Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions (Anglais) CD – septembre 2005
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The method works, but depending on the reader, you'll be rooting for one -- the game -- or the other -- the life story -- to come back.
She's from a studious but dysfunctional family: heck they're probably all geniuses, but Mom's drinking and playing solitaire, and Dad's grading papers and trying to break out of his genteel poverty teaching at a prestigious prep school.
Fortunately, things get better: her older brother, poker champ Howard Lederer, learns to beat the odds in card games and sports betting. Mom works for him. And Dad writes a series of entertaining, immensely popular, pun-filled books on the English language. (No, I'm not making this up.)
Therefore, the book is filled with a harrowing life story, a report on what it feels like to be the final table of a big poker tourney, and poker tips. The poker tips are scattered about the text in little boxes, but they are the real goods from a professional player.
Unlike other poker memoirs I've read, this book has a whiz-bang happy ending, and it reads as fast as folding to an allin bet from Ms. Duke.
Or, for another point of view on Annie's family, read Poker Face by Katy Lederer, her younger sister. (I told you they're all geniuses.) It's a touching memoir of growing up Lederer, but you won't learn any poker from it.
P.S. I wanted a bigger book with more poker strategy. When you learn how well Annie's done at the tables, you know she knows a lot more than she reveals about the game.
That is why when this book came out I undoubtedly wanted to check it out; and the result was as good as expected. Not only did I get to relive in Annie's own narration some of the tournaments she had played, but I also got to know more about what led her to that place in life. On top of that, she uses a very interesting style in her writing, intertwining the chapters about poker with those dealing with her marriage, studies and kids. While I was reading this book I got the same sense I get from when I see her playing on TV: that she is a very entertaining person, and one that would be fun to have in my poker table (of course, unless my goal is to win some money).
Annie also includes text boxes throughout the book that contain poker advice, mostly for newbies, but I found a couple of pointers that helped me become a better player. At the end there is a more thorough explanation about the different types of poker (focused on Texas Hold 'Em and Omaha Hi-Lo) and a brief description of the most prominent poker players that dominate the spotlight nowadays.
The book is great, but I cannot help but point out a couple of things that surprised me as being wrong. The first one has to do with the fact that Annie makes reference to another poker pro that carried out a vicious internet campaign against her, but she never mentions him by name. I don't really understand the reason behind this mystery. The second has to do with a mistake she makes when describing an Omaha hand. She mentions having a nut straight, which is accurate, but then she goes on to say that the straight was A-K-Q-J-10 when for this she is using three of her hole cards (A,Q,J), which you cannot do in Omaha. She did have the nut straight, because there was a 9 on the board, and the straight was K-Q-J-10-9. Anyway, this is not a huge deal, but it really surprised me that such an accomplished poker player would make that mistake. Bottom line: she still gets five stars in my book!
Duke and co-author David Diamond succeed in revealing a view from the table at high-pressure poker tournaments. The book goes through Duke's win at the World Series of Poker in 2004, then at the Tournament of Champions later that year. The vivid details and notes on the hands (the book isn't overly technical and contains explanations of the terms and rules of play, but part of the book's draw is that it takes you "inside," and that includes playing some poker hands) help understand the swirl of emotions and details that can fill a player's head when they get into this unusual environment.
The second reason for recommending the book is Duke's willingness to reveal how she became a professional poker player and celebrity through the circuitous route of a competitive family, academia, marriage, and motherhood. Plenty has been written about Annie Duke's story (including her sister Katy Lederer's POKER FACE, which also tells the story of their unusual and remarkable family). Her own version has some new details, but its best feature is its honesty. Duke thinks highly of her poker abilities and says so, but she also shares stories of her losses, insecurities, and bad decisions. She does a great job explaining the decisions that brought her into poker as well as those that led to her backing away from the biggest cash games.
Duke and Diamond also structured the book in a very readable fashion, shifting chapter-to-chapter between the action in her two big poker wins and her life story.
As a matter of disclosure, I wrote a book about professional poker players this year, but never spoke with Duke in connection with it. One of my sources on that book was Annie Duke's brother, Howard Lederer. But many other sources were players who did not like Duke and whose attacks on her are mentioned (though she doesn't give out their names) in her book.
It's an interesting insight to gambling culture and one woman's take on it, but after a while the two threads of the book (chapters alternate between her autobiography and her experiences at the World Series of Poker) begin to feel schizophrenic. Her history begins to read more and more like a recitation of rote facts while her descriptions of the hands she played in Vegas become more bombastic, which makes for an awkward reading experience. One chapter is a description of how she met this guy and they hung out and he moved back west and then she married him and followed him and so on while the next is a breathless explanation of how exciting it was when the three of clubs came up!
Given that this book is essentially focussed on her experiences in poker, this dichotomy is perfectly understandable, but towards the end of the book I was worn out by the constant yo-yoing of the narrative that I was simply relieved to be done with it.
The part I liked best was when she went into the Crystal Lounge in beautiful downtown Billings, Montana for the first time to play poker against an all-male line up of crusty old ranchers and cowboys and assorted male chauvinists. In one of the first hands she was dealt ace-queen and got a lot action and ended up making a full house on the river. How sweet that must have been!
It is also about how Annie kicks off her shoes and tucks her legs under her butt and settles in to play cards; how she punks when she feels panicky, but how once the cards are in the air, she is in no danger of throwing up. The cards and the machinations of the game distract her. This is also about how she wanted so much to be thin and liked and pretty, and how she loved to party.
Frankly I don't know what to make of Annie (née Lederer) Duke. Personally I never played cards with her. I don't know whether she wins because she's good at reading people, or because she has an instinct for sharp aggressive play, or because of her experience and understanding of the game. Reading this book I would say all three. Her brother Howard Lederer is a world class player himself, and he taught her a lot. And she paid her dues playing small stakes games.
I found it interesting that while playing $50 and $100 hold'em in Vegas she made between $50 and $100 an hour (p. 160). And when she played at home on the Internet she made about $40 an hour. She also writes about losing $300,000 in one week at high stakes cash games (p. 182), and intimates that she bombed out of the $1,000/$2,000 hold'em game at (I presume) the Bellagio. She writes she "wasn't happy" playing at that level (p. 189). One thing I have to tell you--and Annie Duke mentions not a word about this subject, not a single word, is that high stakes poker players have an intimate relationship with the IRS and they are always trying to find ways to lay off their winnings to reduce their taxes. So I would take her winning and losing figures with the proverbial grain of salt.
It is also interesting to note that Annie Duke may be more of an instinctive player than a scientific/mathematical player. The great swings that her bankroll apparently went through suggest that she (and her brother as well) are very, very good when they are on, but fairly ordinary when they are off their game. Scientific/mathematical players keep a more even keel. Of course the greatest players in the world are both instinctive and scientific.
She writes that you can have a hand in which you are a 2 to 1 favorite and can "lose it ten times in a row," adding "that's not statistically surprising" (box on page 183). Well, the odds against losing ten times in a row when you are a 2 to 1 fav are almost sixty thousand to one. If it happens, it would be a lot more than "statistically surprising."
She also writes that for safety's sake you ought to have about 300 times the big blind in your game as a bankroll. Actually, how big a bankroll you need depends on what kind of player you are and how great an edge you have over the competition. If you have a big edge, you only need a small bankroll. If your edge is small you need a larger bankroll. But even if you are a winning player but play a lot of hands, your variance will be larger and you will need a larger bankroll. Annie does a good job of explaining this in Chapter 24. However, she reports that her brother went through a four-month period when he was "losing literally every day." (p. 182)
Somehow I doubt that. The odds of a winning player losing that consistently are astronomical. What can happen, however, is that even very good players can drift away from their best game and can go on TILT. They can lose their confidence and actually become losing players.
As was pointed out by another reviewer that was a king-high straight that she made on page 49, not an ace-high, but that isn't her mistake. That's the equivalent of a typo. Another bit of carelessness is in the glossary where "river" is defined as the "final community card in Texas Hold'em or Omaha." Actually the term originally referred to the final card in seven card stud, a game appropriately dubbed "Down the River" long before hold'em ever came into existence.
By the way, if you don't know how to play Omaha 8 or better (also called Omaha hi-lo) a lot of poker hands she recalls will be difficult to appreciate. Also the structure of the book in which alternating chapters refer to her playing and then to her life experiences may be a bit artificial for some readers.
Bottom line: a little too, too much Annie Duke here for some readers and not much in the way of instruction, but an interesting read anyway.
One final point: she did it. Annie beat the best and she made millions, and nobody can take that away from her. I just hope she invests her winnings well and concentrates on raising her four kids.