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Lady Luck

Annie Duke’s plane from Portland was late getting in, so she’s running behind as she swings through the entrance of the Bellagio. Squeezing through the crowded lobby, aglitter with strolling women in designer dressers and spiked heels, Duke checks in, drops her bags off in her room and slips into Giorgio Armani to buy some makeup. She’s dressed in jeans and a pale green top with the words "Daisy Duke" printed on it, yet looks less like the Catherine Bach character from the old TV program, "The Dukes of Hazzard" than a young Diane Keaton – Annie Hall, but without the floppy hat and suspenders. She’s in Las Vegas to play in the Five-Star World Poker Classic at the hotel the following day, but as she’s in the store she remembers she’s got a call to return: A colleague just played in a big home game with some Hollywood pigeons and she’s got a piece of his action.

She yanks her cell phone from the bag slung over her shoulder and flips it open. "So how did it go?" she says enthusiastically, walking away from the saleslady who is assembling her order. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. I told you! I told you it would be great! You’ve got to get me in that game! Just once! Just once! Just once! Just one time!"

Traditionally, the women’s place in the male-dominated world of poker has been upstairs and out of the way; they’ve only been welcomed into the inner sanctum with the boys if they’re bringing in finger sandwiches. But Annie Duke didn’t become one of the top female poker players in the world by serving up trays of cold cuts to men chewing on White Owl Miniatures. She did it by sitting down at the table with them, looking them squarely in the eye and beating them with intelligence, guile and an unlimited charm. And that only happened when she unexpectedly decided what she didn’t want to do with her life and dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania within an eyelash of completing her Ph.D. in psycholinguistics. A Penn professor who knew her well remembers her as "a brilliant student," but she couldn’t bring herself to follow through with a career in academia, despite the fact that she had no inkling then that she’d reinvent herself as a poker player.

She’s become a talented enough player that it wouldn’t surprise any of her male peers if she won the $10,000 Buy-In Event in the World Series of Poker – or as it is called, "The Big One" – which begins Saturday at Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel and Casino and continues until May 28. With 2,000 players expected to enter the Texas Hold’em tournament, from actors such as Ben Affleck to less celebrated folk who have sharpened their skills playing on the Internet, it’s a longshot, but you never know: Duke has been playing well this year, perhaps better than ever. By winning the $2,000 Buy-In Omaha High-Low Event in early May, she won $137,860 and became the all-time money winner among women at the World Series with earnings in excess of $500,000. Significantly, she also won her first World Series bracelet, a rite of passage that she says has provided her with an immense boost in confidence.

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2004 Online Casino News Archive


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