When it comes to women making money in the game of poker, Annie Duke is one of the best in the business.
Annie Duke (Anne LaBarr Lederer) born September 13, 1965 grew up in a card-playing household in New Hampshire, Annie learned to play poker with her family and then followed her brother Howard Lederer into a pro poker career after giving up her doctorate research at the University of Pennsylvania to get married and moved to Montana. The move to Montana proved to be very harsh on the Dukes, as they often found themselves teetering on the poverty line. Annie decided to venture into the Billings back room poker games, she was a young girl sitting in amidst a sea of testosterone. Assisted with a bankroll from her now professional poker-playing big brother, Annie was able to put in long hours on the felt and became a great poker player in the process. In a relatively short time the young couple’s financial problems were a thing of the past.
Annie’s brother then suggested she take on the World Series of Poker in 1994. It turned out to be a winning proposition as she cashed in on four events, one of which was a final-table finish and the other was the Main Event. The Dukes decided to make the move to Las Vegas in the same year.
Annie has since then accumulated millions of dollars in tournament cashes, a WSOP bracelet win 2004 along with winning the WSOP Tournament of Champions event that same year, and several World PokerTour cashes.
Annie is a mother of four, Maud, Leo, Lucy and Nelly. Annie and Ben divorced in 2004, and Annie moved to Los Angeles with her children. Annie now lives with her boyfriend, actor, producer and poker junkie, fiancée, Joe Reitman. Annie has stated that her ambition in life is “to be the best mom she can be, while still managing a poker career.”
Annie is also author of the book; Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker.
“Poker is one of the only sports where a woman can compete on a totally equal footing with a man,” said Annie. Any doubters of her claim were nearly forced to eat their hats after Duke narrowly missed the 2000 main event final table while eight months pregnant. To this day, she refuses to enter any of the women-only events, choosing instead to drag pots in male dominated games.
Annie uses her poker ability and experience to teach others the game as well.
As one of the top female players in the game, Duke’s celebrity profile grew substantially outside of the poker realm as well. In 2009 she starred on Celebrity Apprentice. Annie played the boardroom game well enough to make it into the final against Joan Rivers but fell just short of winning, coming second. During the show she raised more than $700,000 for Refugees International. She uses her celebrity status to raise money for that and other organizations that help aid humanitarian efforts in Darfur as well with her Ante Up for Africa Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament in Las Vegas during the WSOP each year. She co-created the tournament with Don Cheadle. Duke has also helped with fundraising efforts for Children’s Hospital and other charities.
In recent year’s Annie has had it pretty tough, Annie made the following comments at a speech she gave at the Women in Poker Hall of Fame dinner in 2011;
“2011 has been a tumultuous year for the poker industry, to say the least. Last year when Jeffrey [Pollack] spoke about a change in the poker industry I am pretty sure he was not foretelling the government shutdown of online poker on Black Friday. Our industry has been deeply affected by Black Friday as everyone has been forced into a position of self-examination, a redefinition of who and what we are and what we do to achieve success and excellence in poker”
“For myself, I was forced into a personal re-examination this spring because of an event that happened just prior to Black Friday: the death of my mother. Her death, not surprisingly, triggered a lot of deep thinking about my priorities in life, my life with her and the deep impact and influence she had on me. There was a sort of strange beauty for me in the symmetry of working to be a part of the redefinition of poker, through my work at Epic, and the redefinition of myself as I have gone through this difficult personal journey”.
From 2011-2012 Annie was co-founder, executive vice president, and commissioner of the Epic Poker League until it filed for bankruptcy on February 28, 2012. Despite her accomplishments with some ventures, her foray into running a casino-based poker tour, the Epic Poker League, was unsuccessful. Epic Poker folded in its first season and never ran its planned $1 million free roll for its players.
Annie has kept a pretty low-key since the traumatic events at the beginning of 2012. The World Series of Poker bracelet winner has received some harsh criticism and vitriol on social media from some members of the poker community for her part in the Epic saga.
With more than 41,000 twitter followers, Annie Duke, has one of the larger social media followings among poker players.