Poker News

On Sunday night, poker pro and recent National Heads-Up Poker Championship winner Annie Duke appeared on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show. Poker News Daily sponsored the episode, which is now archived on the Chat Show’s website.

The lengthy interview covered quite a bit of ground and kicked off shortly after 5:00pm PT. Well over 400 viewers were tuned in for much of the audio and video production and a chat room was bustling with patrons of the show reacting to what was said. Actor Samm Levine and Jaime Fox were in studio adding their two cents to the show, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary next week.

Duke donned no gear during the episode and began by explaining that her nickname used to be “The Duchess,” a play on her last name. Her father was Jewish, highly competitive, and never let Duke beat him in any game. Duke told Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show viewers, “[Playing cards] was almost the only way we spent time together… We didn’t even play poker.” Instead, the family dealt games of gin, hearts, and spoons. The latter, a violent game, left Duke with scars that she still bears to this day. Duke began dealing cards at home before she knew how to write and consequently deals left-handed, but writes right-handed.

The discussion turned to the recent “cowboy mentality” of cash games. Duke explained why the paradigm shift occurred: “Particularly because of online poker, people are over-valuing implied odds. If you have a situation where both of you have lots of money in your stacks, that makes sense. What it’s translated to is, ‘I’m not going to fold because I can hit my hand.’ There has definitely been that attitude before, but it’s exploded now because of online poker.”

Since the modern poker boom began, some pros have managed to adjust well to the changing times, while others have fallen by the wayside. Duke commented, “We’ve seen this with poker since the boom. You’ve seen pros that have kept up and adjusted their game. There are pros that haven’t. It comes down to if you’re a good poker player. Good poker players adjust well to people around them.” Duke singled out recent National Heads-Up Poker Championship runner-up Erik Seidel as a player who has adjusted well.

Duke’s start in poker came after her brother, Full Tilt Poker front man Howard Lederer, started studying chess with a Grand Master in New York. He eventually became a Master before using cocaine and ultimately losing his college money playing poker. Homeless, Lederer slept in the back room of a poker club in exchange for cleaning it and running errands for players. After Lederer would amass tips, he’d sit down and play. Eventually, Lederer broke the game and won $100,000 by age 20. Three years later, he took home a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet.

Lederer flew his sister out to Las Vegas for the WSOP and the second time Duke made the trip, Lederer wrote down a few starting hands she could play on a napkin. Then, Duke headed to the Fremont and won $300. The rest, as they say, is history. On her competitive spirit that has blossomed throughout her life, Duke told Pollak, “It doesn’t matter what you’re playing for in poker, as long as you’re playing for something. If there’s nothing at stake whatsoever, it’s a bad poker game.”

In 2004, actor Ben Affleck won the California State Poker Championship for $356,000; the win came after Duke had tutored him for just nine months. The esteemed poker pro studied cognitive psychology, which she described as an organism’s interaction with the world. Her educational background has paid big dividends in poker: “Understanding how people make decisions is really what poker is. Also, you have to do a lot of stats and probability and that’s really important in poker. It was extremely helpful to me.”

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship will air on NBC next month and viewers of the annual program will be able to see Duke battle through players like Darvin Moon and Jerry Yang en route to victory. Duke explained her mentality at the tables against boisterous competition: “In general, you have an advantage over the people doing a lot of celebrating. Poker is a very intense game and I don’t think there should be any emotion until the last hand.”

Duke’s appearance is fully archived and even features a Larry King impression. Check out Duke on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show sponsored by Poker News Daily.

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