Annie Duke, 44, is far more than a world-class poker player. According to her biography at
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. annieduke.com, the Concord, N.H., native attended Columbia University, majoring in English and psychology, then enrolled at Penn in hopes of getting a master's degree in cognitive psychology. However, Cupid had other plans.
In 1991, she married Ben Duke and moved to Billings, Mont., where finances (more specifically, the lack thereof) led her to try her hand at poker.
Three years later, her brother Howard Lederer, already an established pro, suggested she enter the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. She finished in 13th place - and knocked him out of the tournament.
By 1994, she was living in Vegas and was a burgeoning poker star. Today she ranks among the world's top professionals and is generally considered the best female player. She owns one World Series of Poker bracelet for winning the Omaha Hi-Lo $2,000 buy-in event in 2004.
That same year, she took home $2 million by winning the prestigious, invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions. Earlier this year, she captured first place in the NBC-sponsored Texas Hold'em Heads-Up tournament.
To date, Duke has "cashed" in 37 WSOP tournaments for more than $1 million. Her overall poker tournament winnings exceed $4 million.
A consultant and celebrity endorser for the Ultimatbet.net online poker site, Duke has written three poker-instruction books. She was also a contestant on the 2009 season of Donald Trump's hit NBC series "Celebrity Apprentice."
Heavily involved in charity work, she spearheads the "Ante Up for Africa" campaign, a series of high-profile poker events that benefit people affected by the ongoing strife in Darfur. She also is involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Decision Education Foundation and Refugees International.
Divorced in 2004, Duke lives in L.A. with her four children.
- Chuck Darrow