Most of the general public probably remembers Annie Duke from the Donald Trump-hosted Celebrity Apprentice reality TV program. She was the poker player who finished runner-up to the late Joan Rivers.
Those people might also remember how ugly things got between the two. Rivers compared Duke to a murderous Nazi dictator. Duke compared Rivers to a deadly disease. Neither celebrity’s image came out untarnished.
Of course, the poker community largely remembers Duke for a variety of different reasons. Mainly her role in a series of scandals and failed poker business ventures. Ones that left players out millions of dollars and Duke entering early retirement with a cushy bankroll.
Duke and Ultimate Bet
Duke was one of the faces of the online poker site Ultimate Bet. She was never implicated in the site’s super user cheating scandal. The one in which a group of Ultimate Bet insiders led by 1994 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Russ Hamilton gained access to the site’s back end. They were able to see other players hole cards and ultimately bilked them out of as much as $22 million.
However, Duke continued to take a paycheck and endorse the site. Even if it wasn’t directly involved in the scam, Ultimate Bet certainly turned a blind eye to the activity of members of its management team and consultants involved. Plus, it helped try to cover it up. Any endorsement of any of that is an affront to the poker community.
Duke and the Epic Poker League
Duke was also the Commissioner of the Epic Poker League. She cashed a fat check from this organization. All while it piled up millions in debt and ultimately filed for bankruptcy. In the end, Epic cancelled the final two tournaments of its first season. Of course, this included the League Championship $1 million freeroll promised to the top money winners. Duke still got hers though.
Of course, most members of the poker community are also keenly aware Duke is the sister of Full Tilt Poker founder and board member Howard Lederer. Full Tilt was booted out of the American market by the United States Department of Justice in April 2011.
Principles in the organization were charged with various money laundering and gambling law violations. Later that year, Lederer and other members of the Full Tilt Poker board were accused of defrauding poker players. Full Tilt was referred to as a Ponzi scheme. Apparently the company’s owners regularly raided player funds to pad their own pockets.
The DOJ accused Lederer of personally taking over $40 million in player funds for himself. In 2012, PokerStars bought out Fill Tilt Poker and settled the case with the DOJ. PokerStars was the one that paid back $150 million to players, not Full Tilt or its owners. Lederer also settled with the DOJ, admitting no wrongdoing and giving up assets worth a paltry $2.5 million.
Duke and the mainstream media
Duke has since left the poker world behind. However, she continues to trade in on the success she had as a player before the various scandals. Plus, the mainstream media continues to let her. In fact, they’ve show no interest in revealing the whole truth behind Duke’s involvement in poker.
Just this week, CNBC trotted her out as some kind of expert in decision making. She was referred to as a “world-renowned poker player and now a consultant and author.”
CNBC even went as far as to list highlights of her poker accomplishments. These included the 2010 made-for-TV NBC National Heads-Up Championship title, her 10-entry 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions win, and her 2004 WSOP $2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better bracelet.
It completely ignored the previously listed low-lights of Duke’s poker career. Much to the chagrin of the poker community, who took to Twitter to express outrage at the fact mainstream media organizations like CNBC are still making it seem like Duke somehow represents them.
Sigh.. I wish Dan and Cnbc had looked more into the background of a person who was heavily involved and endorsed Ultimate Bet and Epic poker (both failed businesses that cheated their customers). So many honorable poker players- no need to pick scammy Duke https://t.co/oKVmu2bexC
— Ari Engel (@AriEngelPoker) February 7, 2018
The entire thing was really just a plug for Duke’s latest book. The title of which is, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts. The title makes it sound like the book is about succeeding in business by treating decisions the same way a poker player does.
It’s an interesting concept. Maybe next time CNBC will introduce someone who truly represents the poker community to discuss it.
In the meantime, it’s hard not to think of that title as strangely apropos to this particular situation. CNBC is essentially asking readers to make a decision on buying a book without all the facts about its author. I think I know what most poker players will do.
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