An interview with Annie:For Annie Duke, ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Is Business, Not Personal
Melissa Rivers doesn’t like her. Nor does Khloe Kardashian. But Donald Trump likes Annie Duke - and that’s all that really matters on The Celebrity Apprentice. What’s the deal with Duke, a busy mother of four as well as the number one female poker player in the world with close to 4 million in tournament winnings? I caught up with Annie to talk about the show before the next round Sunday night on NBC at 8 pm.
In a high stakes poker tournament, words don’t usually make or break the game. Are you surprised by some of the exchanges in the boardroom?
I was definitely surprised by Joan Rivers. If you saw the boardroom last week, she just went off on me. I wouldn’t call someone an idiot, like she did. That’s a personal attack. And if that’s what she wants to do, I can’t stop her. I know my work will speak for itself. I feel it’s very much a business game. Not a personal game.
Do you think mixing it up with you was part of her strategy?
I do. Joan was trying to create drama and tension, which make for great television. Joan is really smart. Obviously. You have to be really smart in order to be successful in the entertainment industry for over 40 years. And for that, I completely admire her. On the other hand, in order for her to do well I think that she’s willing to do and say things that I won’t. After Joan attacked me in the boardroom, I mean really attacked me verbally, I went into episode three with a different plan.
What was that?
To be as quiet as I possibly can. At the poker table in order to win you have to be able to change gears. You can start out aggressive, and then when you change gears and quiet down, people still feel you’re playing aggressive because you’ve set a tone. In the first episode I was portrayed as the antagonist, and I really wasn’t. If you noticed, they never had any clips of me saying bad things about anybody else.
Do you feel that sometimes the players get into each other’s faces a little too much?
Definitely. Last season I was horrified by the way Omarosa behaved. She was trying to create controversy by attacking people personally. Watching her put a knot in my stomach. I went in with the goal of never doing that and hope I’ve succeeded. One thing about Joan is that she started making it personal with me from episode one. And that’s the only thing I find upsetting.
What are your feelings about Melissa?
I read some comments she had about me, and I’m not bothered by them. I definitely had a different approach to this game than most. Melissa did a remarkable job with the comic book and gave us a great slogan. I separate personal feelings from the “business” that is the game we’re playing. I would never allow somebody’s personal feelings to get in the way of the work. That’s what I think did Scott Hamilton in.
Scott didn’t listen to Tom Green’s ideas, which were good. Instead Scott’s personal feelings got in the way of accepting Tom’s good ideas. Scott’s really nice and with his group, and being the project manager, one would have to create some waves in order to gain control of them, and he couldn’t do that.
While we’re on the topic of “You’re Fired”, did you think Donald made the right decision in episode one when he fired Dice instead of Herschel?
Trump definitely made the right decision, and to tell you the truth, I think that was the decision Dice Clay wanted. I don’t think his goal was to win the game. I think his goal was to be in that room, make some noise and be “Dice Clay.” People are being much too harsh on him. I’ve read where he’s been called a “buffoon” or “being delusional” and I don’t think that’s true at all. He accomplished exactly the goal he set out to on the show. He did a brilliant job; he got the maximum amount of people talking about him for the minimum amount of time he was there. I have a very different view of him than most people. He made things compelling, not a lot of people are going to complain on television to Donald Trump that there are no bagels and coffee being served.
Being the number one poker player in the world, you assess people for a living. Going into the game, who did you think the main competition would be?
I thought Scott would do well. But it just goes to show that until you see someone play the game, you can’t assess them. By the time episode two is done, it was really obvious to me that on the boys’ team, I needed to worry about Herschel Walker and Jesse James. It was clear that as quiet as Jesse was, he was getting the job done. That look he created with the comic book character was amazing. If the task had been judged solely on look and feel, they would have won easily. I worried about Herschel because he runs a successful business and he obviously knows how, as seen in episode one, to raise money.
Who did you think would bring the competition on the ladies’ team?
Pretty quickly I had my eye on Brande and Joan. I felt they were going to do well. Joan, obviously because she’s Joan Rivers. And Brande because I thought, “What a good story she is.” Here’s this woman who is drop-dead gorgeous, and then you find out she’s super-smart, super-confident and a kick ass chick. It’s completely anachronistic. But that’s my opinion now that I know her. If I had judged her on first impression only, I would have thought, “Playboy bunny, model, whatever…” On Apprentice it’s important to figure out their strengths and weaknesses as you see them doing the task. That’s why it’s a huge disadvantage to be Project Manager in the early stages. You haven’t had time to figure out people’s strengths and weaknesses.
In your eyes, who isn’t bringing the competition?
After two weeks I’d have to say Dennis. I’m not saying he’s doing bad work or he’s a weak player; it’s more that he’s disrupting his team and not contributing a lot. But let me make it clear, that’s who Dennis Rodman is. I’m not slamming him, it’s just who he is. He’s a controversial guy, highly recognizable, and he’s very interesting to watch on TV.
Last week some of your team thought you were trying to take control, what really happened?
I was being realistic. Last week when I suggested to Khloe that we break up into groups, it was because nothing was getting done and I thought breaking us up would help move things faster. I wasn’t trying to take control, just win our task. I’m a focused person and that can lead to problems sometimes. That’s why I said in my private interview I wanted to be on the men’s team. I thought they had it all together. In the beginning I had a really hard time communicating with my team. In my job that I do every day, which is poker, everybody that I deal with is male. I think that men are very direct with each other and women go sideways at each other. I thought I would relate better to the men. But – that was before I saw them in action.
What did you think after you saw the men?
Train wreck. A complete train wreck. Watching the episode I was thinking, “Thank God I’m not on that team.”
How did you deal with the conflicting personalities on you team?
After the first task, I spoke to my boyfriend (actor and professional poker player; Joe Reitman) on the phone and he really calmed me down. I was saying to him, “Outside of Brande, all these women hate me and I don’t know how to talk to them. We don’t communicate right; I just don’t know what to do.”
What advice did he give?
He told me, “Look, you play games for a living. When you’re at a poker table and things aren’t going your way, you figure out a way to fix it.” That helped, along with him saying that he was going to get on a plane and come to New York. I was thinking “Well, if things keep going this way with me and my team, at least Ican go home at night and hug my boyfriend.”
With the way you rule the card table, I assume there was some preparation on your part before filming began.
When I found out I was going to be on, I got copies of every episode from last year. I’m a games player and when you present me with a game, I’m going to come up with a strategy to try and beat the game. I watched every episode, pausing and analyzing what had just happened. I also looked carefully at the errors people made while doing their tasks, the way they talked to Trump, and how they treated their Project Managers.
That’s incredibly detailed preparation.
It’s who I am. I remember making a mathematical analysis of how much money I felt was needed to be raised - based on how much money got raised the previous season - and then saying to Joe, “I’m nervous, do you think I’m going to do well on the show?” He said, “Are you kidding me? Do you really think the other people are doing anything at all like this?”
No wonder you’re the number one female poker player in the world. And while we’re on the subject, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you which poker game you’d recommend for a beginner?
That would be Limit Hold ‘Em. Simply because you can’t lose your whole stack, it’s a great way to learn the flow of Hold ‘Em, which is the most popular game. The rules aren’t very complicated and it’s easy to learn and follow. Also, with Limit Hold ‘Em, the bets are less and for a small investment it’s the best game to learn from. And - it’s the game I started on.
Lastly, you make a lot of money gambling with cards, but what do you know about sports gambling? Like, which team does Annie Duke think will win the NBA finals this year?
Boston Celtics. Growing up in New Hampshire you become forever loyal to a team when Larry Bird is on it. I live in Los Angeles now and L.A. is a Laker town, for sure. But don’t forget that the Celtics kicked the Lakers ass last year!http://www.fancast.com/blogs/tv-news/for-annie-duke-celebrity-apprentice-is-business-not-personal/