In the musical "Annie Get Your Gun", the heroine is a fast talking, fast shooting manly type who challenges the menfolk at every point in the Wild West. She becomes the toast of the world through her exploits in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. This musical could very well be the story of the life of Annie Duke.
While VERY far from manly, Annie has used her brains, her skills at the poker table and, yes, her femininity to shoot down the male gender on the felt. She has no problem charging into the battle and, in doing so, Annie has become one of the preeminent poker players in the world, gender notwithstanding. 2004 was a huge year for her, as she captured her first World Series of Poker bracelet at the Omaha eight or better (8/b) event. In addition, she pulled down first at the Bellagio prior to the World Series in Limit and, oh yeah, there was that tiny win over nine of the greatest poker players in the world to take home $2 million at the WSOP Tournament of Champions!
While she has shown her mastery of our great game, Annie has also never let her responsibilities to her children falter. She continues to give her focus to them while maintaining her status in the world of poker. I had the chance to speak with Annie recently and get her views on the game and how she gets away from it all.
PN: Your Tournament of Champions victory surprised many. How confident were you facing the other players at that table in that event?
AD: I wasn't confident because these were the best players in world. My goal was just to make no huge mistakes!
PN: You achieved one of your dreams when you picked up your WSOP bracelet in 2004. How driven are you to pick up more of them?
AD: It's the thing most on my mind right now because there are a lot of people who have one bracelet and now I want to be a double bracelet winner.
PN: What are the major differences between cash games and tournaments? How do you attack them differently?
AD: Basically in cash games, you're not playing on a finite chip stack. They have an actual face value to them. In a tournament, there is an implied value to them. Those factors change the math and the psychology. Tournament play is much more aggressive and the aggressiveness is rewarded. In a cash game, you need to have fewer bluffs and you don't "gamble" nearly as much.
PN: What is your normal strategy for a tournament? Do you change for each tournament or do you tend to stay with the same game?
AD: It completely depends on the game structure, the people at the table, how long the levels go, things along that line. Poker is a game of math and psychology. Every time you change one of those factors, you have to adjust your game accordingly.
PN: You have been very open about how much your brother has helped you. Do you still exchange ideas with Howard (Lederer, her brother)? Are there things you would like to take from his game and adapt to yours?
AD: Yes, my brother is a great player and his insights are helpful. We have gotten to a point in our individual games, though, where the specific things he does are not going to work for me because stylistically we play differently. It doesn't mean that learning and understanding his game and strategies aren't important. It helps my game even if the execution is different.
PN: How difficult is it to play against your brother in a big tournament?
AD: Generally not that difficult. I depersonalize everyone at the table. I'm not playing against my "brother" per se, I'm playing against another opponent at the table. It wasn't even difficult at the WSOP Tournament of Champions. When I play poker, I play to win and everyone is an opponent. It was just difficult AFTER the fact...after I knocked him out, he was no longer an opponent and it difficult to see him go.
PN: There has been a tremendous glut of tournaments to start 2005. How do you, as a mother, balance out the play in the tournaments with your commitment to your children?
AD: I play half as many tournaments as the other players so I can balance my life.
PN: With the WPT and the WSOP Circuit having tournaments nearly back to back, how does a professional player stay at their "A" game for such a long period?
AD: When you play a tournament, obviously, you have to be focused. I don't know how other players keep their focus if they play every tournament. You just can't expect that sort of focus out of someone every day. I choose not to play every tournament so that when I do play, I am at my very best and also so that I can balance my family life and the other business I do.
PN: It seems that tournaments have differing structures as to the blinds, lengths of levels, etc. Would you like to see a standard set for all tournaments? Would this allow players to be able to set better strategies for playing tournaments?
AD: Yes, it could be created by my brother or, at least, a players association that includes my brother.
PN: How important to you is it to win a WPT title? Since you have the WSOP bracelet, it is the one thing that isn't on your resume.
AD: Not that important. The WSOP was my dream and my dream again. I think most players consider it the most important tournament. I would love to win a WPT title, but there are so many people entering now, plus it is "no limit," which hasn't been my best game.
PN: You have played in the WPT's Ladies' Night tournament. What is your view on "women only" tournaments?
AD: That particular tournament with the WPT was a freeroll, so I did not have a buy in, which made my decision to play different. I think "women only" tournaments are a great introduction into poker for women, since sitting at a table full of experienced men can be intimidating. But do I think there should be a 'ladies only' World Championship?' Absolutely not! Segregation of women in that regard would be chauvinistic and insulting because it is a game of the mind and to say the only way a woman can win is against other women is as we all know completely not true.
PN: UltimateBet is your online home. What drew you to UltimateBet and how often do you try to play there?
AD: I play every day. What drew me to UB was the people who were involved there. They have become dear friends over the years. I have great respect and loyalty to them. They have wonderful integrity and genius. And their software is incredible.
PN: What are the major differences between Omaha and Texas Hold 'Em? Are the strategies similar or does a player have to take a different approach to each game?
AD: In Omaha 8 or better, sometimes you only get half the pot so it changes your strategy.
PN: Do you consider yourself an "all-around" player or do you strictly stick with Omaha and Texas Hold 'Em?
AD: Yes, I consider myself an all-around player definitely. I think it is important that all poker players strive to be all-around players because your skill at each game improves your skill at every other game.
PN: Can we expect to see a book or DVD release from you? You have some excellent Omaha strategy articles on your website.
AD: Yes, I have an instructional DVD coming out next month and my autobiography will be coming out in September.
PN: You are one of the premiere women players in the game. What other women players are "movers" along with you? Which other players do you respect the most?
AD: Of the women, Jennifer Harman, Kathy Liebert, Kristy Gazes, Clonie Gowen and Mimi Tran are all excellent players. My brother, of course, is someone I highly respect and, along with him, Eric Seidel.
PN: What suggestions would you give a player who thinks they are ready to move up to the "big time"?
AD: Make sure you have a back-up career. Get an education. If you really want it and you can do it financially, it is one of the greatest jobs on earth!
PN: What would you like to do to ensure that the current poker boom continues?
AD: I would like to see a league or organization be formed, like the PGA, with one watchable format. With all the proliferation of poker, there is a lot of low quality, bad poker being done on television and it hurts the game.
PN: Charity has become a big part of the poker world. What charitable causes do you support?
AD: I donate poker nights, either lessons or tournaments, to school systems. In essence, the schools auction off a 'night with Annie Duke'! I am also involved with the Chris Dudley Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.
PN: How important is it to have a "release" from the stresses of poker? What do you do to get away from the game?
AD: It is very important to have a release from the stress of any job...poker is no different. I do the normal things: I hang out with my kids, do Pilates, see my friends...the little things in life that make it great.
PN: What does your schedule look like for the rest of 2005?
AD: (Laughs out loud) You'll have to ask my assistant! I can't keep track anymore!
PN: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
AD: Oh, I can't look that far aheadalive and well! I can see myself in five minutes, though...in the shower! (Laughs again)
PN: Thank you very much, Annie!
AD: Thank you too!
I would like to thank Annie and her business manager, Kimberly Quackenbush, for all their efforts and time for this interview. If Omaha is your game, you should definitely check out Annie's excellent and insightful strategy articles on her newly revised website, www.annieduke.com. For the opportunity to play against Annie (and more information on the Annie Duke Freeroll), she has her own table that is set up at our UltimateBet review.
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