– General Introduction –
Annie Duke is an American former professional poker player. She was born on September 13th, 1965 in Concord, New Hampshire. Her maiden name is Lederer – she is the younger sister of 2-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and disgraced Full Tilt boss Howard Lederer.
Duke is a WSOP bracelet winner herself. She won the $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better for $137,860 in 2004. That year, she also triumphed in the WSOP Tournament of Champions. In 2010, she took down the NBC Heads-Up Championship.
Overall, Duke has cashed for $4.270 million in live tournaments during her career. In 2020, she revealed that she hasn’t played any poker since 2012.
Her retirement may not have been entirely voluntary: in 2012, UltimateBet, a poker site Duke had been a spokesperson for for years, was closed down due to the Black Friday events. With the poker room’s closing, most of their players lost their funds. At that point, some in the poker community started demanding that Duke give up her spokesperson salary to reimburse the players – something she never agreed to do.
– Key Career Dates –
- c. 1990: She starts playing poker for a living in a small Montana cardroom.
- 2004: She wins her first WSOP gold bracelet. She finishes first in the $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better event for $137,860.
- 2010: She wins the NBC Heads-Up Championship for $500,000
- 2012: After she gets embroiled in the scandal about the UltimateBet closure, she retires from poker for good.
– Annie Duke’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Duke graduated from Columbia University with a double major in English and Psychology. She was pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive linguistics until she dropped out the last minute to find a new career purpose.
Duke recanted her journey to finding professional poker as her new pursuit to Sports Illustrated in 2005. Here’s how her story goes, according to the woman herself:
“I spent my life sitting on the floor of my Dad’s den playing cards. That’s what I did from the time I could hold cards. I was at a point in my life when I felt adrift. I had left graduate school realizing at the last minute that I didn’t want to be a professor. I went off and lived in an $11,000 house. I was in this shack in the middle of Montana having just come out of two Ivy League schools and I was like: ‘What am I doing here?’ It was just a total moment of ‘Oh, my God what am I going to? Work at the town pump.’
I’m used to intellectual discussion and hanging out in coffee shops. I called my brother and told him there were card games in Billings. I thought maybe that’s how I could make some money and they would be intellectually stimulating. He sent me $2,400 and gave me poker books and lessons over the phone. The thing of it is when I sat down at the table I was like, ‘I’m home.’”
→ Live Tournaments ←
Annie Duke’s Hendon page shows $4.270 million in live tournament earnings. She amassed that sum by cashing in 79 different events over the span of 17 years.
The first recorded cash on her page is from January 1994. She came in 8th for a humble $450 in a $330 7-Card Stud tourney at the Four Queens Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. She went on to deliver a whole slew of results in small to mid stakes events throughout that year. The first time she made a score for over $100K was at the 1999 World Series of Poker.
Her biggest live cashes are all from the 2000’s.
In April 2004, she took down the $2,500 WPT No Limit Hold’em event at the Bellagio for $157,140. A few months later, in November 2004, she came in 9th for $166,478 in a $10K WPT NLHE event in the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
Her greatest poker achievement outside the WSOP is definitely taking down the NBC Heads-Up Championship event in 2010. This was a televised and highly publicized invitational heads-up NLHE knockout tournament with a $20,000 buy-in. It featured the biggest names in poker at the time.
Duke managed to triumph in that field filled with elite pros. She defeated 8-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel in the final match-up, and thus claimed the title along with the $500,000 first prize.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Annie Duke has won one WSOP gold bracelet in her career so far. In 2004, she took down the $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better event for $137,860.
Later that year, she won another WSOP event, although she did not receive a bracelet for it – rather, a trophy. It was the WSOP Tournament of Champions, an invitational freeroll for bracelet winners only. It was held 5 times between 2004 and 2010.
Duke was the one to take down the first one. 10 players were invited to play, it was winner-take-all for a $2 million first prize. Duke defeated none other than Phil Hellmuth heads-up for the title. This was the biggest single live tournament score of Duke’s career to date.
Overall, Duke has cashed in 38 World Series events for a combined $1.667 million in total.
She came very close to capturing another bracelet in 1999, when she finished 2nd in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $110,000.
Her other major WSOP cashes include: a 4th place finish for $88,500 in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event from 2005, and a 3rd place finish for $75,210 in the $2,500 Omaha/7Card Stud Hi-Lo 8-or-Better event from 2007.
She made it into the money in the Main Event three times: in 1994, 2000, and 2006. In 2000, she busted on the final table bubble, taking 10th place for $52,160.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Duke appeared on the premiere episode of the classic poker TV show Poker After Dark on NBC in 2007.
However, back then, the show featured a tournament format. They started airing high stakes cash game shows in Season 4. Duke played in a few of these cash games as well. The game was $200/$400 No Limit Hold’Em.
→ Online Poker ←
There is no account on any poker site known to be affiliated with Annie Duke.
→ Sponsorships ←
Duke used to be an active member of the Poker Players Alliance, a non-profit interest group advocating for the rights of poker players in the United States. She was also the co-founder of the Epic Poker League, a tournament series that took place at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and aired on CBS throughout 2011.
Duke has published poker strategy books with publishers such as Huntington Press and Millville Productions, as well as poker strategy DVD’s in collaboration with ESPN. She also co-founded the charity group Ante Up for Africa.
However, her most famous (or rather, infamous) sponsorship deal was with UltimateBet – she was a spokesperson for the now-defunct site for years.
→ Scandals ←
The UltimateBet closure
UltimateBet’s biggest scandal by far was the one involving superusing by potripper, Russ Hamilton, and others. The investigation found that Annie Duke had no knowledge of it whatsoever.
However, in 2012, when UB shut down, Duke still got a huge wave of backlash from the online poker community.
With the poker site’s closure brought upon by the Black Friday events, most of UB’s player base lost their funds. Some of them haven’t been reimbursed to this day. Yet, allegedly, Duke still received her spokesperson salary of around $300,000 per year, and refused to give it up in favor of the affected players despite her proclaimed love for charity and philanthropy.
Poker pro Jason DeWitt directly – and vulgarly – confronted her about this issue when they were drawn to the same table in an event at the 2012 WSOP.