May 11, 2022

Disgraced poker player becomes a ‘decision scientist’

Annie Duke: budding celebrity apprentice

It was a dumb decision on a TV show with an incredibly dumb premise: Donald Trump is a business genius, so whoever he thinks is most deserving must be most deserving.

…poker players are rubbish, honey! Waste!”

Thirteen years ago, I was watching the Season 2 finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice”, encouraging Annie Duke to triumph over Joan Rivers who had been classless, graceless and downright vicious to the poker community, with whom I felt growing affinity. During the show, the legendary comedian said that Duke was a deceitful and conniving operator, calling her “worse than Hitler” and later adding that “…poker players are garbage, honey! Waste!”

During the finale, the two contestants were tasked with hosting a VIP party and silent auction for their respective charities. They were also to help promote Kodak as an event sponsor. Duke went to the last board meeting confident that she had done enough to win. After all, she had raised a lot more money for charity both during the thirteen episodes and in the finale itself.

However, in the end, Donald Trump chose his old friend Rivers, awarding the “yuuuge” prize of $250,000 to his charity “God’s Love We Deliver”, rather than Duke’s charity “Refugees International”. . Viewers, myself included, were left in awe as we witnessed what could only be described as a “less than perfect board meeting”. Could it be that the benevolent and wise Trump, NBC’s modern-day King Solomon, succumbed to patronage?

With his reputation in tatters after committing such a blatant miscarriage of justice, The Donald would never again be handed the responsibility of a big decision. His stardom finally fell into oblivion as he ended his career in the showbiz doldrums…but what happened to Annie Duke?

Annie Duke: Ultimate Gambler

Well, the following year, Duke won the 2010 National Heads-Up Championship, yet another feather in the cap of a player who had a World Series of Poker bracelet and won the 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions. Everything would be downhill from there, although in December she parted ways with UltimateBet following a cheating scandal.

In a statement, she said: “Knowing what I know today, I would never have encouraged anyone to play on the UltimateBet site under this direction. actions, and I’m really sorry that I ever agreed to work with them.

his words were hollow comfort to players who had been scammed out of their funds

Her words were nothing but hollow comfort to players who had been scammed out of their funds and it was generally rumored that she knew about Russ Hamilton’s ‘god-mode’ scam.

Just four months later, UltimateBet was shut down as part of the US government’s “Black Friday” crackdown on the biggest online poker sites in the US, another blemish on the poker site with which Duke had worked in various roles over the previous decade. Not only that, but she also found herself at the center of another scandal.

Annie Duke: Founder of the Epic Poker League

In 2010, “sportification” was a buzzword in poker as the industry looked for ways to market the game, capitalizing on and building on a decade of poker boom. The Epic Poker League (EPL) was the brainchild of Duke, who envisioned a competition exclusively for the game’s elite players. populated only by the best pros. There had to be a sweetener and it came in the form of a $1,000,000 end-of-season freeroll, added by the sponsors.

The EPL was certainly an interesting idea, but once the US Department of Justice released its indictments against Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker/UltimateBet, the poker world fell to its knees. The chances of sponsorship quickly faded and after a few months of struggle, the EPL was forced to file for bankruptcy. Needless to say, players never got their $1,000,000 freeroll.

she has become persona non grata in poker circles

Many in the upper echelons of the poker community held Duke – co-founder, executive vice president and commissioner of the EPL – responsible for what happened and felt cheated by her. It didn’t help that his brother Howard Lederer was a senior official at Full Tilt, where it was discovered there was a significant shortfall after a slew of reckless business practices and the outrageous non-segregation of corporate funds. players. Duke’s already tarnished reputation was in tatters and she became persona non grata in poker circles.

In 2013, audio recordings released by Travis Makar proved that Duke was aware of “god-moding” at UltimateBet. She wouldn’t have used it, as Hamilton had, to “rip” players apart and only saw her opponent’s cards with a delay. If true, it was a lesser offense, but an unforgivable breach of trust nonetheless. In any case, by then she was far from the limelight of poker, having literally written a new chapter in her life.

Annie Duke: Author

In 2018 Duke wrote “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All Facts”. She followed that up in 2020 with “How to Decide: Simple Tools to Make Better Choices”.

These books worked well because Duke skillfully identified and exploited the overlap between poker and high performance in business. Great poker players are good at blocking out the unimportant and making probabilistic decisions based on incomplete information. They also possess a composure and lucidity under pressure that helps them execute well.

Many people have been captivated by Duke’s writings, including Josh Kopelman, who enthusiastically wrote, “Hearing famed retired poker player and expert decision-maker Annie Duke talk about concepts like ‘outcome’ and “why luck and skill are confused” really struck a chord. I immediately picked up a copy of his book “Thinking in Bets” and quickly skimmed through it. »

Others were less impressed and cringe that Duke is seen by many as a spokesperson for poker in the mainstream. In 2018, Danielle Anderson made her point clear:

As Ari Engel did:

Annie Duke: Decision Scientist

This week, Duke also announced his acceptance of a new role, one that takes his supposed credentials to an even more absurd place:

Once again, Josh Kopelman, now his “first-round” colleague, was generous in his praise. “She helped us create decision-making rubrics, build systems to reduce bias in our decision-making, and improve our data collection so we could do post-decision retrospective reviews,” he said. -he declares.

Personally, I would have relied on my apparent expertise in “decision science” and provided a quote that sounded less like word salad in business terms.

Unsurprisingly, Duke’s visibility is once again drawing the ire of the poker community, and rightly so. Jason Strasser was the first to pull the trigger, suggesting that Kopelman should have done a proper background check:

Isaac Haxton rightly satirized the gibberish idea of ​​a “decision scientist”:

“Reading Poker Tells” and “Verbal Poker Tells” author Zachary Elwood was quick to speak out.

Annie Duke: Leaving

These comments and this article may seem like a witch hunt to some, but the bottom line is that Duke has caused real harm to people through his various roles in the poker industry. It might have been ten years ago, but there’s no statute of limitations, especially if she directly benefits from her poker past.

As long as she sacrifices her poker career, the poker community will be there to tell people about her true legacy. As long as she claims to be a decision scientist, the poker community will be there to tell people about her history of poor decision making. Turning lemons into lemonade is one thing. Stealing lemons, using them to make lemon juice and selling it as lemonade is another.

On Wednesday, Duke tweeted the cover of his upcoming book, Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away.

It doesn’t look like she’s planning on doing that anytime soon.