Poker’s most famous female player is Annie Duke and we know why

Annie Duke is probably the most famous female in the game today after her appearance on Celebrity Apprentice

In 50 years time when people look back at the players who helped to shape and promote the modern game, Annie Duke’s name will be at the top of the list. No other player – male or female – has been able to infiltrate poker into as much of the mainstream media as Duke. She has appeared on numerous NBC non-poker shows like Deal or No Deal and this year produced one of the greatest TV reality show rivalries ever, locking horns with comedian Joan Rivers on Celebrity Apprentice.

Duke is renowned for taking her philanthropist duties very seriously. She founded the Ante Up for Africa series of tournaments with Hollywood actor Don Cheadle and is a regular lobbyist in Washington, both in relation to the Darfur Crisis and the legalisation of poker in the US. As if this wasn’t enough, she is also a poker boot camp tutor and a recent inductee to The Feast – a prestigious speaking circuit in the US.

But none of this would have been possible if she had not made her name as a player as emphatically as she has over the past 15 years. Although Duke started off playing limit hold’em cash games, she discovered an instant taste for tournaments during her first WSOP in 1994. In back-to-back limit hold’em events she made it to a respectable 14th place and a final-table.

Miss Versatile

Over the next two years she ran rampant at the Series, cashing seven times, four of which were final tables. One of her most impressive traits is her ability to turn her hand to almost any variant of poker. Whether it be seven-card stud, hold’em or Omaha, she consistently makes the correct decisions.

In 1999, she came close to winning her first bracelet, finishing runner-up in a $5,000 limit hold’em tournament but it was a series of performances after the turn of the century which would cement her place in poker history. In 2000, she waded through a field of 512 entries to finish 10th at the main event final table – the second best main event performance by a woman in history. In 2003, she once again came close to winning a bracelet, beaten only by Layne Flack in a $1,500 limit hold’em event.

But any trace of heartache disappeared in 2004 when Duke completed an amazing double victory. First she won the $2,000 Omaha hi/lo split and a few months later she won the inaugural Tournament of Champions. The invitation-only event pitted ten of the best players in the world – including Phil Ivey, Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson – in a single table tournament. Duke defeated Phil Hellmuth in a tense heads-up match and instantly secured legendary status by winning the $2m, the one and only prize on offer.

With all her responsibilities, it’s little wonder that Duke’s participation in tournaments has slowed down but when she does play, it’s usually a head-turning display. At this year’s Series she final tabled the $10k Omaha hi/lo Championship, taking her total earnings to $3.7m. 

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