Annie Duke

Author & Public Speaker

Annie Duke

Annie Duke has leveraged her expertise in the science of smart decision making to excel at pursuits as varied as championship poker, public speaking, teaching, philanthropy and parenting.

For two decades, Annie was one of the top poker players in the world, winning several championships during her career. She has shared her knowledge through a series of best-selling poker instruction and theory books, Decide to Play Great Poker and The Middle Zone: Mastering the Most difficult Hands in Hold’em Poker (both co-authored with John Vorhaus). Annie is also the mother of four children and a master story teller. Her passion for making a difference has helped to raise more than $18 million for charities for causes as diverse as international refugees, victims of the conflicts in Sudan, improving education, and numerous children’s hospitals.

Through her academic training in cognitive psychology and her real-world experience at the poker table, Annie Duke has mastered the art and science of strategic decision making. She applies those lessons to every aspect of her life, from parenting to nutrition to business.

The daughter of educators, Annie Duke was a was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania after graduating with a double major in English and Psychology in the first co-ed class at Columbia University.

She stepped away from academia to marry and begin raising a family, and started playing poker to earn extra money. At the suggestion of her brother, accomplished poker player Howard Lederer, Annie Duke entered the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1994. Over the course of the next 15 years, she established herself as one of the top players in the male-dominated game. In 2004, she bested a field of 234 players to win her first WSOP bracelet. The same year, she triumphed in the $2 million winner-take-all, invitation only WSOP Tournament of Champions. And in 2010, she won the prestigious NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, beating poker legend Erik Seidel in the finals.

Marrying her academic studies in cognitive psychology with decision making lessons gained through her experience at the poker table, Annie Duke developed a series of inspirational and educational talks on topics such as decision fitness, emotional control, evaluation of feedback, sunk cost, and negotiation tactics. Her deft application of decision science concepts to a wide range of real-world situations spanning both personal and professional topics, coupled with an animated and personable presentation style, resonated with a diverse range of audiences. She has spoken to the sales forces of Gaylord Resorts and Pandora Radio; executive teams at Tremor Video, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers CitiBank and Bank of America; and YPO and EO groups around the country, among others. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, blogging on decision making and critical thinking skills. Annie has also twice guest lectured at Stanford University to Ron A. Howard’s Lessons in Decision Making class. Recently, Annie was invited to speak again to US Citibank trading group clients – the only speaker to have ever been asked back for a second time. Her talk centered on the asymmetry between how the feelings we get from winning and losing drive irrational decisions, regardless of whether we won or lost. She reflected on how these common circumstances induce asymmetric non-optimized trading decisions among traders.

Annie performs regularly for The Moth, an organization that preserves the art of spoken word storytelling, appearing three times on The Moth Main Stage. Her most recent story, The Big Things You Don’t Do, aired on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR in May of 2013 Duke also participated in the January 2013 Unchained Tour.

Annie Duke also has leveraged her success to satisfy a passion for charity. In 2006, she founded Ante Up for Africa along with actor Don Cheadle and Norman Epstein. The organization has raised over $4,000,000 for Africans in need, with a focus on helping victims of the conflicts in Sudan. She also served on the board of The Decision Education Foundation (DEF) from 2007 to 2011. DEF develops decision making curricula for K through 12 students. In 2009, she appeared on NBC’s hit show Celebrity Apprentice, through which she helped raise $730,000 for Refugees International, a charity that advocates for refugees around the world. In October 2013, Annie became a national board member for After School All-Stars, a leading national provider of year-round, school-based, comprehensive after-school programs.