“How I… Won Millions at the WSOP” Review

[LL] “Annie Duke’s biography, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP, mostly alternates between poker and personal chapters. The poker side starts with the history of playing cards in China in the 9th century but then primarily recounts the 2004 World Series of Poker $2,000 Limit Omaha 8-or-Better tournament. The family side begins with Duke’s parents’ initial meeting and their family life in New Hampshire before Duke moves to New York City, Philadelphia, Columbus (Montana), and Las Vegas.”

[RR] “Sounds like the book covers a lot of ground.”

[LL] “It does. I don’t really like the format as the two tracks aren’t parallel chronologically or any other way, but I suppose it caters to the younger generation’s shorter attention spans.

Growing up in New Hampshire with her intellectual parents, older brother Howard Lederer, and younger sister Katy, who had told her own version of the story two years earlier in Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers,1 Duke paints a picture of a somewhat dysfunctional family, primarily because of her mother’s drinking (she dreamed of being an actress, not a housewife).”

[RR] “Every family seems to have its problems, but poker players definitely have rougher childhoods than most.”

[LL] “I’m not so sure of that; I think the worst ones just stand out. Nevertheless I wouldn’t trade my childhood for most of theirs. After Duke survived hers, she followed Howard to New York City. He had already joined the poker and gambling world, but Annie was focused on school until she met, proposed to, and married Ben Duke.2 Only when she was off in Montana questioning her career choice did she take up poker, with technical and later financial help from Howard.

Eventually, Duke decides to become a professional poker player, moves her family to Las Vegas, and starts winning. That leads to the other half of the book, where she competes at the World Series of Poker. The book covers many Omaha hands, supplementing their instructional value with occasional insets containing general playing tips.

Overall, How I Raised… is a great look at what makes one of the top female players tick. It’s heavier on the autobiography side than the poker strategy side but can be read for either or both.”

Title How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP
Author Annie Duke (with David Diamond)
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Engaging history plus helpful insets with twenty poker playing tips.
Cons More than you probably want to know about Duke’s health issues.
Rating 3.5

Footnotes:

  1. Katy Lederer’s book doesn’t have enough poker to merit its own review, but she did actually learn how to play and did okay in cash games for a while (no Hendon Mob entry, so she either didn’t play any tournaments or didn’t have any success in them). It is, however, mentioned in chapter 6 and is a very easy read that gives good insight into how Howard Lederer and Annie Duke turned out the way they did.
  2. The actual events took a little longer than that, but not by much. Annie and Ben never even dated! The marriage survived longer than you’d have expected, ending in divorce in 2003 after they had four children.
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