberg

Shana Hiatt