SBD/March 2, 2011/People and Pop Culture

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  • Catching Up With Professional Poker Player Annie Duke

    Duke sees online poker being fully regulated in the next five years

    ANNIE DUKE in recent years has developed into one of the faces of professional poker. Long known among the sport's ardent followers, Duke gained mainstream attention during her appearance on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" in '09. Duke now is going all in for her latest venture, teaming with JEFFREY POLLACK and MICHAEL BRODSKY to form Federated Sports & Gaming. She will serve as Commissioner and Gaming Exec VP for the new league, which is designed for only the best in the game. Duke recently chatted with Staff Writer Theresa Manahan to discuss her new venture, online poker and DONALD TRUMP.

    Best celebrity poker player
    Longest amount of consecutive time you have spent playing online poker: Six hours

    Word association:
    Favorite hand: Aces
    Donald Trump: (laughs) I can’t say the first thing that comes to my head. Can’t say the second thing either. … Hair.
    Best poker room in Vegas: The Bellagio, but it will be the Palms now that we are partnered with them.

    Q: How will you determine who is in the league or not in the league?
    Duke: We took a combination of looking at what somebody’s overall lifetime performance in terms of things like how much have they earned in their career, how many major titles have they won, you know the same kind of thing that you would look at in terms of other individual sports. But then we also look very carefully at what have they've been doing recently. It’s a combination of overall lifetime performance as well as performance in the past few years.

    Q: Can the market bear another poker tournament series?
    Duke: I think that, first of all, when you look at, for example, recent entries like the NAPT that are thriving, I think that the answer is yes across the board. But I think this is the kind of entry that the market not only can bear but really needs. We’re really filling a white space that doesn’t exist right now. Right now what you have is a lot of tournaments that essentially go on the idea that anybody can play poker and so as long as you have the money, you can plop your money down and play. They have these very large fields and that’s exciting in itself. But in the same sense that in golf, while everybody can play poker, they also have this amazing forum and platform for the best players in the world to compete against each other and people really enjoy watching that on TV. We think there is a place for that in poker, and that doesn’t exist right now.

    Q: Does televised poker change the game?
    Duke: I think that it hasn’t changed the game that much. I think that what has changed the game a lot is online poker and just the amount of data and hand experience that the younger players are able to work with. I think that that has been a lot of a driving force to the change, and very good changes in the game.

    Q: What is the biggest misconception about the poker industry?
    Duke: I think in a lot of ways people still think about poker the way that -- at least JOAN RIVERS expressed that she thought about poker in “The Apprentice,” that I was on with her -- which is I think they sort of have this old view of it’s like men with cigars or they are not real people or these are people who would be otherwise not good in business. They are not necessarily mainstream. And when you actually look at the top poker players, you’re talking about people who are real eggheads for the most part. Like in the best sense of eggheads. These are people who could go out and be incredibly successful on Wall Street. Many of them are college educated, they are all very, very intelligent people, they tend to be very thoughtful people, and they are also incredibly generous people.

    Q: Do you see online poker becoming fully regulated in the next five years?
    Duke: I actually do believe it will be, because I think that it’s necessary. When you’re looking at something that doesn’t do direct harm to anybody, and that’s clearly the case with online poker -- particularly in the case of poker because it’s a skill game and really shouldn’t be viewed as gambling -- it’s clearly not doing any direct harm to anybody. … When you look at harm to society issues, the addiction rate for alcohol -- which we have decided doesn’t work if you prohibit it and it’s better to regulate it -- are literally tenfold over the kinds of addiction rates you get from online gaming. Given that it’s pervasive, we might as well protect the consumer, and we might as well enjoy the revenue benefits.

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  • Executive Transactions

    McKay will serve as Chair of the NFL's competition committee's Pat Yasinskas reported Falcons President RICH MCKAY will serve as Chair of the league's competition committee. McKay has served on the committee since '94 and has been a co-Chair since '98. He has served as co-Chair with former Titans coach JEFF FISHER since '01, but with Fisher no longer coaching, McKay is "now a one-man show at the top of this committee" (, 3/1).

    HOOKED 'EM: ESPN has named two veteran employees -- VP/Programming & Acquisitions DAVE BROWN and Senior Coordinating Producer STEPHANIE DRULEY -- to head up the new Univ. of Texas TV network. Brown becomes the net's VP/Programming and Druley its VP/Production, with both relocating to Austin. Brown's oversight will include creation of new shows and concepts as well as scheduling, acquisitions and the net's business plan. Druley will oversee the overall production, including studio and remote productions, the look of on-air content and hiring of all network talent (ESPN).

    EXECS: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia has promoted MICHELLE MURRAY to VP/News Programming, KIM STEWART to Dir of Marketing, SHAWN OLEKSIAK to Senior Exec Producer of Live Events, BRAD NAU to Senior Exec Producer of Special Projects, DAVE FINOCCHIARO to Senior Dir of Engineering, CRISTIN DUNN to Senior Marketing Coordinator and LISA IAMURRI to Senior Accounting Administrator (CSN)....MLB has named JOHN THORN Official Baseball Historian. Thorn, who is the author and editor of several baseball books, succeeds late Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times writer JEROME HOLTZMAN, who served as Official Baseball Historian from '99-'08 (MLB)....The A's have promoted Assistant General Counsel NEIL KRAETSCH to General Counsel. Kraetsch will be responsible for all legal and human resources matters (A's)....The American Drag Racing League has hired former A-B Sports Marketing Manager KAREN HOLSCHLAG as Dir of Sponsorship Development (ADRL)....NCAA Exec Assistant PAT SCHAEFER retired Friday after 25 years with the organization (, 2/24)....Maroon PR has hired KRISTEN SEABOLT as Associate Account Exec (THE DAILY).

    Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to

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  • Names In The News

    John Henry admits he was fined $500,000 for revenue-sharing comments in '09

    Red Sox Owner JOHN HENRY yesterday said that MLB “fined him $500,000 for comments he made” to the Boston Globe in ’09 regarding revenue sharing, revealing “his fine publicly for the first time.” Henry at the time said seven “chronically uncompetitive teams” received over $1B. He said, “Who except these teams, can think this is a good idea?” He said yesterday, “The large markets aren’t allowed to give their opinions. I made statements which turned out to be true, or at least there were various documents that were leaked after that. But anyway, the large clubs are not allowed to talk about it” (, 3/1). 

    COME BACK SOON: Ft. Worth city officials expect to “pitch a ‘long-term’ partnership to ESPN sometime soon, capitalizing on playing host to the sports network during Super Bowl week.” Ft. Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO DAVID DUBOIS said that the proposal will include “what Fort Worth can do to establish a deeper connection with ESPN for various events at Cowboys Stadium and in the area, such as TCU football games” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/2). DuBois said that a trip to ESPN’s HQs “is already planned for the next month.” He and other city officials “will pitch the network on return visits” for “College GameDay” telecasts of TCU and “MNF” games at Cowboys Stadium. DuBois: “We’re going to talk to them about a long-term relationship. They love Fort Worth so this now becomes a long-term business opportunity” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/2).

    THE REAL DEAL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jeff Pearlman profiles Mets VP/Media Relations JAY HORWITZ and writes in “three decades on the job, Horwitz has never taken a vacation.” Horwitz has been with the club for 32 seasons and only missed “two games because of his mother’s death in August of 1990.” Pearlman: “In an era of slick, fast-talking corporate-influenced publicists, Horwitz is raw and gritty and real” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/2).

    AWARDS & RECOGNITION: Fast Company magazine has named their 50 most innovative companies for ’11. ESPN is the highest-ranked sports company at 15, followed by Turner Sports at 16 and Nike at 23 (FAST COMPANY, 3/ ’11 issue)....Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter SID HARTMAN was honored during last night's Lakers-T’Wolves game at Target Center. Hartman “was instrumental not only in helping bring the Lakers to Minneapolis but also in putting together the roster that won five NBA championships in six seasons” between ’49-54 (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/2)….The gym at the Benjamin Harrison YMCA in Indianapolis “now carries a special name: ‘MEL SIMON YMCA Gymnasium.’” The late Pacers co-Owner “played basketball in the gym in the 1950s when he was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison and the facility was a military athletic center” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/2).

    CHARITY STRIPE: USA Hockey announced that Maple Leafs RW PHIL KESSEL has “donated $5,000 to the Brendan Burke Internship” (CP, 3/1)….Cardinals Care, the charitable foundation of the MLB Cardinals, yesterday announced an expanded partnership with St. Louis-based Rawlings Sporting Goods to benefit area kids. Cardinals Care is launching a “Rawlings Replay” program that encourages fans to donate new and gently-used baseball and softball equipment at special bins located throughout Busch Stadium during the upcoming season. All donations will go to support Cardinals Care’s Redbird Rookies program and other St. Louis children’s charities (Cardinals).

    NAMES: More than 1,000 students, faculty, alumni and the business community "turned out at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School over the weekend" to hear tennis player ANDRE AGASSI share details about his "vision/commitment to build 100 new charter schools in the next five years" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/2)....Blackhawks C JONATHAN TOEWS yesterday was named the official host of the July 14-17 Canadian Tour Players Cup at Pine Ridge Golf Club in Winnipeg (CP, 3/1)....Marlins President DAVID SAMSON "will be inducted into the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida Ultimate Sports Auction Shrine" on March 11 at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Marlins Special Assistant to the President JEFF CONINE, who has already been inducted into the HOF, "will introduce Samson at the annual Ultimate Sports Auction" (, 3/1)....Patriots coach BILL BELICHICK was seen "hanging backstage" with JON BON JOVI after the rocker's concert at TD Garden last night (BOSTON HERALD, 3/2)….The entire Coyotes team was "spotted having dinner in a private dining room" at Sunda restaurant in Chicago last night (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/2).

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