Understanding Annie Duke

Annie Duke

I had no idea what to expect when I had my first true interaction with Annie Duke. I'd seen her play on television and from afar in real life, but had never had the opportunity to interact with her on a more personal basis. Annie's agent set her up with a series of media interviews in advance of shooting a pilot for NBC called "All-In." The show's script (sitcom) was loosely based on Annie's life: a busy mother who pays the bills through playing professional poker.

In order to spice things up, her sibling in the sitcom was to be a Vegas show-girl (a little different than real-life brother Howard "the Professor" Lederer)! The show was not picked up by the network, but I'm so thankful it provided the opportunity for me to get to know this amazing lady.

Annie Playing Cards

Many professional poker players have childhoods that involve stories of difficult life circumstances, poverty, and escape. Annie found poker to be an escape, but not in the usual fashion. Annie was raised in an affluent family in New England. The daughter of a well-respected English professor at a prestigious prep school, Annie was brought-up to value education. These values held true as Annie earned fellowships and academic awards through college and graduate school. Just a few credits shy of earning her Doctorate in Psycholinguistics at Penn, Annie started to interview at various universities to assume the role as a professor and researcher. Somehow, Annie felt that something was "wrong." Her emotions sent her mind and body into a hurricane-like internal swirl, and Annie ended up in the hospital. Despite being so close to earning her advanced degree, Annie knew her life was on the wrong path. She quit school to do some soul-searching. The pressure mounted from her family, friends, and those at the university that she had been attending. She admitted to me how she partially felt she was "letting them down." Staked with some money and some instruction from her already-established poker playing brother, Annie delved into the world of poker. Surrounded by mostly tough men who disapproved of her presence, she excelled from the very beginning. Her soul-search came to an instant halt: poker was "right."

Annie scrambled to learn from the best in the game. Professional poker player Barry Greenstein talks about how Annie used to find a way to sit behind some experienced pros at the poker table to watch them intently. She did her best to learn from each of them. With her bubbly personality and positive energy, the established pros often allowed her to do so. As you might imagine, most players would not want to allow too many people the opportunity to learn their style and habits by watching their every move, but Annie presents herself in an unthreatening, approachable manner. Always an excellent student, Annie learned from her brother and new friends to become a major force in the world of poker.

Annie is a poker player, businesswoman, and spokesperson AFTER filling her primary role: mother. A proud mother of four, Annie openly spoke with me about how she's had to skip several big poker events to meet the demands of being a mother. In fact, she secured a cash finish at the WSOP while being 8 and months pregnant! As I talked with Annie I could sense a special tone of pride and conviction arise when she spoke of her children.

Intelligent, competitive, and driven, I am certain that Annie Duke is an individual that could meet success in nearly anything that she set her mind to. When she is at the table, poker is her business. She analyzes each hand intently. She expects greatness from herself.

Annie Duke: Play Profile & Prediction

PLAY PROFILE: As evidenced by her success at higher education, Annie is extremely intelligent. On the other hand, her wide smile and infectious giggle stir up images of a innocent girl. This interesting combination of attributes makes for a dangerous poker player to contend with. Widely regarded as one of the top 2 women players in the world, her best game is probably Omaha, in which she won a WSOP bracelet. She also proved her ability in No Limit Hold 'Em by winning the ESPN/WSOP/Harrah's $2 million dollar Tournament of Champions event against a who's-who in recent poker history, with competitors like Howard Lederer, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer, and more.

Her weakness may be that she has greatly cut down on her playing schedule. In fact, she's moved away from Las Vegas and the casino-hubs because she no longer plays in many cash games. Not playing at the highest levels as often may cause her to lose some of the edge that her toughest competitors continue to hone.

PREDICTIONS: Annie had an interest sparked in the Hollywood lifestyle during the process with the NBC pilot. Annie was involved in many aspects of the project, from script writing to casting to production. She hinted to me that she may continue to explore these interests. Likewise, her natural beauty and camera presence will further catapult her to become a "face" for poker. Not only will she continue to be a major promoter for UltimateBet, she may assume a larger role in advocating for poker players and bringing poker to more of the general public. Also, Annie Duke is a keen businesswoman. I can foresee her taking advantage of her connections and insights by doing lots of work "behind the scenes" in poker, such as helping with website planning and implementation, advertising efforts, and more. These "other" ventures will allow her to spend a little less time on the tournament trail, allowing her more time with her children (where her focus and heart will always be, of course).


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Annie Duke
Antonio Esfandiari
Chris Ferguson
Dan Harrington
Daniel Negreanu
Doyle Brunson
Greg Raymer
Gus Hansen
Howard Lederer
James Woods

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Johnny Chan
Mark Seif
Mike Matusow
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Phil Hellmuth
Phil Ivey
Phil Laak
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Sam Farha
TJ Cloutier

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