Annie Duke

Poker Source: What is your favorite childhood memory?

Annie Duke: When I was four years old, we moved to Philadelphia for a year because my dad was on sabbatical, he was teaching at an inner city high school. Every weekend, he used to take us to a really cool place, like the Philadelphia Zoo or whatever, and one of my favorite places was the Franklin Museum, which is like a science museum. They had a model of a heart, which, as an adult I went back and it’s kind of cheesy, but you would walk through it and you’d hear the heart beating and everything. It’s this huge model of a heart that you could walk all the way through so you could see how the heart worked. And that’s probably my favorite childhood memory, being taken there and walking in and seeing the pendulum that moved with the earth moving…and going and walking through the heart.

PS: How has playing poker changed your life?

Annie Duke: [Laughs] That’s such a broad question! Obviously, financially, it’s changed my life. I mean, I went from having no money to my name to doing pretty well. But, I would say…I would say that mostly the way that poker has really changed my life is to give me an understanding of where you’re supposed to place competitiveness because I grew up in a really competitive family and that translated to basically every aspect of my life. I was extremely competitive in all aspects of my life.

And funnily enough, as competitive as poker requires you to be, it also requires you to let things go and to understand that it’s not about winning every single hand. It’s about winning in the long run and making good decisions for the long run, and so you can’t allow yourself to get really upset by one bad thing happening to you or you won’t be a good player. That was a huge lesson for me; it allowed me to be not very competitive in my personal life, which I used to be, and it allowed me to really have patience with bad things happening to me. To understand that you’re allowed to give up, you don’t have to win every single argument that you have in your life, you’re allowed to just lose some because you pick the issues that really matter to you. Everything’s about having a good life in the long run.

And that’s really from poker because when I first started playing poker, I used to get very upset when I would lose. You just can’t live your life that way – you’ll give yourself an ulcer and you’ll also be on tilt when you play. You just kind of have to learn that it’s ok to let things go and it’s ok not to win every single time because that’s really not the point. The point is to have the best long term results. That really allowed me to conduct my life in a much happier way.

PS: What has been your biggest extravagance since turning pro?

Annie Duke: You know what? It’s a funny thing. I care so very little about money. Poker has never been about money for me. I mean, I live in a nice house, and because it’s in L.A., it was obviously expensive, but I wasn’t looking for the most extravagant house. It’s a pretty modest house, as far as that goes. I drive a Prius. I just don’t have really expensive things in my house.

The thing that being pro has afforded me is not really worrying too much if I want to buy…like a pair of shoes, or if I want to buy a nice pair of jeans or something like that. I just don’t buy a lot of expensive stuff. I don’t have a fancy car, I don’t have a super fancy house…it’s not really the value system that I have.

PS: If you weren’t a poker player, how would you be earning a living?

Annie Duke: Oh, jeez, I have no idea. Luckily, I’ve never had to think about it [laughs]! [Still laughing] I mean, seriously. I seriously have no idea. I’ve never had to really do anything else.

PS: What is the worst part of being recognized?

Annie Duke: You know, I don’t really think that there is [a worst part]. I mean, I think that, on balance, there’s so much upside to being recognized. Look, I couldn’t sell my DVD’s, I couldn’t sell my book, I wouldn’t have a TV deal, I wouldn’t have those things if I weren’t recognized. One of the things, I think, for people who have been doing this for a really long time is that we know what it was like back in the day when, not only were you not recognized, but people basically grouped you in with prostitutes and drug dealers. So, the fact that anybody thinks that what I do is cool is pretty awesome.

So, I don’t really mind it. The only thing that bothers me is when people come up to me when I’m on the phone because if I’m in the phone at a tournament, then I’m generally talking to my children. Being interrupted when I’m talking to my children is a little bit annoying. Other than that, there’s really nothing bad about it.

PS: What was the lowest point and highest point in your poker career?

Annie Duke: Well, my low point would definitely be right at the end of my fourth pregnancy and right after I had my baby. I was doing poorly at poker, very much so because I was very tired. I had three kids and I was seven, eight months pregnant, or had a newborn right in that area and so I was exhausted and obviously pretty stressed out. That was a lot of work. I really shouldn’t have been playing poker during that time – that was not smart. But, you know, poker players don’t always make the best decisions and I didn’t want to give up what I loved doing. It was a very financially difficult time for me and then, of course, I had the online attacks…at the exact same time. That was a period of time where I actually quit for three months and decided I wasn’t going to play poker anymore. Obviously, I came back to it [chuckles]. I came back to my senses.

[My highest point would be] winning my World Series of Poker bracelet.

PS: With such a big family, have you been playing more and more online?

Annie Duke: I play a lot online. Most of the poker playing I do is online now.

PS: Where is your favorite place to hang out when you’re not playing poker?

Annie Duke: At home, for sure. You know, I love movies. I go to a ton of movies and I really love them. That’s probably the thing that I do the most when I’m going out and having fun.

PS: What is your most significant or proudest non-poker accomplishment?

Annie Duke: That’s a really easy one. It’s seeing how my kids have turned out. I have four children who are all really funny, they all have a great sense of humor, they are all really smart, and my proudest thing is that they are all really loving and respectful. It’s like when friends of mine come into the house, they [the kids] are immediately sitting in their laps, hugging them…they’re just very, very loving children and they’re really respectful and polite children, while still maintaining their spirit. They have these great spirits. They’re just so hilarious. All of them are so hilarious and also different.

Knowing that I’m raising four really happy, well-adjusted children is incredible. I would give everything up just to know that I could accomplish that.

PS: Your recent book, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions, was much different than a typical poker pro’s book. You were very candid with the details of your life. What motivated you to write a book like this, part autobiography/part poker strategy?

Annie Duke: I think that when somebody is successful at what they do, I think a lot of people think that their lives are very different or very easy. I’m not saying that my life isn’t relatively easy now. It is. But, it’s not like I just magically got to the place that I was.

You know, I think that, particularly given what happened to me, I just wanted to tell people a story about someone who had a lot of really hard battles to wage. My childhood, in a lot of ways, was extremely unhappy, and then, by the time I was nineteen years old, I wanted to kill myself. Now, as a forty year old, I’m very happy and I don’t have any moments of depression. But that didn’t happen magically. Through my twenties, I had horrible bouts of it and had to really work hard to get where I am now, in terms of the way that I view life and what you’re supposed to be accomplishing in life and what really brings you happiness and those kinds of things.

So, I wanted to kind of tell this story about how I got into poker and what poker did for my life…Whether you play poker or not, to let people know that nothing is the end of the world and you can work through anything that happens to you.

PS: What is it like for you and your brother [Howard Lederer] being with rival online poker sites?

Annie Duke: You know, I’ve always looked at it as there’s so much room in the industry and having us both succeed is great. If Ultimate Bet [Annie’s site] does better than Full Tilt [Howard’s site], or Full Tilt does better than Ultimate Bet, it doesn’t matter. Both of us will make a lot of money doing it and have a lot of satisfaction from building great sites.

PS: This summer, your sitcom, “All-In,” was not picked up after the pilot. It sounded very promising – what were the reasons behind it not continuing? When is your new show on the Game Show Network scheduled to air?

Annie Duke: “All-In” wasn’t picked up because it just didn’t test well. One out of every ten or something pilots is picked up, so I wasn’t surprised. I was happy to get something so that they’d even film the pilot, which was extremely difficult to do.

We just did the two pilots for “Annie Duke Takes on the World,” [her new show on the Game Show Network] and it looks good. It looks like they’re probably going to pick them up. We’re waiting to hear in January, for thirteen episodes. That’s obviously very different from a sitcom; this is basically a game show.

PS: Who would play YOU in The Annie Duke Story?

Annie Duke: [Laughing] You know, I have no idea. I haven’t really thought about it. It was weird having someone play you in the first place [Janeane Garofalo in “All-In”], so as long as it wasn’t somebody who I didn’t like their acting, that would be ok. People are going to [have] a different take on it. As long as it’s someone who’s acting I respect, that would be fine.

PS: What is your least favorite interview question?

Annie Duke: Hmm…my least favorite interview question I think would be, it’s the same question every time, “What’s it like being a woman in a man’s world?” I hate answering that.

I just hate answering that question because it’s like, poker is this great thing where women and men can compete together, so I hated being separated out. I don’t like that. At same time, I understand that I wouldn’t have the notoriety I have if I weren’t a woman. Despite having won the Tournament of Champions, there are a lot of men who have better results than I do. I get that it gives me a leg up, it’s just a question where I’m like, “Uh…,” you know, let me answer this one again.

The book discussed in this interview, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions, was published in September 2005 and is available on Annie Duke also has a series of DVD’s: Annie Duke's Advanced Texas Hold 'Em Secrets - How to Beat the Big Boys (October 25, 2005), Masters of Poker: Annie Duke's Beginner's Guide to Texas Hold'em (January 3, 2006), and Masters of Poker: Annie Duke's Girl's Guide to Texas Hold'em (January 3, 2006). Masters of Poker: Annie Duke's Conquering Online Poker will be released in February 2006.