Saturday, June 21, 2008

At the Rail with Annie Duke

Annie Duke is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and arguably the best women’s poker tournament player ever. More importantly though, she a the mother of four and one of the co-founders of Ante Up for Africa. Conservative estimates put the number of murdered in Rwanda at 800,000 over the last 15 years and the massacre in Darfur has left at least 400,000 dead and caused millions to flee their homes and now are living as refugees.

On July 2, 2008, the second annual No Limit Hold-Em Tournament held in conjunction with the World Series of Poker® will be held in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino®

Annie Duke, 2007 winners Dan Shak and Brandon Moran, and Don Cheadle

Thank you for joining me here at the rail Annie.
How did Ante up for Africa begin?

One day Don and I were having Lunch back in September of ’06. Sushi. We were chatting about nothing much and then I mentioned a charity poker tournament I had just hosted that had raised almost a million dollars. We had just been talking about Darfur so the two topics just had a light bulb go on over our heads. It was a Duh! Moment where we realized we could raise money to help the crisis in Darfur though poker.

How are the funds raised put to work?

The funds are divide equally between two charites. One is Not on Our Watch ( and The Enough! Project (

I’ve read that several states have passed legislation requiring that Sudanese holdings be divested from state operated retirement/pension plans. How many states have made passed laws as of now and are there others who may soon do so?

Here is the best place for information on that:

Are there other lobbying or non-direct aid to the people affected by the unconscionable acts of the Sudanese Government that the organization is able to provide?

That is what The Enough! Project does. It raises awareness about issues like Darfur.

What is the one thing that you’d like to make sure that everyone who reads this knows about the plight of the people in Africa?

What I want people to know is that there are over 2 million people driven from their homes, in refugee camps where they need clean water, food and medicine. These people cannot turn to their own government for help because it is their government who has driven them from their homes. The US does not have a strong economic interest in the area so as a country we have not focused much attention on Darfur. Without an economic interest such as oil the only way we can effect change is by making our voices heard, letting the world know that this is an issue we care about. We hope that events like Ante Up For Africa will help in that cause.

Your first tournament raised more than $700,000 last year and a non-WSOP related event raised another $500,000 at the San Manuel Casino near Los Angeles, California recently, is there a specific level you hope to reach with this year’s tournament in Las Vegas?

Last year we thought the pie in the sky number would be $250K. Obviously, we raised much more than that. We were so ecstatic. I would hate to make a goal because any number we raise is so fantastic. But, obviously, that million dollar mark is very enticing.

With the success of the tournament in Los Angeles are there plans to have additional tournaments throughout the country and the world?

We did an event at the WSOP Europe last year. We are planning an event at the Aruba Classic this year as well through our presenting sponsor, They have made an extremely generous commitment to the charity and part of that commitment will be the event in Aruba in October.

Are there any non-poker tournament fund-raising events held in conjunction with the tournaments such as an auction or a dinner?Thank you so much for taking time to talk to me Annie. One final question, many poker players don’t get to make the trip to Las Vegas for the series. For those who don’t, where can they contribute to Ante Up for Africa?

We will be doing a silent auction this year at the even during the WSOP. Also, you can donate you player points at UB will also be auctioning off cool items to raise money for the charity such as poker lessons from me, a signed guitar from Scott Ian and other really cool stuff. Check the auctions area of the website for more details. The auction and special tournaments for Ante up for Africa are running June 21st and 22nd. A computer problem prevented this interview from being published when it was originally conducted on June 10th. Click this link to find out more about the promotions for Ante up for Africa.

I hope that everyone who is able to play can help support this very worthy cause. To learn more about the Ante up for Africa organization, to register for the tournament at the World Series of Poker, and/or to make a donation, please click here

Editorial Note: This interview was completed before Annie Duke's final table at the 2008 WSOP and the purpose of the interview was solely the charity Ante Up for Africa. There was no attempt on the part of the interviewer to ask Ms. Duke questions about poker strategy, her role at UltimateBet or the problems which UltimateBet has suffered in the past year.

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