Poker Pro Annie Duke Discusses Celebrity Apprentice, Joan Rivers With Woo

Written by:
Jenny Woo
Published on:
Mar/16/2009's own Jenny Woo sat down to speak with this season's Celebrity Apprentice star, Annie Duke, regarding her experience with the show and how she really feels about Joan Rivers. 

Ms. Duke, as most of you already know, is an accomplished poker player who represents the world's 7th largest online poker room -   She is also highly regarded for her work with charities, most notably her efforts to stop the slaughter in Darfur.  Please take a moment to visit this website for more details:

You can check out Part II of Jenny's Interview With Annie Duke Here 

JENNY:  How was it working with so many females especially with so many seemingly dominant females?

ANNIE:  I think that it was an interesting situation for me in particular because of what I do as a poker player.  Poker players have some very interesting qualities - one is that they're very good at compartmentalizing the game for real life and personal feelings.  Example:  I'm sure that you've played with friends of yours before and I'm sure you've run big bluffs against them and they've won big bluffs against you and you walk away from the table and you walk to dinner.  Right?  It's not like you're saying, "How could you do that?"  So I think we're very good at compartmentalizing in what's happening in the game vs. what's happening in terms of personal relationships and how we feel about each other or any of those things.  That's number one.  Number two is that obviously because of what I do; most of the people are men.  When I list off who my best friends are in the world, the majority of them are men.  And the majority of them are men who play poker who are very good at separating out strategic issues from personal issues. 

I walked into this game ready to "play" a game with people who weren't treating it like it was a game and we're all women.  So it was probably not the best situation for myself to get into.  In fact- interestingly enough- during "Press Week" - the first night I got there - which was five days before we started shooting, we all met in this room down in the basement of the hotel and we all got together and was introduced and then the producer said, "It's going to be women against men."  And I thought, "Oh S**t!"  Mind you, it's not that I don't like women; I actually have quite a few women friends. 

It's just that I knew that that situation was going to be bad for me.  I knew that that was the situation where people were going to see me as overly aggressive and overly assertive and all of those things because I was going to go in there and I was going to go in there and do what I needed to do strategically in order to make sure that that game went well for me and frankly for my team because one of the best things you can do is to make sure you don't get into the boardroom because that means that you're never on the chopping block.

So I was going to go in and make sure that I do what I could do to make sure that my team was winning and that I was setting myself so that if my team didn't win that I wouldn't be on the chopping block and I was not going into it as a popularity contest. 

Actually, I think in that particular game it's very bad to treat it as a popularity contest because you have to remember that this game has another layer to it where it's a TV show.  Being a strong personality and creating some controversy actually works very much to your advantage.  I knew that I was going to go in there and I had a few goals - one of them was to create some conflict but not just create conflict.  If you understand what I mean - just not for conflict state but I knew that naturally in the course of playing this game because of who I am and how competitive I am and how driven I am and all of those things that conflict was going to be created but I wanted to make sure that it was conflict that was backed up. 

The jobs were really hard work.  Was I being "right" about the things that I was creating conflict about?  It doesn't mean that I wasn't careful about making that kind of stand that it was the correct stand to take.  But I also knew that amongst a group of women that that was likely not pulling me a lot of friends. 

Interestingly enough, cause now I'm watching the show and I'm seeing what an incredible mess the boys are - but actually on episode two a lot of my personal interviews, which they didn't show because obviously they can't show everything - were about "I don't what to do."  "I can't communicate to these people."  "I understand that it's not a popularity contest - they don't seem to understand that - it's about getting the work done, it's about winning the task and I don't know what to do.  I need to be on the boy's team."

I said that, "I need to be on the boy's team."  Now, had I actually seen the boy's team I don't think I would have said that.  (Haha)  But I did.  Interestingly enough, on that task, obviously Joan (Rivers) was really pissed off at me and I know that Joan had a thing for me because I was the one that suggested to Khloe (Kardashian) that she divide up the room - now I didn't make the final decision about who wrote and who didn't but Joan certainly blamed that on me. 

And when I did my pre board room interview basically what I said was, "I didn't want to stick my neck out and say hey divide this room up but I also recognized that if that room wasn't divided up we were going to lose.  I think that that was clear given that that's what happened to the boys; they didn't divide the room up; they didn't get people working on the very specific pieces of this task.  There were three pieces to this task:  there was a marketing piece, there was the writing of the comic piece and there was the designing of the comic and the costume.  That was the three different pieces at task.  Khloe at the beginning of that task was allowing everybody just to do everything - to throw ideas about the costume and about the writing and about this and about that and I just sat there and said, "Oh my God."  Literally, the train came off the rail and I thought, " we need to get this train back on the rail."  I said, "Hey, do you think we can divide the room up?"  Notice that I was asking her permission - I wasn't taking over as project manager. 

I was very careful to defer to her authority in saying that but Joan recognized that was me getting the room divided up - she understood that while Khloe was making the decision that had I not suggested that that would have never happened.  She (Rivers) was pissed off at me - that's fine.  She wants to be pissed off at me, she can be pissed off at me and I said that the justifications of that is that if we win that I was right.  If we lose, I'm going to have to defend in doing that but if we win I was right.  That's the way I look at stuff, and it wasn't to me about who got to write and who didn't get to write, which was Joan was upset about.  It was about who had the best ideas in the room and how do we get this project moving forward.  Honestly, Claudia (Jordon - Deal or No Deal Model) had the best idea at the time of that decision was made. 

I don't make any apologies about it because I'm not about, " Am I insulting you because you have EMMYS?"  I understand that you have Emmy's and that you've written screenplays and I get that.  I'm not insulting your ability to be a writer but the fact is that the ideas that you were throwing out for this particular task were not as good as somebody else's ideas and when you're a team you have to subordinate yourself to that.  It's as simple as that.  Whoever's ideas are the best are the ones that are suppose to be done regardless of what your past accomplishments are and you really have to take your ego out of it and that's what Joan was able to do that I was able to do because she was bringing personal feelings into a business setting.  That was the problem that I had with the group is that I was always treating it like a business setting and they were always treating it like "hurt feelings".  I was like, "Aahh!  What do I do?"  And then the question is - Do I figure it out? 

Obviously, people will have to tune in to see if I actually manage to figure it out.  What I realized that in poker - when you're talking to people you can comment them directly.  In this situation, with this group of women, I had to figure out how to go around the side - come at them sideways.  That was hard for me.  The best example of that is when I knocked my brother out of the 2004 Tournament of Champions.  What do you think?   That we weren't going to talk to each other ever again?  No!  It's just the way it is.  It's part of the game.  You play the game strategically correctly and you take your personal feelings out of it.  Literally, personal feelings have nothing to do with this game.  There is no getting your feelings hurt.  It's about making sure you win.  Period!  End of discussion. 

I think that that is a very different way to think; to sit there and be like it doesn't matter how many Emmy's Joan has.  If Joan doesn't have the best ideas at that time then somebody else should be doing that part of the task.  Done.  I didn't think there was anything wrong with it.  I thought it was logical. 

JENNY:  Yeah, I thought she was getting a little egotistical when she kept reiterating the fact of her Emmy's, how many Broadway plays she's written, etc.

ANNIE:  Exactly.  That was the kind of thing that bugged me.  The thing is - honestly I spend a lot of my time writing marketing material for UltimateBet.  I wasn't saying that I should be writing this marketing material.  I actually developed a lot of the marketing plan but I didn't write all of it and I let people do their thing - on the marketing material.  On the writing thing, Claudia kind of built the skeleton of the story based on the branding.  So I had some ideas about the branding in terms of customer service but once we figured out what the branding was then I thought Claudia came up with a great skeleton of an idea and then Melissa developed further.  She ended up writing the actual comic panel that I thought was really good.  They don't show the marketing material but that ended up being really good.  I think Melissa and Claudia mainly worked on that.  Brandy and I were working on the printing and the handouts and the take always and getting all of that stuff done.  Then at the end of the night, Brande, Khloe, Melissa, and I ended up actually putting the comic together.  I thought it was a great team effort and everybody did their thing.  Frankly, on that particular task Joan left at 8pm and we stayed until 11pm.  Hey - you know what?  I don't want to be criticized from somebody who didn't even stay the whole time.  

JENNY:  I've always thought Joan was annoying.  Is she really that annoying in real life?

ANNIE:  Basically, I'm happy to talk about where she fell down business wise.  I think this was a big issue in business; bringing whatever your past accomplishments are and feeling like your suppose to have a job and actually disrupting things because of it - I think is really unproductive.  I think that that's what happened on the task is that she allowed her ego and the investment in who she was as a person to actually disrupt the task.  That I have a big issue with.  As far as who she is as a person, I think some people really like her and some people don't.  What I would say is - in your case - in whatever your opinion of Joan is - is probably exactly what she is.  Maybe even more so.  So I think that if you really like who Joan is as a person then you probably would like her more if you met her in person.  I think it just depends on are you a Joan Rivers' fan or are you not a Joan Rivers' fan and that's obviously a personal choice.  Same thing - some people hate me and some people like me.  That's just how it is.

JENNY:  In your opinion - getting to the subject of her call you an idiot.

ANNIE:  She did worse than that in the first episode.

JENNY:  She had also stated that you hurt the team for not using her as a writer.

ANNIE:  Clearly I didn't.  That's the thing that bothers me is that obviously I did not hurt the team but not using her as a writer.  For one thing, she wanted to write the presentation but she wasn't going to be there for the presentation.  I'm a firm believer that the person presenting should really be writing unless the person presenting really wants somebody else to write it because a presentation has to come from your heart and soul.  Joan was not there on the second day of that task.  It would be ridiculous for her to write the presentation unless the person doing the presentation really wanted her to.  Claudia wanted to write her own presentation.  If Khloe chooses Claudia - I don't know that Claudia was the right choice for the presentation but once Khloe chooses Claudia for the presentation then Claudia should have the right to do the presentation herself.  That's very clear on the presentation side. 

Now, on the rest of it - I didn't not hurt the team.  A:  I helped the team by getting the team divided up so that the chaos stopped and you can see that very clearly in the show.  I said to Khloe, "Hey, we need to divide up into groups."  Them minute I said that, the yelling and the talking literally screeches to a halt and things started to be productive.  So for sure I did not hurt the team for making that suggestion to Khloe.  That's number one.  Number two - we won the task.  And that's exactly what I said is that, "I did no harm to this team."  In fact, I helped the team if we won.  If we lost, I'm going to have to defend it.  Look, somebody had to step up and divide up into groups and Khloe wasn't going to do it at the time.  Khloe ended up being a very good project manager but at that moment in time she certainly didn't.  

Basically, my argument in that boardroom would have been that if you're going to fire someone, you should probably fire one of the people who left the task three hours early.  That would have been my argument for sure.  Now whether I would have gotten fired or not - who knows because it didn't happen; we're speaking hypothetically.  You have to think about it from a logical business sense.  How could you possible say that I hurt the team when it stopped the chaos, it stopped the yelling, it stopped all of that stuff.  And we own the task!  It seems pretty clear that there was no harm. 

JENNY:  Out of all of the women, was there one specific one that you worked the best with.

ANNIE:  Yeah, there were two actually that I worked really well with.  Brande Roderick and Natalie Gulbis.

JENNY:  You seem to give a lot of praise to Jesse James especially when it comes to his creative side in which you had mentioned on your blog (  Is he always that calm and collected throughout the show?

ANNIE:  Pretty much, yeah.  He's just a really cool dude.  I think that he's very confident.  I think he's really really smart.  I really like him..  I think he's a cool guy.  I thought it was very clear from task one that I felt that he was definitely part of the top on the boys team.  What's really interesting is that I think that wasn't necessarily recognized by everybody at that time.  But I kind of looked at him and thought, "That guy you're going to have to freakin watch out for."  Very quickly - I would say - definitely by task two the people I had my eye on as far as the boys were concerned were Hershel Walker and Jesse James.  I think that that's pretty clear from watching the show that those are the two that you might want to keep your eye on.  They just seem to be very with it. 

What's interesting is that despite the kind of tiffs between Joan and I, I didn't have anything against her because I was still treating it as a game.  "Oh okay, well she's pissed off about something in the game."  I didn't really have any issues with her; I had no issues with Melissa; I didn't have issues with Claudia.  What's really interesting for me to watch is that I had no issues with anybody on my team.  Honestly.  I was like we're making our team work and let's do it.  Obviously, there were people on the team that issues with me.  A lot of people said to me, "Oh when Claudia talked to you in the boardroom, you must have been really pissed off at her."  And I would respond, "What?  No.  Why?"  If she wants to attack me about showing her how to frost a cupcake when the chef shows me how to frost the cupcake - I guess that's her purgative but that doesn't mean that I don't like her.  But it is - we're on a TV show.

I gave another interview and someone said that were very surprised that I had said such nice things about Melissa in my blog.  She wrote those four panels and I thought she did a really good job and they were very funny.  Which makes it so much more interesting if you think about it because her mother was so upset.  Melissa was the one that ended up writing it so she's basically saying it was a huge mistake for her daughter to have been the one that wrote those.  Anyway, so I acknowledged that.  I felt kind of bad for Melissa because Melissa got portrayed in an unflattering way on episode two.  She worked really hard.  She worked right up to the last minute.  She wrote the panel, she did a lot of the marketing material and she really worked her ass off.  I said that in my blog that she had really done a great job writing those panels.  Another person interviewed me and they known that Melissa had written some very nasty things about me in her blog two weeks in a row.  So they had asked me why I had said those nice things about Melissa in my blog and I told them, "Because that's what she did."  To me, it's a TV show and it's a game.  You're playing a game on a TV show. 

I'm actually in some ways confused by the personally hurt feelings and all of that stuff.  Basically what I said in that interview was, "She did good work."  If I didn't acknowledge that she did good work because of something she said about me in her blog, I would actually consider that to be in some ways unethical because it would be lying.  Then I would be lying on what she did.  Of course, if she did good work then I'm going to say so regardless of anything she's ever said about me; that's irrelevant.  It's not like I'm going to recreate what happened just because she was mean to me.

JENNY:  Do you think it comes down to a lot of the editing as well?

ANNIE:  I would have to say that the editing has actually been relatively fair to tell you the truth.  For example - in episode one they strung together my kind of bossier moments and then they collapsed them down, as they will do when they have to take fifteen hours of footage and make it an hour and forty minutes.  The thing is that everything that they showed I did.  They have so much footage on you that they could take almost anybody in that game and paint them to be a bad guy; paint them to be a good guy; paint them to be whatever.  You really get wrapped up in these tasks and you forget the cameras around you.  I've got smirky moments; I've got bossy moments; I've got this and that.  I understand going into that that they were going to take whatever moments they wanted to take.  It's obviously edited to tell a story.  

JENNY:  With the Claudia moment in episode two- they edited the show in a way that made you like you were upset that she was going home early.  Which was not the fact and you had to later go and explain yourself on your blog.  Does that bother you at some points when you have to go "after the fact" and explain yourself? 

ANNIE:  Look - yeah was I saying that about Claudia?  No, I was saying that about the three people who left at 8pm.  And that was actually in response to someone that said to me, "Oh well one of the players wanted to go home and see their daughter."  And I said, "I have four kids that I haven't seen."  All of us have reasons where we would want to go home but some of us are here working until 11pm.  So I felt a little unsympathetic about that.  No, if they want to create some sort of story of conflict between Claudia and I - it is what it is.  When you sign the contract, you know that that's a possibility.  I really don't complain about it.  I have a blog and I can go and say that I wasn't pissed off about Claudia going home when she was sick.  Then again, on the flip side, if I were sick I wouldn't have gone home.  I just don't have an issue with them editing the show however they need to edit it.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have gone on the show in the first place because I'm not naïve; I understand what they do on those shows. 

In the second part of Jenny Woo's interview (to be published March 17, 2009), Annie Duke discusses further her experiences with Celebrity Apprentice, how she is trying NOT to be like Omarosa, a poker player herself, and provides us more information about her charity work especially as it pertains to Darfur

You can check out Part II of Jenny's Interview With Annie Duke Here


Jenny Woo, Senior International Correspondent 

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