Annie Duke was born and raised in Concord, New Hampshire. Her parents, both teachers, met at a card table, playing bridge and card-playing is what created a huge bond in her family. So much so that her brother is the acclaimed poker player Howard Lederer. At the age of 18, Duke went to Columbia University. She finished with a major in English and Psychology and intended to follow in her parent’s footsteps and become a teacher.
Instead, she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania for Cognitive Psychology. It was while she was studying for her doctorate that she proposed to Ben Duke, an old friend. With one month to go, she left her doctorate to live in good old-fashioned romantic poverty! To make some money she started playing in local poker rooms to help pay for their mortgage.
At the suggestion of her brother Howard, she entered the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in 1994. She shocked everybody, including her brother, by placing 13th, knocking him out of the game! She made $70,000 in her first month of competition. That led to the move to Las Vegas with her husband so that she could play poker professionally.
She quickly moved up the ranks establishing herself as one of the best poker players in the world. In 2004 Annie Duke won her first WSOP bracelet, beating 234 other players. This was a winner takes all event which featured 10 of the best poker players in the world.
Following her victory she received international acclaim and even featured on the David Letterman tv show in the U.S. In the same year she also won $2 million in the No-Limit Texas Hold’em winner-take-all, invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions.
Annie Duke has famously taught Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Ashton Kutcher and Charles Barkley how to play poker. She has written an autobiography ‘Annie Duke: How I raised, folded, bluffed, flirted, cursed and won millions at the World Series of Poker”. She has also released poker tutorial DVDs and has numerous videos on YouTube.
In 2010, Duke won the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. She became the first and only female winner of the event, which ended in 2013. By 2017 her career live tournament winnings exceeded the $4.2 million.
Duke is widely regarded as one of poker’s best players. But her skills extend far beyond the game. She is an advocate and an avid fundraiser and has helped to raise more than $18 million for charities. In 2014 she founded How I Decide. It is a nonprofit to help young people develop the essential life skills of critical thinking and decision making. Their mission: Better decisions lead to better lives and a better society.
In 2016, she went on to join the Board of Directors for the Franklin Institute, one of America’s oldest museums.