My favorite part about watching “The Celebrity Apprentice” this season was to watch how Annie Duke played the game. It was obvious that she was a poker player (and no, not because she was “two-faced” or “conniving”) because she was the only one who seemed to have any sort of plan. The only one who knew how to actually play the game. As the show went on, I realized many strategies Duke used on the show could also apply to poker (it did help that Duke made the comparisons herself at times). What follows are four poker lessons I learned from watching Annie Duke.

Have a Purpose

The cupcake selling task was the first one of the season.  Right off the bat, Annie Duke made her presence felt, both running the show in the kitchen and raising a lot of money.  I’ll let her explain the rest:

“I wanted to get on the show and make sure that Trump knew me. The bigger the celebrity, the more you are in his eyes. I’m not a big mainstream celebrity, so I needed to make noise right away.”

“It’s just like poker. You don’t raise because you want to raise. There has to be a reason for what you’re doing. I needed to get noticed, but also needed to do it with a purpose. In that sense, I’m playing a game.”

That isn’t to say that every decision in a poker game can only be made for one reason. After all, a raise can be made to make everyone fold, to bolster the pot, to narrow the field, and more. But you need to pick a reason for the raise in order to execute it properly.

Know Your Competition

Several episodes in, Duke had yet to be Project Manager, despite becoming the most controlling player on her team. In an interview on this site, she was asked about eventually taking the head position for a task.

“I really like being Project Manager to knowing your table in poker. They are very similar conceptually. When you first sit down in a table, you’re not looking to get involved in a huge decision. You try to avoid big decisions early on because those are where you can make mistakes. The more information you have about your opponents, the better off you are when you take a more aggressive stance.”

“I don’t know any of these people on Celebrity Apprentice. Being Project Manager is like that big decision in poker. There is no other point where you have a bigger risk of getting fired. You’re automatically in the board room if you lose. If you are Project Manager, you want to have the best chance of winning the task because you don’t end up in the board room and you end up with a win, which is important in the long-run.”

Um…what she said.  I really don’t have anything else to add.

Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control

Any “Celebrity Apprentice” fan with half a brain knows that Annie Duke dominated Joan Rivers in every aspect of the game. It wasn’t remotely close. But Rivers still won.

Why? We may never truly know, but I, along with many others, honestly feel that Rivers’ victory was preordained by Donald Trump. I won’t go into the reasons in this article, but suffice it to say that I don’t believe Duke had a chance to win. Even though she still got a chance to argue her case in the final episode, the trophy was already engraved. It was beyond her control.

And that’s the final lesson. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Annie Duke did everything she needed to do to win, but she couldn’t control Donald Trump or his decision process. While the loss was disappointing to her, hopefully she was able to feel proud about how she played the game and realize that most people felt she should have won.

In poker, it’s the same way. Your job, put very simply, is to make good poker decisions. Once all your chips are in the pot, there is nothing more you can do. If you got your money in with the best of it, you did your job. There is no point in worrying too much about what other cards may fall.  There is nothing you can do about it.

Be Yourself

Annie Duke, by her own admission, had her flaws during the show. She didn’t “suffer fools”, she lacked diplomacy at times, she was often too blunt with her teammates, and she came across as focused on nothing but herself (really, these aren’t necessarily flaws – they are just aspects of her personality that rubbed the other celebs the wrong way). But you know what? Even though she wasn’t a beloved competitor, she made it to the final two. Annie Duke stayed true to herself; she didn’t change who she was for television. Because of this, she was able to focus on the task at hand, rather than worrying about appearances.

In poker, you definitely want to mix up your play at times to keep your opponents off guard, but in the long run, you still need to play your game. You are going to have your own personal style that works for you. Stray from it too frequently and it will be hard to play optimally simply because you aren’t accustomed to the new style of play.


  1. Tom says:

    Enough with the Annie Duke stories. Unless she owns this website you guys need to move on. Yeah yeah yeah she was good on Celebrity Apprentice but lets be real. Any business person watching that show will tell you they do not want to work with her. She was a total “my way or highway” operator. She did do good at certain things but outside of raisding money I would not let her clean my office let alone work side by side with her. Like the site but sick of her stories.

  2. Poker Guy says:

    Agreed sick of hearing about Annie Duke. I read this article just to see the comments posted. Annie Duke is a terrible player and has only piggy backed on her brothers success, and if it wasn’t for Full Tilt they would both be busted now playing a nickel and dime game at the kitchen table.

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