Five weeks have passed in NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and we have not seen Poker News Daily Guest Columnist Annie Duke be Project Manager. In order to win money for her charity, Refugees International, and impress show host Donald Trump, she’ll need to take on a leadership role in the future. Duke explained her game plan to Poker News Daily.
PokerNewsDaily: Congratulations on surviving another week of Celebrity Apprentice. When will we see you be Project Manager?
Duke: I really liken 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.
By this point, I know my team’s strengths and weaknesses, but I’m still working on figuring out who is vulnerable to being fired. That involves listening to Trump, who is clear about who is weak and who is strong. If you’re Project Manager, you can bring weaker people into the board room if you lose.
PND: What task would be ideal for you to serve as Project Manager on?
Duke: After Episode 4 (the ACN task), I said to my team that we should be Project Manager for the tasks we’re good at. For me, thats the next money raising task. They said okay, but no one on my team should ever agree to that. I raise more money than anyone else on my team. If it’s a money raising task, I’m not going to get fired. Let’s say that you’re someone who can’t raise a lot of money. You should be Project Manager on that task because I’m going to make sure you win. That’s an objective task: Whoever has the most money wins. The other tasks, like this week’s Loews episode, are subjective. You have much less control over the outcome and you don’t want to be Project Manager.
Everyone was so emotional from the board room after the ACN task and I took advantage of that. I’m trying to wait for a money raising task, but what if there isn’t one? Natalie Gulbis hasn’t been Project Manager and Melissa Rivers hasn’t been either, so there are other people on my team who haven’t stepped up. However, if I want to be seen as a leader, I have to step up. The question is, can I hold out?
PND: You mentioned that you have been paying attention to who Trump wants to fire on your team. What can you share so far?
Duke: I was the only person who knew Trump wanted to fire [TLC singer] Tionne Watkins. Trump had clearly said asked her why she didn’t sing. Tionne responded that her Project Manager didn’t ask her to. Had Claudia Jordan been listening to Trump, she might have been saved.
I think he still wants to get rid of Khloe Kardashian. On the ACN challenge, he asked if she did anything. This past week, he criticized her for not being there. Joan Rivers missed three days and it wasn’t even mentioned.
PND: The episode ended with a board room intervention with Dennis Rodman. What did you see leading up to that moment during the task?
Duke: When we started, it was 10:00am and Dennis had two vodka cranberries in his hands. It was obvious that he started drinking early. He was being disruptive on our side and when the guests were coming in, he was screaming on his phone. It was clear that he was under the influence and being disruptive. I didn’t see him walk off and I had no idea that he had gone drinking with a guest.
We knew that it had gone from funny to concerning. He’s a really big dude. He’s 6’8” and I’ve seen him explode in front of Clint Black during the previous task. Before, it was Rodman being inappropriate, but it turned into something else.
When we got into the board room, I was asked about it and made some comments that they didn’t air about his behavior. Jesse James started the process. Everyone was very concerned and Dennis responded like people were trying to persecute him. He kept talking about his five championships and what he’s done in the past. However, it’s not what you’ve done in the past, it’s the road you’re heading down now. Everyone was very concerned for another human being. It was long, painful, and I hope nothing but for him to get help.
PND: What’s been the reaction of the poker playing community as Celebrity Apprentice has aired?
Duke: I get very biased feedback when people come up to talk to me. I appreciate the positive feedback, but I also realize that it’s not a fair sample. I don’t read the blogs and I don’t read the newsgroups. I don’t think that would be productive.
I can tell you what I see on television. In the first couple of episodes, I was an antagonist, but I also got shit done. I haven’t trashed talked anyone. I totally understand why someone wouldn’t like me. I have an assertive personality. In the last three episodes, I see someone who does their job and helps their team.
I stand behind the strategy that I came with. I hope that people notice I haven’t talked down at anyone. I try to deliver things in an objective way. Yes, I’m direct, but I do it through the business eye. I don’t get into the personal stuff. In Episode 4, where clearly our team had the most conflict of all, I wasn’t involved. People have a right to their opinions. They have a right to feel the way they do, but what you’ve seen on the show is a very accurate portrayal of who I was.
PND: Do your kids watch the show with you?
Duke: They’ve been getting into it. My ex-husband calls me up after every episode. We’re very amicable and he’s one of my biggest boosters. Joe [my boyfriend] is a great sounding board. He’s in the industry and has an objective eye on the show. He can tell me about the way it’s edited. It’s interesting to get his perspective. He understands why the show is cut the way it is.
Celebrity Apprentice airs at 9:00pm ET on Sunday nights on NBC and runs for two hours.