Wired recently enlisted the help of a poker pro to try to make sense of the Donald Trump campaign. Wired chose one of the biggest names in poker… in 2005… Annie Duke.
On the one hand, it makes sense when you consider Duke was a runner-up on the 2009 season of Celebrity Apprentice, but there is still a certain level of awareness lacking in choosing Duke to speak for poker players on anything.
Duke’s reputation is among the worst in poker, and she’s been MIA from poker rooms for quite a while.
Duke is at best an erstwhile poker pro, considering she hasn’t been spotted at the felt in half a decade, and hasn’t recorded a single tournament cash since December 2011. It’s safe to say, Duke has moved on from the game (or been run out of it, depending on who you ask).
Duke is not quite a persona non gratis in the poker world (like her brother Howard Lederer), but she’s awfully close.
To put it mildly, Wired’s decision to use Duke as their poker expert (and the decision to refer to Duke as a poker pro) isn’t sitting well within the poker community.
.@PokerNews LOL Annie duke a poker pro??? You guys realize it's not 2005 any more ?
Ask her when the 1 mill $ epic poker Freeroll is…
— Jason Mercier (@JasonMercier) August 5, 2016
— Paul Soucy (@Wptseuss) August 5, 2016
In Wired’s defense, when I looked for links to include in this article I had a hard time finding information (and I knew what to look for), so it’s easy to see why they would choose her.
New career can’t whitewash her past
Duke now spends most of her time working as a self described “Professional Speaker and Decision Strategist,” relying on the notoriety she gained from poker a decade ago, and sporadically being called on to opine about this or that (as was the case with Wired) from a poker point of view.
It’s an interesting career change for Duke, who was one of the more successful female players in the immediate run up to the poker boom; something she managed to leverage to its fullest and essentially become the face of women’s poker when the poker boom hit, and one of the most recognizable names in the game.
But her run as a marketable poker player didn’t last, as scandals and controversies dogged her at every turn.
When Celebrity Apprentice needed a poker player in 2009, they chose Duke – and her personality and behavior on the show did not sit well with Joan Rivers, who famously compared Duke to “Hitler” on an episode of the show, or Joan’s daughter Melissa.
But Trump seemed to like her, and Duke made it to the finals before losing to Rivers in the shows finale.
The Daniel Negreanu feud
Basically, despite her successes on the felt, and her ability to market herself, Duke has always been one of the more disliked players in poker, and even James McManus noted her tactless behaviors in his book, Positively Fifth Street, where he basically confirms Negreanu’s views of Duke, including her penchant to bend the rules – McManus recounts an incident in a satellite tournament where Duke looked at a player’s mucked cards without permission.
By themselves, even the pseudo angle-shots, breaches of poker etiquette, and poor manners wouldn’t amount to a death sentence for a poker player – it takes an awful lot for that to happen.
But Duke’s current standing has less to do with how she acts on the felt, and everything to do with what she’s done when she’s been on the other side of the felt.
Scandal #1: Ultimate Bet
Duke’s first real sin was sticking with the online poker site Ultimate Bet after an internal cheating scandal was exposed. Duke’s knowledge of what was going on is unknown, but her unwillingness to abandon ship after the fact created a lot of animosity.
And even more questions were raised when the Travis Makar secret tapes were released and it was revealed that not only did Duke know about “god-mode” (the software program that allowed Ultimate Bet insiders to see their opponent’s hole cards) but she had actually trialed a version of it that was on a delay.
It should also be noted that Duke used this delay when she commentated poker tournaments for Ultimate Bet, her boyfriend at the time, Joe Reitman, won one of those tournaments. This tournament, and how deep Duke’s involvement ran, has been a hotly debated topic for many years.
Scandal #2: Epic Poker League
Duke’s second sin, which has basically led to her banishment, was her involvement in the short-lived Epic Poker League. Duke was a driving force behind the league, which made many promises it didn’t honor, and along with Jeffrey Pollack, Duke has borne the brunt of the blame.
Duke was busy promoting the league before it launched, and in at least one podcast interview she noted that the league had a long-term outlook (with a couple years worth of money), and wouldn’t fail in its first year. It did. And when people started worrying about the league’s solvency during its first season she doubled down with misleading comments about the league’s financial health.
Here’s the full story of the Epic Poker League and the leaderships unethical practices by Matt Kaufman.