A crown for Duke

Sep 27, 2004 12:33 PM

It’s official: Annie Duke reigns as the world’s best poker player. The mother of four outlasted nine poker heavyweights — including her brother — to win the first-ever World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions and its $2 million prize.

Duke, who holds a double major from Columbia University and did graduate studies in cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, can add another feather to her cap — the first woman to win a multi-million-dollar payday in a game that until recently was dominated by men.

The winner-take-all, invitation-only tournament was established by Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns the World Series of Poker, and ESPN to determine the world’s greatest poker player. The 10 participants were elected by a vote of their peers.

"This was an unbelievable opportunity, and the biggest win of my career," Duke said. "I hope that a lot of women will now enter this game and realize it’s not just your husband’s, boyfriend’s or brother’s Wednesday night poker game — that this is something that you can do on an equal footing with men, that you don’t need to be separated out like it’s football. This is a sport where you can really compete with everybody."

Duke, the only woman to play in the Tournament of Champions, bested the biggest names in poker, including her brother, Howard Lederer, who finished third. Duke took the title after knocking out 1989 World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth.

Two-time World Series of Poker champions Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson and Johnny Chan, 2004 champion Greg Raymer as well as T.J. Cloutier, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and Chip Reese rounded out the competition.

ESPN aired the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions last week.

Duke has long been among the premier players at the World Series of Poker, earning well in excess of $500,000 prior to winning the Tournament of Champions. Her cash finishes include a run during the 2000 World Series of Poker in which she finished 10th while nine months pregnant.

"Annie is an incredible player," said Ginny Shanks, senior vice president of acquisition marketing for Harrah’s. "She had an amazing run at this year’s World Series of Poker, winning a gold bracelet in the Omaha High-Low $2,000 buy-in, and now she caps off the summer with an unprecedented victory. We can’t wait to see what she has in store for us at the 2005 World Series of Poker."