Great Poker Camp
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I covered the camp at the Palms in Vegas, December 1 - 4, 2005.

Howard Lederer and Rick Bierman, his business partner, go back and forth on whether it is a fantasy camp (Rick) or a reality camp (Howard).  It is, of course, both.

Howard Lederer
Howard Lederer

Photo courtesy of Howard's and Annie's Fantasy Poker Camp

Players realize their fantasy of sitting beside, and learning from, the top pros in the world.  Then, they get realistic about their game as the pros lean over their shoulder, critique their actions, show the campers their cards, and explain the logic of professional play.

Howard has held two previous camps over the last year, drawing about 700 “campers.”

Most of the “campers” are at an intermediate level, hoping to improve their play and move into games where there is more money on the table, and eventually, in their purse or wallet.  Perhaps 5-10% aspire to be pros.

If you’ve seen Howard’s instructional DVD’s, you can see where he got the nickname of “The Professor of Poker.”  They clearly show his commitment to the game.  They also show that he is a great teacher.

Howard goes “Zen” at several points in the workshop, stressing “staying in the moment.”  No past. No future. Just now. He stresses making correct decisions, one action at a time.

His credentials are stellar, of course, with World Series of Poker bracelets in his trophy room, and the fruits of World Poker Tour – and other tournament victories - in his bank account.  Today he is one of the most respected spokespersons for the game.

Howard was one of a team of pros, the best of the best, who took on billionaire Houston banker, Andy Beal, in the richest poker game of all time, with opening bets going as high as $100,000 and $200,000. 

He brings other tops pros before the campers such as World Series of Poker winner, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, three time World Poker Tour winner, Gus Hansen, two time World Poker Tour winner and host of Bravo TV’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” Phil Gordon, and his sister, Annie Duke. 

Guest lecturers have included Howard’s father, Dr. Richard Lederer, an English professor and author, who does an amusing lecture on the origin of poker terms, and Howard Schwartz, “The Librarian of the Gambling Field,” and owner of the Gamblers Book Store in Las Vegas.

The family connection continues.  Howard's and Annie's youngest sister, is Katy Lederer, the author of "Poker Faces," the story of the Lederer family.  Howard's wife, Susan, manages the poker room at the Bellagio, considered by the pros to be the best venue in town. 

The first two camps bore Howard's name alone. Annie Duke’s name has been added to the marquee at the December camp for good reasons.

Annie is cute, rich, and on a roll. 

Annie Duke
Annie Duke

Photo courtesy of Howard's and Annie's Fantasy Poker Camp

Once struggling to pay the $125 per month rent on a cold, leaky, 400 square foot "Love Shack " in Montana, she has catapulted to the top of the poker world with a recent two million dollar win in a No Limit, Texas Hold ‘em tournament and a coveted gold bracelet in the Omaha event at the 2005 World Series of Poker.  

When not playing high stakes poker, Annie tutors movie stars such as Ben Affleck, sold a poker show starring you-know-who to the Game Show Network, and is producing a horror movie that she wrote through her company, Ten Dimes Productions (when one bets a “dime” in a poker game, it is $1,000).

In her new autobiography, “How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker,” Annie begins: “Not a day goes by when I play poker and don’t learn from it, when I don’t add something new to my game, when I don’t see people differently.”

One lasting image of Annie was captured on TV during the 2000 World Series of Poker.  She was entering the last month of her third pregnancy and was squirming to get comfortable while pushing massive mounds of chips into the center of the table.  Hormonal poker, she calls it.

Lucy arrived a few weeks later to join older siblings Maud and Leo, none the worse for the experience.  She was followed by Nelly.   Now a single mother of four, Annie is preparing breakfast for her brood when most pro poker players are just dragging in from a night of poker.

Annie learned poker from Howard in a household where competitive games such as Go Fish, Spit in the Ocean, and Hearts were a nightly ritual. Father Richard, the gamemaster, never faked losing.  When the kids beat the Old Man, it was because they were finally better than him.  

"Let the child psychologists curse us," says author and lecturer Richard, a regular on NPR. More than a million copies of his many books on the English language are in print.

Howard attributes his skill, determination, and competitiveness to his Dad's take on the family games.

Once he finally beat his Dad a couple times in chess, they played no more.  Howard says this was his Dad's way of showing him that Richard had nothing more to teach him. It was time for Howard to move on to higher levels, challenge better players, and learn from them.

Howard insists that he only taught Annie the basics of poker and that her instinct and talent have carried her to the top of the poker world.  In 1994, Howard and Annie made poker history as the first brother and sister duo to make the same final table at the World Series.

Now the all-time leading female money winner, and the winner of a World Series bracelet, she has knocked Howard -- whom she calls “Bub” -- out of three World Series events, including the $10,000 final table. She has a World Series of Poker win, capturing a coveted gold bracelet in 2004 at an Omaha Hi/Lo Split event.

Annie didn’t start down the poker road from the beginning.  Like Howard’s and Annie’s Dad, Dr. Richard Lederer, she was heading toward academia.  Near the end of her doctoral studies in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, Annie

had a panic attack, moved to Montana, married a man she had never dated, and began having babies.

Sometimes desperate for money to pay the rent, Annie would drive 50 miles to the nearest casino and would start playing poker.  Winning poker.

Through poker , her life came together.  She moved to Las Vegas, began playing poker seriously and at the highest levels, and is today one of the country's top poker and media stars, with appearances on “Good Morning, America,” and the David Letterman show.

Of course it’s great to learn from Howard and some of the other guys who are camp faculty. 

But, if you had your druthers, wouldn’t you also want to learn from someone who is cute, rich, and on a roll?


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