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The Duchess of Poker

This article was written by: Jannah Strat for Celebrity Poker Players

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Anne Duke was born Anne LaBarr Lederer in Concord, New Hampshire. She is the sister of another professional poker player, Howard Lederer. She has a sister, Katy Lederer, who is an author and poet who also wrote a book the Lederer family, titled Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers.

Annie went to Columbia University where she double-majored in English and psychology. Subsequent to her undergraduate years, Duke was awarded an NSF Fellowship to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania to study psycholinguistics, a field within cognitive psychology.

She married Ben Duke, a close friend from the same university, and moved to his home in Columbus, Montana. Although originally intending to continue her studies, she decided to leave school in 1992, after five years of graduate school and one month before defending her Ph.D. work. It was at this time that, with the support of her brother, she took up professional poker.

In 2002, she moved to Portland, Oregon to work for ieLogic, a company that produces software for online real time casino gaming. She and Ben were divorced in 2004, but she did win a $500 wager made with fellow pro Steve Zolotow, who bet her that her marriage wouldn't last five years. In 2005 she and her children moved to the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Duke and her then new, Mediterranean-style home — with boyfriend, actor, and producer Joe Reitman — were featured in The New York Times article "At Home With Annie Duke" on January 19, 2006.

After leaving her academic work, Duke began playing poker in the legal card rooms in Billings, Montana. Her brother, Howard, was already a successful professional and he both coached and helped finance her poker play initially. In 1994, she and her husband moved to Las Vegas in order to commence playing poker full time.

In early 2004, Duke received considerable publicity for tutoring actor Ben Affleck, who then went on to win the 2004 California State Poker Championship। Before that time, one of her claims to poker fame was her 10th place finish in the 2000 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event — one position short of the final table — while eight months pregnant with her third child. In the 2004 World Series of Poker, she eliminated her brother, Howard Lederer, from four separate events, including the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, where she took first place and her brother took third. During this same World Series, she won her first gold bracelet, in an Omaha Hi-Lo tournament. She was one of three women (Kathy Liebert and Cyndy Violette being the other two) to win an open event in that year's WSOP.

Duke is one of many poker players who take issue with the restrictions placed on players during televised tournaments. Although the players pay mandatory entry fees to enter tournaments, some venues do not allow players to wear sponsorship logos. Duke raised some controversy when she made a statement in a news article regarding this issue: "We [poker players] are not even slaves. We're people paying to pick the cotton."

In 2006, Duke won the second annual World Series of Rock Paper Scissors (WSORPS). The WSORPS is an annual charity tournament hosted by Phil Gordon at the World Series of Poker. The winner receives free entry into the WSOP Main Event and the proceeds are donated to Gordon's charity Bad Beat on Cancer.

As of 2008, Annie holds the women's record for most "in the money" finishes at the WSOP. In September 2004, Duke won $2,000,000 in the inaugural World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, a 10-player, winner-take-all invitational event. At the time, this victory was the most money paid in a single event to a female poker player. That record was broken by Annette Obrestad during the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event.

Duke has won one World Series of Poker bracelet, in Omaha HiLo, and more than three million dollars in tournament play. Nowadays she refuses to play in women's only tournaments, saying that "Poker is one of the few sports where a woman can compete on a totally equal footing with a man, so I don't understand why there's a ladies only tournament."

In the Main Event of the 2006 World Series of Poker, she finished in 88th place (out of 8,773 entrants) for $51,129 in winnings. She was one of two women left in the field when she was eliminated. (The remaining woman, Sabyl Cohen, later finished in 56th place for $123,699.)

As of 2009, her total live tournament winnings exceeded $3,600,000. Her 37 cashes at the WSOP account for $1,136,846 of those winnings.

On January 30, 2006, Duke became the first poker personality to appear on The Colbert Report.[citation needed] During the show, she talked about her book and what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated event. In 2006, The Game Show Network (GSN) premiered a television special titled Annie Duke Takes on the World, which features Duke playing against amateur poker players. Duke has also made appearances on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour playing Elimination Blackjack.

On December 1, 2006, Duke appeared as a member of the Mob on The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) program, 1 vs. 100. She correctly answered every question and was the only celebrity who wasn't eliminated. She returned for the next few weeks, answering her questions correctly. She reappeared on the Christmas Day episode on December 25, answering a total of 35 consecutive questions correctly during her time on 1 vs. 100, making her the longest running mob member in the history of the show to that point. Duke returned on February 9, 2007 under special "Last Man Standing" rules where the game continued until only one person remained. She survived to reach the final five of 100 contestants, before she, along with three of the other four mob members including Ken Jennings, were eliminated.

Annie Duke has appeared on NBC's Poker After Dark three times but has not won.

On March 24, 2008, Duke appeared on the NBC show Deal Or No Deal to support a contestant named Mary Beth Holtzheimer who, after taking a $341,000 deal from the bank with only two cases left, found her case #13 had the $1,000,000. Annie gave Mary Beth an offer earlier that included a dinner with herself, Mary Beth, and her fiance John Salmieri; private lessons; and an invitation to attend an All Ladies Poker league if the bank's offer was accepted, but it was not.

Along with Phil Hellmuth Jr., Duke is a coach on Fox Sports Network’s Best Damn Poker Show, which is sponsored by the poker site UltimateBet.

In 2009, she appeared on the Donald Trump reality television show, Celebrity Apprentice. Throughout the season, each celebrity raised money for a charity of his or her choice. Duke raised more money for her charity, Refugees International, than any other contestant. Of the field of 16 competitors, Duke survived to compete in the finale against her primary rival throughout the show, Joan Rivers. Duke's fund-raising donations were more than triple those of Rivers'. However, total donations were only one of five criteria adjudged in the final task, and Rivers was ranked superior in three out of the five, placing Duke in second place overall.


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