Murphy James - Papa to the Pros: Dr. Richard Lederer, Part Two
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Papa to the Pros: Dr. Richard Lederer, Part Two

January 5, 2006
Murphy James
Dr. Richard Lederer

In Part One, the story is told of a struggling family in the midst of wealthy St. Paul's, where Richard taught English. They sought cheap entertainment: card games. Richard would not "throw a game" to motivate the kids. "Let the child psychologists curse us," he says of the competitive spirit he instilled in the kids. Howard and Annie go on to become top poker pros. Katy tries her hand at poker, but prefers the writing life.

Richard Lederer is a man who has a "way with words." While he takes great pride in the poker accomplishments of Howard and Annie, of course, he perhaps takes even greater pride in the way each of the three kids has distinguished themselves with words.

Howard has been dubbed the "Professor of Poker" because of his ability to describe an elegant game, eloquently. He has a series of DVD's on poker, has joined up with Annie on another set of instructional DVD's, runs a poker camp with Annie, and is often a commentator at the big, televised tournaments.

Annie came within a whisker of completing a Ph. D. at Penn, writing such academic papers (as Anne Lederer) as, "Verbs of a Feather Flock Together." Is she her father's daughter or what?

She moved to Montana, married, and began having babies: Maud, Leo, Lucy, and Nelly. Given some early lessons in Hold 'em from Howard, she began playing poker in Billings, then in the big tournaments in Vegas.

According to her proud Dad, "Annie shows you can be female, pretty, maternal, almost a Ph. D., and a terrific poker player."

She and Howard would share a final table in a WSOP event, and she would go on to knock him out of three WSOP events. Most famously, she knocked him out in third place as she went on to win a $2 million dollar Tournament of Championships event in late 2004. The players had to sign an agreement not to disclose the results of this tournament until it was televised. A week or so before it hit TV, one of her kids came home from school and asked, "Hey, Mom, is it true you won two million dollars?'

Annie's autobiography, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker (even she has trouble remembering the name of it), hit the shelves in late 2005. With the T of C win, Annie is now the leading female money winner of all time. She is perhaps the hottest name in poker, surrounded by agents, publicists, business managers, and an entertainment lawyer. She endorses a growing number of products.

A poker show, starring guess-who, has been pitched to the Game Show Network. She is producing a horror film. Recently divorced from Ben Duke, she now dates actor Joe Reitman ("The Perfect Storm"), the former husband of Shannon Elizabeth. Joe is producing her TV show.

Her finest quality, according to Joe: "She's the world's best mother."

Speaking of Annie and Katy, with dueling books on the market, Richard, ever the punster says, "They have a scribbling rivalry."
Richard and Simone come to Howard and Annie's poker camps in Vegas. At the first one, Richard spoke on poker terms and this lecture appears on one of Howard's DVD's.

By way of introduction: "My children's achievements in the gaming halls inspire me to deal from a full deck of vivid words and phrases that have made the trip from the poker table into our everyday conversation and writing. The color and high-risk excitement of poker have made the language of the game one of the most pervasive metaphors in our language."

One of Richard's observations: "The cleverest application of poker terminology that I have ever encountered appears on the truck of a New Hampshire plumbing company: 'A Flush Is Better Than a Full House.' In poker that isn't true, but a homeowner would recognize its wisdom." He and Simone play in the Sit 'n' Go (Hmmm....) camp tournaments.

Katy's book, Poker Face ("a darkly poetic memoir," says Richard), peeled away the mystique of poker stardom and gave a candid look at the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. Annie's book is equally candid, detailing her problems with panic attacks and even a suicide threat. Each deals with their father's powerful competitive force (he would play tennis until he dropped) and their mother's former drinking problem.

Katy now lives in New York, works for a financial firm, and continues to write. She is author of a poetry collection, Winter Sex. Deedy has a long-time boyfriend, Dale. They live in Montana. Richard is remarried to Simone. They live in San Diego. Howard's wife, Susan, runs the poker room at the Bellagio. Matti is their son. They live in Las Vegas. Everyone came together recently to celebrate a holiday at Annie's home in the Hollywood Hills.

How is Richard's competitive spirit these days? He recently won the San Diego Senior Doubles Tennis Championship.

"You never get tired of winning," he says.

© 2005 Murphy James