Poker Pro Annie Duke Hitler, White Trash… But She Can Cook

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Annie Duke

Tonight we saw the completion of the jewelry auction. The show opened with Phil Hellmuth calling me to let me know that the other team had contacted him.  He also told me that a friend and business associate was the one who helped Natalie Gulbis out in trying to get him to bid against me. Obviously, I nipped that one in the bud right away so for everyone who has been wondering during the week if Phil Hellmuth was going to betray me...you have your answer. No way! Poker players are tight and I don't think there is anyone KOTU could have called who would have helped them. Even if they had called a player who actually wasn't one of my dear friends I doubt they would have seen the utility in coming out against me like that. I love my friends and I love poker players!

Anyway, on to the auction. I was really proud of my team in our auction.  I think everyone did an amazing job. Jesse was under represented on the episode because he was the one who really organized the auction itself and I don't think that was shown. He figured out where to seat our donors, coached people on bidding against our guys to make the auction seem really exciting and made the beautiful auction brochure. Brande brought in a ton of money and did a great job with the models. Melissa, depsite her constant complaining that I did not praise her enough, did a great job with the jewelry and was a wonderful stage manager for the actual show. And I was very happy with my auctioning skills. All in all we raised over $150K profit in that auction! And my friends were amazing in their support. Also, Stewey Rahr, Brande's donor, was just so generous with us. In fact, we was so sweet that he even bid on one of the other team's items just because he felt bad for them. You are a good man, Stewey Rahr.

Anyway, on to KOTU's auction. Well. What is there to say? It was an unmitigated disaster. The series of decisions that were made in regard to that show were pretty astonishingly poor. In particular, I think the decision to put all the bidders on one piece was terrible. Yes, the task is in the end judged on money raised. But this is Ivanka Trump's jewelry and it is absolutely an insult to her to have pieces of hers not even sell. I feel that decision was inexcusable. Also, I can't fathom why Joan didn't come out immediately and take the mic from Clint. I am not sure why it took her so long because it was clear that Clint was completely failing at the auctioneer job. And then poor Natalie. I feel that Natalie was set up right from the start. It made no sense for her to be the one picking out the jewelry. That should have been Joan's job. She designs and sells jewelry for a living after all. But even so, Natalie was picking jewelry she knew the donors wanted without being told they had decided to not have the donors bid on but one piece. That is a set up, plain and simple.

So we go into the boardroom and the first thing that happens is I praise Melissa for the amazing jewelry she picked out. I find that ironic since Melissa had spent the whole show griping about how she wasn't getting enough praise for all the great things she was doing. I wonder if Melissa was surprised and somewhat chagrined after all her whining in private at all the praised heaped on her at that moment.

Trump then turned his attention to KOTU and here is where I think it gets interesting because as Trump is quizzing Joan about her inability to raise money (she raised a paltry $8K on this challenge, by far the least on her team) Melissa jumps in to defend her mother. Piers, rightly so, remarks on this, wondering why Melissa is defending a member of the other team. She says she is defending Joan because she is her mother and Piers says so what? It is a game and that doesn't matter. She is defending a member of KOTU while not defending a member of her own team. Piers felt this was inexcusable and I must say I agree with him. If Melissa wants to figure out why I turned my back on her, since she keeps remarking on it, she need look no further than her behavior in this boardroom where she never once puts her mother in her place as her mother viciously attacks me (as evidenced by the painful, reluctant response of Melissa to the question about whether or not I am a bad person). But the moment her mother is attacked by Trump or by Piers or by Ivanka, Melissa jumps right in to defend her even though she is not on her team.

Now this dynamic makes the game very interesting to play because, while there are two teams on the show in Athena and KOTU, there is also a third team: Team Rivers. That means that the other players have to be very aware of this dynamic and know that if they go against one, they will be attacked and ganged up on by the other. I was certainly aware of this.

Anyway, during the attacks, Joan Rivers compares me to Hitler. How fun! First, let me say that I find comparing anything that happens on Celebrity Apprentice to the slaughter of 6 million Jews to be offensive. But aside from that, I find the comparison to be absurd, so absurd in fact that there is really no response to it. Anyone interested should check out Godwin's Law. What Godwin's Law states is basically that the longer an argument continues in a newsgroup on the internet that the probability that someone references Hitler or the Nazi's approaches 100%. I guess we need to add a corollary for reality tv now! Another corollary of the law is that once that happens, the argument ends. This because there is no where to go from there. The comparison is so absurd that there is no response and, in fact, responding would trivialize the Holocaust itself.

So for anyone who is wondering why I didn't attack Joan in the boardroom, this is why.  What exactly am I suppsoed to say to her? That I've never invaded Poland? That I have never killed anyone? It was just so silly and offensive and responding would have handed the power back to Joan so I held my tongue and just tried to act as professionally as possible. But, make no mistake, I was totally steaming inside. And hurt. I did not enjoy the vicious, personal attacks and watching Melissa defend her mother in that boardroom, well my thoughts mirrored Piers. Who's team was Melissa on? It was clear from that boardroom that there was only one team she cared about and it was neither KOTU nor Athena, it was team Rivers.

The verdict was delivered and not only did Athena win but we set a record for money raised in a single week with a grand total of $245K for Refugees International. They are an amazing charity, advocating for the over 40 million refugees around the world, and really deserve the money. I am so honored to be playing for them on the show. In the end, this is why I did the show, to help organizations just like this one not only raise money but also raise awareness about such an important cause.

Anyway, on to the firing of Natalie Gulbis. I find that firing illogical and believe that Joan was setting Natalie up for that from the beginning. For all Joan's tears in the boardroom, she spent a tremendous amount of time in her private interviews bashing both Natalie and Clint and there was no doubt she was setting them up for failure. And yet I feel that pretty no much matter how you look at the task, Joan was the one at fault here. There are only two ways to judge this task:

1) Say that the task was solely about money raising and the show did not matter.

Joan made this argument because when Piers, Ivanka and I all criticized Joan for the decision to not insure that all the pieces sold, Joan argued vehemently that this task was just about the money. But Joan raised the least money on her team by far, only bringing in $8K as PM of a money raising task. Natalie, depsite failing to bring in Phil Hellmuth, managed to bring in more than Joan. So if the task is just about money, as Joan argued, then she should be fired since she raised the least by far (which was not made clear on the show).

2) Say that the money didn't matter so much as the show.

Well Joan argued against this as a criteria for firing but, even so, Joan should still be on the chopping block if we go this way. Joan sent Natalie to pick the jewelry when clearly that should have been Joan's job. Joan made the decision, as project manager, to put all the donors on one piece of jewelry, insuring that some pieces would not sell which had to embarass Ivanka trump. Joan did not step in as auctioneer quickly enough.  All around, Joan made a lot of mistakes in her decisions here.

Now if you go with (2) then you could also argue for Clint going since he really screwed up that auction. But Natalie seems to me to be in third place in terms of who to fire, by the criteria that Joan herself put forth. When they went in the boardroom, for all Joan's tears, she never suggested that she was responsible for the loss (as pretty much every other project manager had). She allowed Natalie to take the fall, never once stepping in in her defense or suggesting, perhaps, that Clint might be another choice. Joan set the bus in motion and as soon as she had the chance, ran Natalie right under the wheels. Well done.

Now, I am going to quickly cover the Schwann's Challenge. I will look at team Athena first. Jesse was project manager here and was somewhat hard to work with. I am a huge fan of Jesse's but he really locked us out on the marketing side of things. On the food side, Jesse and I butted heads about what to make but, in the end, I agreed to cook all three dishes so we could have a taste test. Jesse was really pushing for the chili. The rest of us wanted the turkey meatballs because they were original and originality was a huge piece of the puzzle. I am glad I pushed so hard for that dish and that Melissa and Brande backed me up because the originality, in the end, was so important. One thing about me, I do push on things but only if I truly believe I am right and in this case I really felt strongly about the originality piece. I think Brande put it best, that Chili is something you can get out of any can but turkey meatballs with gluten free pasta was something unusual and different.

In terms of our marketing plan, I have to confess I was completely freaking out about it. Jesse did not share any details with us at all. I had really been in charge of the marketing plan on most of the challenges, that was kind of my niche. So I was having a Type A, control freak crisis about not seeing any of the marketing. I kept calming myself down by telling myself that I had complete faith in Jesse and Melissa to execute something great since they are both smart people. So imagine my surprise when I walked in that boardroom and found out we had no marketing plan at all! (That was the first I had heard about that).  I wanted to die! Sometimes Type A control freaks have a right to be freaking out!

One thing that wasn't shown was that Brande made an awesome dessert. For some reason it isn't made clear in that episode that Brande made the dessert. I think it was the single best tasting thing we produced and the Schwann's guys agreed.

On to KOTU: I think Clint made some really good points. I think he was absolutely right to say that chicken was not the way to go. We had discussed chicken on Athena and decided that too many of their dishes were already chicken dishes so it would not be judged original enough. Clint voiced his opinion about this but no one backed him up so he was over ruled. If originality is the reason they lose well Clint can't be blamed for that. Clint also voiced very strong opinions about the dessert and, in fact, they were the exact opinions of the executives...that the dessert would not freeze well and would be complicated to package. Another point for Clint. Where Clint falls down on this episode is in the marketing plan. Clint went with a TV campaign but the executives made it clear that they do not advertize on TV (until this episode!). That was a big fall down on Clint's part. But, on balance here, I think that Clint had more going for him on this challenge than against him.

When we got to the boardroom, Trump asked Melissa what she thought of how we did. Amazingly enough, she immediately ran down the food, saying that if we lost it would be because of the food! That was pretty cheeky from a woman in charge, with Jesse, of a marketing plan that never got produced. The question was really, in the end, whether our food was good enough and original enough to overcome the lack of any marketing campaign at all. And, apparently despite Melissa's opinion that the food should have lost it for us, our food was so good and so original that we won the challenge depsite not even completing the marketing piece. They specifically cited the gluten free pasta and the use of turkey as very original and key in our win which vindicates my arguing so strongly for that piece. They also specifically cited Brande's dessert in the taste category, saying it was the single best thing they had all day.

As for KOTU, they liked Clint's chicken dish but hated the dessert and thought there was no originality to the food. They also felt the TV campaign was, in some ways, worse than the no campaign at all produced by Athena. So who should be fired? It seems like Joan is safe somewhat by fiat because she actually managed to make zero major decisions despite being on only a three man team. That leaves Clint and Herschel. Now, there are arguments both ways. If Trump feels the marketing piece ultimately caused the failure, then Clint must go. If Trump feels the lack of originality and the dessert caused the failure, then Herschel must go since Clint was on record in disagreeing strongly with those decisions. Ultimately, the marketing can't have failed the task, really, since Athena did not even produce a marketing campaign to compare it too. Therefore, it must be the food and in that case Herschel must go. So Trump did the right thing here.

Next week, more good times as Joan calls Brande a dumb blonde and calls me and my friends white trash!

Annie Duke is a spokesperson for the online poker room www.ultimatebet.com ---Annie Duke, Gambling911.com 

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