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Annie Duke is a cheater

June 5, 2015

I have to admit, I hadn’t paid much attention to “poker news” the past few years. I had lost a bit of interest in poker in general and had largely stopped playing except for the occasional trip to Vegas or my local casino (which were usually successful, oddly enough, even though I was no longer playing regularly). So it came as a bit of a shock to read the news about UltimateBet (a poker site I played at in the early 2000’s) and the way in which the founder had cheated players out of their money.

Basically, the UltimateBet software had a “god mode” ability somewhere in its lines of code. This would allow any player using this mode to see the cards of all the players at the current table. If you know someone’s hole cards, you have nearly perfect information, with only the cards to come remaining unknown. It basically makes you unbluffable, which means you can make perfect poker decisions and always put your money in when you’re favored to win. This is any poker players dream, of course.

The founder of the company used this ability to bilk Mike “The Mouth” Matusow out of 1 million dollars over a year of head’s up games. Who knows how much more he stole from other players thru such methods or how widespread this cheating tactic was used by other UB employees?

It was a habit of poker sites to sponsor certain pros in order to have those pros use their name value to entice regular poker players to sign up at their websites. Phil Helmuth and Annie Duke were two of the prominent professional players who UltimateBet employed, though I myself didn’t play at UBet because of those two. I actually just enjoyed their software’s look and feel and game selection process. Their UI was easily the best of all the poker sites. Now I know that UI was hiding rampant cheating! How far it went, I do not know, but there is a small possibility that I was cheated too. I know that, on UltimateBet especially, I suffered a tremendous number of bad beats where I got the money in with the best hand and lost. Was that because of some cheat or was it just bad luck? With software, you never know. You would hope that the online games aren’t rigged, but what guarantees of that do you really have?

Anyways, Annie Duke was implicated in this cheating scandal, because it was reported that she had used a version of the god mode on UltimateBet that allowed her to see all the hole cards of a hand 15 minutes after the hand was completed. This would be EXTREMELY valuable information to any poker player, especially one the quality of Annie Duke. Knowing what your opponent was holding, whether they bluffed you or not, what they raise with, what they call with, what they fold with, all of these are things that you could get from this delayed god mode.

Now the first time I was introduced to Annie Duke was back in the WSOP Main Event of 2003, when she was heavily-promoted by ESPN as one of the few female professional poker players. I thought she was an unfunny, immature, petty and mean person then and I don’t see any reason to change that opinion now. Daniel Negreanu has long had a war of words with Annie Duke and it appears that he was right about her all along: she’s a sodden cunt.

My other initial exposure to her was in Jim McManus’ excellent book “Positively Fifth Street”, which told a tale of a journalist/writer who was assigned to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker Main Event (back when it was still a little-known event with only 512 entrants! Compare that to the fields of over 8,000 players today!). Instead of reporting on the Main Event from the outside, McManus decided to play a satellite tournament in order to attempt to earn enough for a buy-in to the Main Event (which was, and still is, $10,000). He won his satellite and was rewarded with playing in the greatest poker tournament that the world can offer (or so they say!). His unlikely success is chronicled in the book, ending with a 5th place finish and a $247,000 cash, which was fairly unprecedented at that time for an amateur player like himself.

Annie Duke finished 10th in that tournament and McManus had many passages where he related her demeanor at the table and it was always sour. Now I’m not saying that you have to be a prince at the poker table, but how someone acts at a poker table is simply a microcosm of how they act in real life. I knew after reading that book (which I highly recommend, btw) that Annie Duke was a B-I-T-C-H of a major order. Therefore, I wasn’t fooled by ESPN’s trying to go all Title IX on us and force America to turn Duke into some kind of card-playing sweetheart that we could all cheer for. I always cheered against her and now I know that was entirely justified.

Players who cheat such as Annie Duke are the ones who give poker its bad reputation and who helped to cause the bans on online poker that have been enacted in almost every state in America. Poker is an exhilarating, immensely challenging game which pushes you to the limit mentally and psychologically. You have to be good at hiding your emotions, reading your opponents, and being brave with incomplete information. It truly is a “man’s game” in that you need to be very brave in order to play it at a high level (“man’s game” is just a figure of speech… of course women can be equally as brave as men). And poker is one of the few “sports” where you can regularly play against professionals, the best in the game. You will not, for example, have any chance of ever playing basketball against LeBron James. You will not play ice hockey against Patrick Kane. You will not jam on guitar with Eric Clapton. But you can play with Phil “The Poker Brat” Helmuth, or “Action” Dan Harrington, or “The Unabomber” Phil Laak. That’s an amazing fact, but no one is going to want to play if they suspect that the game is rigged. That’s why Annie Duke’s actions are such a betrayal of the public trust and of the game of poker itself. Hopefully she will be properly shunned by all people of good standing in the poker world. I know I won’t ever have the time of day for her ugly ass!

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