Bloomberg Opinion columnist Cass R. Sunstein may have actually read Duke’s Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts. However, he clearly failed to look into its author’s past.
Regardless of the publication’s quality, it’s doubtful a former Barack Obama White House Administrator like Sunstein would have made the book part of his best of 2018 list had some the crimes Duke perpetrated against the poker community been revealed to him.
He certainly would have avoided referring to Duke as “a winner of the World Series of Poker,” had he bothered to check the facts.
A winner ‘at’ the WSOP is not the winner ‘of’ the WSOP
The truth is that Duke is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner. She won a $2,000 tournament by beating a field of 234 players in the relatively obscure poker variant of Omaha Hi-Lo Split in 2004. She also won a 10-player invitation, winner-take-all WSOP Tournament of Champions freeroll that year although it didn’t come with a bracelet.
By the way, the $2 million Duke won in that freeroll equals almost half of her $4,270,548 in career tournament earnings. A number that sounds a lot less impressive when you are aware of that fact.
To consider her record, it may be fair to characterize Duke as a winner “at” the WSOP. However, the winner “of” the WSOP is a label probably best reserved for the winner of the WSOP Main Event.
Regardless, it’s clear the poker community would rather mainstream media outlets not refer to Duke at all. At the very least, printing the facts about her past transgressions when they do would be a good start.
The truth about Annie Duke
Duke was the commissioner of the now-defunct Epic Poker League. She collected a paycheck from the league while it piled up millions in debt and filed for bankruptcy. She got hers while players were defrauded, with Epic failing to come through on a $1 million freeroll promise.
Duke was also one of the faces of the now-defunct online poker site Ultimate Bet.
She was never implicated in the site’s well-publicized super-user cheating scandal. This involved a group of Ultimate Bet insiders led by 1994 WSOP Main Event champ Russ Hamilton gaining access to other players’ hole card information. They used it to rip them off for upwards of $22 million.
Duke still collected money for endorsing the site, ignoring the involvement of site management and various consultants who tried to cover up the scandal. Looking back, the poker community now sees any endorsement of Ultimate Bet as an affront to the community itself. And they’re not wrong in thinking that.
Oh brother, where art thou?
Finally, there’s the fact that Duke’s brother is Full Tilt Poker founder and board member Howard Lederer.
It’s hard to forget that when the US Department of Justice kicked Full Tilt out of the country in April 2011, Lederer and other Full Tilt owners walked away with some $150 million worth of players’ money.
The DOJ accused Full Tilt of defrauding its players. It also referred to the organization as a Ponzi scheme when the shut down revealed its owners were raiding player funds to pay themselves. The DOJ accused Lederer of taking more than $40 million for himself.
PokerStars bailed out Fill Tilt a year later and settled the case. PokerStars paid back most of that $150 million to players through the DOJ. Lederer settled, admitted no wrongdoing, and gave up assets worth just $2.5 million.
Of course, nothing is implicating Duke in the Full Tilt scandal. However, unlike the mainstream media, I don’t think it’s fair to write an article mentioning her without also mentioning of the kinds of things her and her brother have done to the poker community.
Bloomberg’s Must-Reads of 2018: Annie Duke’s bio
Most US poker players still have bad taste in their mouths from previous interactions with Duke. Like most of them, I haven’t shelled out the $18 for her book.
What I can glean from the title and various blurbs is that it is about the rather common poker-player practice of treating real-life decisions like poker decisions. It’s an interesting concept. One poker player’s know works for many aspects of their lives. Most wish somebody, other than Duke, was out there selling it to the mainstream.
Sunstein says the book is full of wisdom, fun, warmth, humor and humanity. You can probably guess that most poker players think this would have to be the first example of Duke displaying any of these traits.
Sunstein calls Duke’s analysis sharp and data-driven. We can only wish he would have at least peeked into Duke’s past. Then we could say the same about his.