News hit the virtual streets today with the official announcement of the next contestants for Celebrity Apprentice. Among them is one of poker's most ruthless female players, Annie Duke.
Despite the fact that everyone who attended a news conference about the cast back in October was sworn to secrecy, the potential cast list has been whirling through the rumor mill ever since. Today that news was officially unleashed.
Of most interest to the poker world is Annie Duke's presence on the list. She will be playing for Refugees International as she takes on other celebrities to win Donald Trump's favor on the Celebrity Apprentice.
On Celebrity Apprentice, participants aren't playing for a spot on Trump's staff. Instead they're playing to raise money for their chosen charity, and the remaining player at the end also gets a bonus $250,000 check to give to their charity.
The show requires players to have a good business sense, shrewd tactical abilities and connections to people with big money to help raise money.
Duke certainly appears to have those qualities. She has been able to outwit and outplay people at the poker tables for years. A testament to her skills is her World Series of Poker bracelet win in 2004, as is winning the invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions that year.
She's highly sought after for her poker skills and knowledge, and has coached beginners through the WSOP Academy and celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Ashton Kutcher and Charles Barkley in personal sessions.
Along with her poker day job, Duke also serves as a consultant for UltimateBet, advising them on tournament schedules and structures.
Duke has been involved in quite a bit of charity work, including offering private poker lessons with herself as an item for charity auctions and raising funds to benefit numerous charities. She has been involved with charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ante Up for Africa, Children's Hospital and more.
Joining Annie Duke on Celebrity Apprentice are country music artist Clint Black, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, comedian Tom Green, pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, figure skater Scott Hamilton, custom bike builder Jesse James, Deal or No Deal model Claudia Jordan, reality TV star Khloe Kardashian, singer-songwriter Brian McKnight, comedienne Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa Rivers, actress and company owner Brande Roderick, retired NBA player Dennis Rodman, former NFLer Herschel Walker, and former TLC singer Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins.
Many of the celebrity names managed to leak out over the past few months. Both David Letterman and Conan O'Brien spilled the beans on a few names during monologues, and even Phil Hellmuth gave a little bit away in his blog.
Back on Oct. 22, 2008, he wrote in his blog about receiving a request to help Natalie Gulbis on the show.
"... and I love Natalie (I'm a fan), but I'm in Annie Duke's 'bullpen' already for that show," Hellmuth wrote.
"Annie and I have a television show together (Best Damn Poker Show on FSN in January), we both represent UltimateBet.com, and we have been friends for 12 years. So I called Annie to find out what was up, and she said, 'If you help Natalie I will kill you!' Then the producers of the show made Annie call me back on a phone line that they were taping. After that drama ended, I emailed Mike Phelps to see if he wanted to go on Celeb Apprentice tonight in NYC as Annie's guest ..."
Hellmuth leaves his loyal blog readers hanging about whether or not Phelps joins him to make the trip to New York for the show, so fans will have to watch Celebrity Apprentice this season to find out if he and other prominent poker pros do their part to help Duke try to win.
The season premier is scheduled for March 1 at 9 p.m. ET.