Sunday night marked the conclusion to the second season of NBC’s hit reality show Celebrity Apprentice. Falling to comedy icon Joan Rivers in the finale was none other than Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner and one of the top names in the industry. She sat down with Poker News Daily to discuss the result.

Duke raised over $730,000 for Refugees International, her chosen charity, including $460,000 that was generated during the final episode alone. She told Poker News Daily that she was taken aback by the outpouring of support: “I am really happy that I was able to raise so much awareness for Refugees International. They are an extremely small charity and do amazing work. The money that my friends helped raise allowed Refugees International to reach its goal for 2008. In the end, I feel like that made them a winner.” Duke’s Ante Up for Africa, a charity that she founded along with Norman Epstein and actor Don Cheadle, works hand in hand with Refugees International to bring awareness and funding to help the victims of the crisis in Darfur and elsewhere.

The Ultimate Bet pro has gone one step further and is now spearheading an effort to raise an additional $250,000 for Refugees International, the amount she would have earned for winning Celebrity Apprentice. Duke explained, “Everyone who feels like Refugees International should have gotten the $250,000 and poker players who deserve not to be called members of the Mafia should donate anything they can, even if it’s just $1.” Rivers’ charity, God’s Love We Deliver, earned over $500,000 from the Celebrity Apprentice; Refugees International took in $730,000.

The reality series’ finale was promoted as an epic showdown between hated archrivals. Duke and Rivers had battled it out over the course of the 11 week season, with the poker pro holding an edge in total victories (7-6), record as a Project Manager (2-0 to 1-1), money raised, and even defeated Rivers heads-up in a fundraising challenge. This time around, out of five criteria judged during the final task, Rivers won three, propelling her to the win. Duke talked about her mood on Sunday night after show host Donald Trump announced his decision: “Obviously, I was disappointed, but I can’t say the result was unexpected. Whichever way the result went, I played the game well and represented poker players well. I can walk away with my head held high. I was really proud of the way I played the game. I went into Celebrity Apprentice saying that I didn’t want to trash talk anyone, didn’t want to lie to anyone, and didn’t want to be underhanded.”

Celebrity Apprentice Season 1 winner Piers Morgan and runner up Trace Adkins both recommended that Trump hire Rivers. In the end, the cast commended Rivers’ energy at the age of 75. Duke explained, “Trump decided who should be the Celebrity Apprentice on different criteria and I guess I misunderstood what the task was being judged on. It was his decision and he’s the one who gets to decide.”

Several in the poker industry, including Team PokerStars Pro staple Daniel Negreanu, questioned why Duke selected Playboy Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick to be on her team with her first pick, rather than wait in a similar strategy to Rivers. Duke explained, “If Melissa was on my team, she probably wouldn’t work. I’d get criticized if I lost because she didn’t work out. I felt like I only had five people to choose from and knew that Brande could bring in $90,000.” At the end of the day, Team Duke raised $460,000 from the silent auction, whereas Team Rivers mustered just $150,000.

Duke claims that she was not told about the process of picking teammates before it occurred, although Melissa Rivers explained to NBC cameras that she had discussed strategy with her mom beforehand. Consequently, the elder Rivers did not select her daughter until her last pick, knowing that Duke would not draft her. The WSOP bracelet winner observed, “It was very interesting that they were bragging about discussing it in advance. We weren’t told, but they were and got to discuss strategy. The fact that they had discussed strategy beforehand shows you why Melissa shouldn’t have been among the people able to be picked. I was disappointed that ‘Team Rivers’ carried over into the finals.” The heated environment led to Duke and Rivers occupying separate rooms to watch the finale.

Others have questioned Duke for supporting a charity that focuses on those in need outside of the United States. Refugees International works with not only those in Africa, but also around the world. In fact, during a short vignette that aired during the Celebrity Apprentice finale, a beneficiary from Iraq was interviewed. Duke responded to critics: “I wish that people would understand that political borders are artificial. It’s upsetting to say that political boundaries are somehow important to the human condition. Americans have no idea what it’s like to have your government try to kill you. We take for granted the protection of our government.”

With Celebrity Apprentice Season 3 slated to air in the beginning of 2010, speculation has already begun as to who will comprise its cast. When asked if Duke would consider a return to next season’s edition, she responded, “I would say that I’m past that.” However, Negreanu expressed interest in a recent Full Contact Poker blog in joining the show, while Phil Hellmuth told Poker News Daily that he would also consider being on it. Duke remarked, “I think it would be great if another poker player went on there. The poker community is so incredibly generous.”

Finally, last Friday night, Duke had dinner with the group of men she became friendly with during the Loews Hotel challenge this season. Appropriately, the group dined at a restaurant called Room Service, which is located on East 21st Street in New York City. Duke recalled, “My boyfriend Joe said to me, ‘That’s really funny. They picked a restaurant called Room Service.’ I didn’t understand, so Joe had to point out to me that it was funny.” Duke excelled in providing room service during the episode, leading to a lifelong friendship.

Rivers, meanwhile, told Poker News Daily that winning the Celebrity Apprentice was “like picking up your poker hand and finding out you’ve got a royal flush — but in my case, its a hot flush.”

A special thank you from all of us here at Poker News Daily to Annie Duke for taking time out of her week during Celebrity Apprentice to break down each episode. We look forward to reporting on her at the 2009 WSOP.


  1. GG says:

    Crying about the unfairness of not knowing about team selection simply means Duke did not do her homework-NOT that Rivers or Trump did something unfair. All she had to do was see last season or ask about it. The information was there if she wanted to find it.
    Annie has much to be proud about how she played but not how she conducted herself personally. Annie suffers from “Clint-itis,” just like clint, annie outwardly loves herself way too much. She is the total narcisisst. Everything was I did, I thought, I sent, I made…I I I I like she had no other memebers on her team. This reflects a deep seated sense of insecurity which is sad for someone who is actually smart & accomplished.

  2. Riley says:

    The show wasn’t about who could be the friendliest GG. It was about competition and most importantly raising money for charity. All you need to do is watch last season or ask about it. However, it’s absurd for you to call out Annie on her alleged selfish behavior while completely overlooking all the horrible things Joan/Melissa said and did. Their behavior was childish and repulsive. Children scream, yell, interrupt, throw tantrums, and quit. Women talk which Annie tried to do even though the other two mutts kept barking every time she had a valid point.

    The final challenge alone speaks volumes about Joan’s character. First of all the designer quit and you can come up with all the excuses in the world as to why he did it but the truth is it happened. His name is David Tutera and since Sunday he has done numerous interviews openly discussing what a horrible person Joan is. (google his name if you don’t believe me) Second, the final challenge took place in New York, talk about home court advantage. Joan Rivers was born in Brooklyn which I’m sure you can look up on the stone tablets they used for record keeping during that time. The point is that she should have been able to get a million celebrities from New York to show up and/or donate money to her event. Instead, she gets a half a dozen drag queens, seven if you include Kathy Griffin – which you should, and raises a $100,000. Clearly showing that nobody likes this old miserable haggard. I mean could you even imagine how much money Annie Duke could have brought in had the final event taken place in Vegas?

    Last, the five criteria thing is the biggest joke of all times. Trump had to implement it this season just to give Joan a fighting chance. Celebrity?!? Could you think of a more subjective item to judge somebody on? Donald clearly has very little grasp on what being a celebrity is as evident by this season’s cast. Khloe Kardashian? The deal or no deal girl? And in all fairness even Annie probably shouldn’t have made the cut. However, trying to quantify “celebrity” is laughable. He should have made being Jewish one because that at least is identifiable while still giving Joan an unfair advantage. I would honestly be less upset with that than giving a point based on celebrity power. Isn’t the underlying point of having celebrities there to bring in money anyway? What good is it to have a performance by U2 if it brings in no money? So stupid.

    Alright I need to leave because I have put way too much time and effort into a stupid television show. It just really bothers me when somebody is so blatantly ripped off.

  3. Donald Trump Sucks says:

    Trump dislikes anyone talking bad about him, so he chose Joan Rivers. For God’s sake, Joan even recently called Tom Hanks a Nazi (Google the words Joan Rivers, Nazi, and Tom Hanks to confirm this). ————————————————————————— Joan Rivers is basically one nasty woman. I got sucked into this show late in the season, but never again. Donald Trump, you really are a ROYAL jackass!!!

  4. scottyclark says:

    For the record, I was rooting for Annie in the finale. I considered her the favorite and was interested in seeing how gracious she could be in victory. The interview above reaffirms my faith she would have been as humble in victory, as she has been in defeat.

    During the final boardroom scene, the tide seemed to turn when Annie stated party planner David Tutera QUIT due to Joan Rivers. Joan’s behavior was to attack Annie as a liar. As a viewer, I was left wondering what actually transpired with the planner quitting. I wondered how The Donald could allow A) Joan to attack Annie as a liar AND B) not reveal the truth of the matter for viewers.

    Here is a link to Tutera’s opinion of Rivers quoted from an interview with Barbara Walters on her Sirius radio show. In the interview Tutera refers to Rivers as ‘a monster’. Annie, on the other hand, has much to be proud of in defeat. She had a great run…'Celeb+Apprentice'%3A+Bad+blood+lingers

  5. old grey mare says:

    First of all Donald is a lowlife who happens to have money, he was bragging it’s been picked up for season 9 (because the ratings on this series). Well I too am never watching it again, as he cheated! We all know reality is manipulated, but he changed the rules at the finale! First of all Joan is a FRIEND of his and a fellow New Yorker, as her charity was too. Then in past seasons anyone who ever suggested they were quitting or leaving, were immediately fired, she left with Melissa (which she said she was going to do the week before if Melissa was fired, doesn’t Donald watch or get a report from his spies?). When she returned not a word was mentioned on why she was back. He always gave her a pass with ‘I admire that’, when she wouldn’t state who she would fire in the board rooms past. Melissa was the worse loser of any past contestant, with her anger rant and name calling, which she learned from her foul mouth mother. On the final task Melissa knew her mother would be able to pick helpers and that she would be one of them, so they stratisized ahead of time, and she bragged about it to the cameras. Annie did not have that knowledge, but she did the right thing because if she didn’t select Brandi, Joan might of selected her to keep her away from Annie, and then not use her at all. Donald knew that Annie would win if it went by money earned, she was so good at it, so he made sure Joan won by changing the criteria to include 3 of Joan’s strengths. Remember Piers told them a few weeks earlier it’s all about the money (earned for charity), so he was not aware of a rule change at that time, I am sure it came as a suprise to him too. Donald would not let Annie explain about the planner problem, kept saying you have no proof (and strange it’s not on camera either, I smell a rat). I do not think Joan knew by her planner quitting would impact Annie, but she and Donald were prepared to shoot it down. The best one was Joan saying to Annie you got your own planner too! Yeah after she was blindsighted by the mes s Joan created, plus the show errored by hiring both planners from the same company. It seemed Joan was very subdued when they came back from break, seemed like she knew she would win. Donald asked only a select few who should win, Oh surprise they ALL said Joan! Then the ending of all previous shows ends with “Your Hired”…no instead he says ‘Annie, do you know what I am going to say?’ She says no, then he says “Your Fired”, so again a set-up. Seems his kids favored Annie to win. If it was truly going to be someone hired, like the original ones, you know it would NOT be mean Joan! Her daughter also should of not been on this season, a conflict of interest, what if they had to battle each other in the final, now that would of been a train wreck. Everyone should email NBC not to do anymore of these shows, hit it where it hurts, in his wallet! and ego!

  6. cbh says:

    Totally agree with above. The Donald was biased on this one. He has said in the past, “Life isn’t fair”. This season proved he’s right about that.

  7. ew345t says:

    Joan is an old friend of Trump’s, Joan is on board of her charity, vice-chair is Blaine Trump.
    Mark Burnett, producer of Celebrity Apprentice, and Joan Rivers had a deal for a new show signed & announced in Nov 2008.
    Khloe Kardashian was fired, because Trump said he found out she got charged w DUI half a year ago…. right, Dennis was drunk on most of the episodes, can anyone really think he never got DUI ….. of course he did, at least twice + once caught intoxicated driving a high-powered boat + he was on 3 year probation because of domestic violence during the show……

  8. rip off says:

    I’ve watched a lot of the seasons of the apprentice but this season was a complete rip off Annie should have won ,in a total business view , which in the other seasons would have happened. From the start they keep kissing Joan’s ass (we’ll never know why) and in the end if you watch carefully the CMO of Kodak said that he liked Annie’s party better and if u count correctly she would have had 4 of the criteria’s but if the apprentice keeps going like this and makes it a political crap show in steed of a business which it was it will stop airing.
    And for the record Jesse was the smart player because he know it didn’t matter how much money he made in the end he would have losed.

  9. nicole says:

    I agree to crizzy.. the party planner is a craft they dont listen to what the customer wants.. so that is not her fault..they not supposed to decide on just only what they want it should be trying their best to give the best they can do to the customer. that is nothing to do with annie because they were both doesn’t have a party planner.. so this is a chance to know who is the real good in business in times of problem how they can fixed it..

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.