a staple on the pro poker circuit. She just recently
won the ESPN Tournament of Champions and the $2
million purse that went with it. She comes from
a family with cards in its blood. Annie Duke has
risen to the top of the highly-competitive poker
world, and luckily for us, took a short break
to answer some questions.
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PokerLizard: You defeated a star-studded (Hellmuth,
Lederer, Seidel etc…) field of 234 players
in the WSOP $2,000 buy-in Omaha Hi/Lo tournament.
How great was it to finally break through and
win your first World
Series Of Poker Bracelet?
Annie: Well it was amazing to break through.
I have a weird history at the WSOP filled with
a lot of seconds and thirds. Despite having only
one losing year at the WSOP and having a lot of
laurels among women (most money won, most final
tables, most cashes) I didn’t have the elusive
bracelet and that was a huge knock on me. People
always thought I was a good player but couldn't
close the deal. Wining and getting that monkey
off my back was HUGE for me.
Also, because I won at Bellagio
as well this year, the WSOP win made me the only
woman to ever win two major tournaments in one
year. That was really sweet because I feel now
that I have proven myself to the people who knocked
me for an inability to close. I really feel like
my tournament game has gotten a lot better over
the past year since I decided to concentrate on
tournament play and the two wins really made me
feel like my efforts have come to fruition.
PokerLizard: You are arguably the most visible
woman in poker today and because of your big win,
you have become the leading money winner amongst
women in the history of the WSOP. Had that been
one of your goals entering the 2004 WSOP? Also,
does it ever get old having people “qualify”
your success by always adding “woman”
to the term Poker Player, do you wish they would
just call you one of the most successful Poker
Players in the world without the qualifier?
Annie: It doesn't get old for people to quality
my play putting me in the female category since
up until recently I would not be on the radar
if I were not a woman. My accomplishments alone
would not be considered that great if I were not
a woman--that is until this year when my accomplishments
stand on their own now. Being a woman has afforded
me recognition which I would not otherwise have
gotten--and that recognition has generated a lot
of extra income for me. I am grateful for that.
That being said, I am striving to be one of the
best…period--not one of the best females.
Poker is a game where men and women can compete
on an equal footing and I want to compete with
the best players--man or woman.
So from a publicity standpoint it doesn't bother
me. But from the standpoint of my own personal
goals I want to be compared with everyone, not
PokerLizard: You were a double major in English
and Psychology at Columbia, then earned a National
Science Foundation Fellowship before doing more
graduate work in psychology. Many would think
this fits perfectly into the inner workings of
poker. Do you feel your education background helped
your game with things like reads and holding your
emotions in check? Do you miss the academic life?
Annie: I definitely don't miss the academic life
at all--that is why I quit! My graduate worked
helped in terms of understanding probability theory
for sure. I was doing experimental psych, which
met a lot of ANOVA, regression and simple t-tests
and whatnot. So I had to really understand probability
theory, which transferred into poker well.
As for Psychology, I was not studying clinical
psych. I was studying language processing, production
and acquisition. So that has not been helpful
PokerLizard: How are those holiday family get-togethers?
Do the cards come out as soon as the turkey is
cleaned up? Or do you consider card playing just
a business and want to do anything but play cards
with your time off?
Annie: I can't think of a time recently when
the family got together and played cards. That
is weird because it is all we did when we were
growing up, but I think that now that it is a
business for me and my brother, we just don't
really play socially anymore. I don't even have
a deck of cards in my house to play with my kids.
We do other things for fun.
PokerLizard: After catching the poker tournament
bug and placing in your first few WSOP (knocking
your brother out of your first tournament), you
moved your family from Montana to Vegas. Have
you enjoyed that change in climate and lifestyle,
or do you long to get back to the more laid-back,
quiet mountain living?
Annie: I recently moved my family to Portland,
OR. And I love it here! Vegas was a place I had
to love because of what I did for a living. It
was not a place I wanted to stay and raise a family.
When the WPT got huge and you had to travel all
over the place for tournaments anyway I took the
opportunity to move my kids to a place where I
thought I could raise them really well. I am very
happy in Portland because it is kid heaven. And
it is heaven for me--green all year round, turn
of the century houses, no chains. I couldn't dream
of raising my family in a better place.
PokerLizard: Many players complain about the
long hours required to get through a WSOP event,
often going more than 15 hours without sleep.
You did it while nine months pregnant with your
third child! Was that just brutal, or were you
too focused on the game to notice? Were your child’s
first words “I’m all in”?
Annie: I was really, really tired that WSOP!
It was very uncomfortable to sit by that point
and it was quite a feat to stay focused. Looking
back I am not sure how well I did because I was
so physically uncomfortable and just mentally
very emotional and hormonal by that point. I had
my baby like 2 weeks after the event ended!
PokerLizard: You are not only a successful tourney
player, but also a success at the high-limit cash
games. Which do you prefer to play and why?
Annie: I really prefer tournaments, which is
why I was willing to move to Portland and basically
give up cash games. People tend to be more pleasant
during tournament play (me included) because the
money at stake is not the same. No one is losing
100's of thousands of dollars--they are just losing
the entry fee--so emotions and stress tend to
run less high. Also, you don't have to put in
the long hours you do in cash games when playing
tournaments. People just tend to have more fun
in the tournaments. I know I do.
PokerLizard: You also have a very famous poker
student, Ben Affleck, who recently won the $10,000
buy-in California State Championship main event.
How satisfying was it for you when he won? Does
Ben have the skills to become a fixture on the
Annie: I think he has the talent to become a
fixture but not the time or inclination. I am
very proud of him for doing so well so quickly.
It just proved what a smart and talented guy he
PokerLizard: Being one of the best Omaha players
in the world are you glad that ESPN has shown
something other than just Hold’em this year?
Do you prefer Omaha to Hold’em?
Annie: The most fun for me is playing No Limit
Hold'em but I am a much better Omaha 8 or Better
player. I am really happy ESPN has showcased other
games this year and shown the public that there
is a lot more to poker than NL hold'em. I love
8 or better games for their mathematically beauty.
NL hold'em has a compelling psychological beauty
that just isn't seen in limit Omaha 8 or better.
They are truly different games and compelling
for different reasons.
PokerLizard: Speaking of ESPN,
they certainly know how to drum up the drama/controversy.
Since you are so well known they must have had
a camera on you 24/7, First they get you commenting
on not playing in the ladies only event which
seemed like you were disparaging them even when
you weren’t, THEN they film your dispute
about the rules about mucking cards with Brett
“Gank” Jungblutt, in which you were
right. You’ve certainly taken a beating
in the Poker forums, is there anything you would
like to clear up about the ESPN broadcasts?
Annie: Not really. I don't think I did disparage
the Ladies tournament even in the small clip they
showed. I just said the money was bigger in the
other event and I wanted to win my bracelet where
anyone could enter. I am not sure why that disparages
the Ladies event. I just chose to play elsewhere
and said so. I basically said it was a business
decision for me.
As for the argument with Gank that was annoying
because we were having so much fun at that table
and ESPN showed basically the one moment of controversy
and also did not explain that a) I was right and
b) Gank had really violated the rules. But ESPN
wants to make good TV and controversy is good
TV so I kind of shrug my shoulders at it. I would
not be where I am today without ESPN so I guess
I have to take the good with the bad.
PokerLizard: Do you have any advice for players
wanting to try out Omaha?
Annie: Start small and really learn the math.
PokerLizard: I’ve always heard that great
poker players will not leave a game if there are
favorable conditions, what is the longest session
of poker you have ever played and how do you keep
focused for such a long period?
Annie: The longest session I have ever played
was too long! I think it was like 72 hours. It
is impossible to stay focused for that long I
was making a very poor decision to do so. The
longest I can really stay focused is about 12
PokerLizard: What are you listening to on your
iPod when playing? Does the music help your play?
If so, how?
Annie: Generally I am listening to the White
Stripes or The Violent Femmes or something of
that ilk. Music really helps my game. I use the
ear buds so I can still hear the table talk. But
the music really helps pass the time and keep
me in good mood and on an emotional even keel.
I play much, much better with music. It just really
stops me from tilting ever and keeps me so focused
on the game and not on conversation and whatnot.
PokerLizard: For those that don’t know,
Howard Lederer is your older brother. I too have
an older brother, and it gives me probably more
satisfaction beating him at something than just
about anyone else, is it the same for you when
you place higher than him? Do you two ever play
in the same cash games?
Annie: Howard is my mentor and I would not even
be close to the player I am today without him.
It doesn't give me any satisfaction to beat him--I
am always rooting for him so if I beat him I always
feel bad. We play very hard against each other--during
a hand he is just another opponent and I play
him just as I would any other opponent. But after
the hand is over that is another story. I feel
so bad when I beat him and knock him out of a
tournament because I know I have taken a dream
away from him.
We have played a lot in cash games and I am not
affected the same way there. There I want to win
and beating him is just as sweet as beating anyone
else. I think this is because beating him a pot
does not have the finality it does in tournaments.
He can still play the next hand whereas in a tourney
he is done and has to wait till another day to
PokerLizard: What advice would you give someone
who is thinking about becoming a pro player? Which
literature should they definitely get their hands
Annie: My first piece of advice would be to have
a backup. This is not an easy life and very few
people on this earth make a really good living
at poker. It is very hard to succeed at this and
it takes a ton of dedication and talent and money
management and psychological control and a ton
of other things to really succeed at this. So
have a good backup before becoming a pro.
Make sure to read anything Sklansky ever wrote
and make sure to read Super System too. But most
importantly find a mentor. Nothing will help your
PokerLizard: Just to put this question to rest:
Is that REALLY you playing on Ultimatebet.com?
How often do you play online? Does your strategy
change vs. a live game?
Annie: It is always me playing the AnnieDuke
account. I try to play ten hours a week under
that name. My strategy changes drastically playing
online vs. live because the games are much looser
and it is much harder to bluff online. So I tend
to play much more value poker--playing good hands
and getting paid off for them.
PokerLizard: You recently played in the ESPN:
Tournament of Champions $2 Million Freeroll. What
was that event like? Since all the hands will
be televised do you ever vary your play to confuse
future opponents who may have watched the broadcast?
Annie: I will answer the last part since I answered
the first part in your follow up questions. I
do not vary my play at all because the viewer
has no sense of the context of the hand--how the
table has been playing, how I have been playing,
how my opponent has been playing. They generally
don’t even have a good grasp of the blinds
and antes and stack sizes. So they really have
no context in which to put my play on a given
hand--the information just is so incomplete. So
I just play normally knowing that it doesn't really
tell the viewer too much.
PokerLizard: How long did the TOC actually take?
What was the structure (how often did the blinds
go up etc.)?
Annie: It was a very slow structure. It took
about 12 hours including dinner break and other
ten-minute breaks so in terms of poker probably
10.5 hours. We started with 200k in chips each
and the blinds were only 1k2k with no antes. We
ended at 15k30k. Considering that there was 2
million in play that was pretty great.
I assumed going in that it would be a fast structure
and the table would take about 4 hours. I was
very pleasantly surprised when I discovered that
not only did Harrah's and ESPN put up 2 million
but they also gave the players a ton of play.
They really stepped up to the plate in a big way.
PokerLizard: Does Phil Hellmuth act the same
when he is not on Television?
Annie: At the table he always acts the same way,
cameras or no cameras. But he has a good heart
and all the integrity in the world. In this business
those two qualities forgive a lot of sins.
PokerLizard: Was there anything memorable that
didn't make the ESPN broadcast?
Annie: Well one thing I found interesting is
that a lot of the decisions took a lot longer
than they show. For example, when I folded the
TT to Raymer's KK it took me at least 3 minutes.
It was an incredibly tough decision because I
was getting 3 to 1 from the pot. This meant I
had to be 100% sure he did not have AK in order
to make a mathematically correct fold. It took
me a long time to convince myself of that. I kept
apologizing for taking so long. ESPN made it look
like I folded in 15 seconds. And that was not
the only hand where that happened.
One hilarious thing that did get cut was after
Phil folded the AQ to Chan's 66 causing my brother
to sail off to the AJ. Howard said to Phil after
the fact that his only satisfaction in losing
with the AJ was the knowledge that Phil would
have won if he hadn't folded the AQ.
PokerLizard: Do you really play often with this
group of pros at the cash games? If so, was this
just another game to you all, or did everyone
really hunker down and play like they've never
Annie: Well I don't play a lot of cash games
anymore since I live in Portland now. But when
I was playing high cash games all the time I played
with Doyle, Chan, Chip, my brother and sometimes
Phil quite a bit. TJ doesn't play cash games and
Daniel and Phil Ivey weren't playing the biggest
It was not just another cash game to me--or I
think anyone else. It was a big deal and a lot
of money at stake and we all understood that.
PokerLizard: Of all those TOC opponents, who
do you like playing with the most? Who would you
rather not play with? Why?
Annie: I enjoy Doyle, Chip, Phil Ivey and my
brother's company immensely. They are all really
nice people and very, very funny. I loved Greg
Raymer. He is an incredibly nice guy and a great
representative of the game. I am very happy for
him that he won the main event.
I would rather not play with Chan just because
he is so damn good. He scares me!
But really they are all nice people at that table
and even Phil H. is fun to play with cause he
is such an easy target to needle.
PokerLizard: Who would you select to play at
your "dream" table?
Annie: I hate making lists of who I think are
the top 10 players. So this is a list of the pros
whose company I really enjoy.
Erik Seidel, Gus Hansen, Chris Ferguson, Howard
Lederer, Robert Williamson, Antonio Esfandiari,
Andy Bloch, Thomas Keller, Phil Laak, Paul Wolfe.
They all happen to be great players as well!
PokerLizard: What was the best perk you received
for winning the TOC (other than the sweet $2million)?
Annie: Getting on the Letterman show!
PokerLizard: How satisfying was it to beat some
of the best? Being the only woman did you think
you had something to prove to the public?
Annie: I think I had very little to prove to
the public in as much as all the players at that
table were phenomenal players so I didn’t
really have any expectations of winning. It was
a tough table to handicap. I went into that table
just hoping to acquit myself well and not play
like a total idiot! So from my personal perspective
I didn't really feel that I had anything to prove.
I was just so happy to be picked.
That being said, there were some people who didn’t
feel I deserved to be picked for that table. Some
people thought I was not even close to in the
same class as the other players chosen. Winning
the event was sweeter because of that because
I think I proved that I deserved to be there.
I think also that from the general public's perspective
it was a great thing for poker in general. Having
the woman win at that table I think will bring
some more people into this game. The woman winning
generated extra publicity for the game, which
is awesome for poker--a game that I love and has
been very good to me.
PokerLizard: I've read where you said that a
table full of women is a nightmare for you. Can
Annie: When did I ever say that? The only thing
I don't like about a table full of women is that
I am allergic to perfume so it is hard for me
to be at a table full of women because they tend
to wear perfume which gives me a migraine.
THANKS, ANNIE, and hopefully we'll see you in
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