While Annie Duke may have been less than active on the poker tournament trail this year, it has been a tremendously busy one for her. She is the face of the ESPN Poker Club, touting the offerings of the sports network's web efforts concerning poker and has been a frequent contributor to Bluff magazine as well. Beyond that, there is plenty more that Annie has been busy with.
With the release of her book, "How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed And Won Millions At The World Series Of Poker", Annie opened the door for the world to see how her life is. The book is a tremendous tale, interchanging between her first World Series bracelet victory, her psychological torture of Phil Hellmuth when she captured the 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions (both in 2004) and the long personal journey that she has taken to get to where she is today. While it is not a strategy book per se, it does have some interesting glimpses into what it takes to be a top level professional in the game.
Where the book truly was remarkable was in her bluntly honest recollections of her life in a dysfunctional family and her problems with an anxiety disorder. The disorder made her late teens and early twenties a struggle for her as she jockeyed between trying to help herself and in dealing with the medications that were prescribed by her physicians. Her book was also starkly real in her discussion of the breakup of her marriage and how other players have treated her in the past. In all, the book is something that people can feel that they know the person that is Annie Duke a little better and realize the struggles she has overcome to reach where she is today.
That isn't enough for the already busy mother of four children! As I learned when I talked on the phone with Annie recently, there is much more to come from someone who is considered by many to be the best female player in poker.
PN: First off, congratulations on the book. I was really struck by the honesty that you put into it. Was that difficult?
AD: Thank you! It really wasn't that difficult for me to recollect everything and get it into the book. I'm a terrible liar, so I had to be honest about it! I have always been one of those "what you see is what you get" people, I don't put on airs or anything like that. I am tremendously proud of my accomplishments in poker, with my family and children and my life.
I guess I could have looked back at it and said, "Oh, woe is me!" but I refused to do that. Everyone has issues that they deal with in life and, by opening up and letting people know about my anxiety disorder, I certainly hope that I can help even one person by letting them know they aren't the only one who has gone through something like that.
PN: Do you still have any continuing problems with your anxiety disorder?
AD: Thankfully, no. When I was in college and through my twenties I did, but I haven't had a recurrence since I had my first child. I put a lot of effort into defeating my problems. I'm happy now and grateful for that, because those anxiety problems can be extremely oppressive.
PN: I did like in the book how you questioned that you weren't ready to exchange childhood for adulthood. Many would think playing poker didn't exactly move you in that direction.
AD: (Laughs) Yeah, you're probably right! What I tried to get across there was that I had a great childhood, even with the difficulties that I talked about when I was growing up. I went to college and was having the time of my life there, I was popular and having fun. Once that came to an end, I never thought of what I wanted to do after that.
I went to graduate school simply because it was a lack of knowing exactly what direction I wanted to go. That's when my anxiety problems kicked up and it continued on into having a fear of having children once I was married, things like that. I never really felt at home until I first sat down at the poker tables.
PN: One thing that I noticed in the book is the similarity of you and your mother. The only difference was you struck out and did your thing, where your mother didn't until later in life.
AD: It's scary, we're almost identical. We're both very creative, intelligent people. I have a little brighter outlook on life, but I think that difference was because of the times we lived. When she was brought up, in her time, things were much different than when I was raised. She really held back from what she wanted to do because she had children. I think that's where we took our differing paths.
PN: Some people have commented on how the book seems to be open-ended. Will there be a part two at some point?
AD: Well, there's always that possibility. I am sure that when it comes out in paperback, we might be adding an afterword that will carry on after the 2004 Tournament of Champions.
PN: Another business project you have out right now is your new DVD "How To Beat The Big Boys" from MastersofPoker.com. (Writer's note: Be looking for the review upcoming at PokerNews.). What can we expect there?
AD: The DVD is actually the first in a series of four DVDs. In January 2006, there will be another DVD that will be specifically for beginners, followed by an online poker DVD and a production for women who want to learn poker. The first one is an advanced strategy guide to Texas Hold 'Em.
I wanted to get this one out there first because there are many things on the market that are focused on starting in the game, but very few that look at the game from an advanced level. I was actually saying to myself, "My gosh, I've given away too much!," when I sat and watched the dailies that we did for it! But the more poker information that is out there is better for poker overall in my opinion, so I am proud of my work with the DVD collection and can't wait until they are all four released.
PN: What other business do you have going on?
AD: Wow, I have my program on the Game Show Network, we're doing the pilot for that and it's looking good. It's called "Annie Duke Takes On The World", where four people will take on each other with the winner squaring off against me heads up. If it's picked up, that will start up in March. It will be very funny and instructional too!
I'm also doing some things with Howard (Lederer, her brother). I'm a part of the "World Championship Poker 2 with Howard Lederer" video game and we're looking at doing something as well with cell phones. And I'll be helping Howard with our fantasy camp that starts in January. We're expecting 300 players to come to the camp and it will be a fantastic time. I always like working with my brother!
PN: With everything that's going on, is business overriding poker somewhat?
AD: Everything in my life is important to me. My children are the most important thing in my life. Beyond that, I have been playing poker for a long time. The business side of it adds to my life very much. Because of these responsibilities, however, I do have to let something go sometimes and that is competing in tournaments. With that said though, my life is very rewarding and I am very thankful for everything that I have gotten from the game.
PN: Are there some things on the business front that you won't do?
AD: I won't do anything that I don't believe in. I was offered a guest shot on "TILT" and I said no to that because I didn't agree with the portrayal of the people in the show and just the plot overall. For me to be a part of it, it has to have some credibility and I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning!
I want to thank Annie for sitting down to talk with me. We hopefully will see more of her in the tournament arena in the future, but until that time, be sure to pick up her book and have a slot on your bookcase as well for her four DVD set that will be completely released in 2006 . The first part of the DVD set, "How To Beat The Big Boys", is currently in the stores now and available at mastersofpoker.com as well. For everything that is on Annie's schedule, be sure to check out her website at annieduke.com.
Ed note: Annie is never too busy to play at Ultimate Bet