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"Sunglasses Should Be Banned": Poker Pro Annie Duke

9 February 2005

There is one skill that a professional poker player must possess in order to be successful: The ability to play a known quantity (your hand) against an unknown quantity (the hands of the people against whom you are playing).

It's a pre-requisite skill that's not uncommon in the realm of competition. A big part of the strategy sessions that lead up to a big football game revolve around "reading" the offensive and defensive strategies of your opponent.

Much of that information is derived from past performance, e.g., videos of past games and scouting reports. It becomes a "work in progress" on game day when adjustments are made depending upon real-time conditions and developments.

Poker is similar in the respect that players on the pro circuit tend to become familiar with one another. Everyone keeps "book" on the opposition, noting strengths and weaknesses as well as behaviors under certain conditions.

During the heat of competition when the cards are being dealt and the chips are being tossed, successful players are able to "read" their opponents, sometimes by noting mannerisms but most often by looking into their eyes, the so-called windows to the soul.

Many pro poker players have chosen to close their "windows" by wearing sunglasses, thereby denying their opponents the ability to gaze into their inner-most thoughts and emotions concerning the hand they're holding.

Does the practice of wearing sunglasses while playing poker constitute a compromise of strategic principles to which fellow players are entitled to have access? Annie Duke, winner of the recent $2 million World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas and one of the most successful players in the world, thinks so:

"I would like to see sunglasses banned," Duke said while in Chicago to promote "DD Tournament Poker: No Limit Texas Hold'em", the bestselling software game, which bears her name and likeness. "I think that part of the game is exposing yourself to the other players and part of the skill is to not give yourself away. I think allowing people to hide behind things, which is what I consider sunglasses to be, is not very courageous and I don't think at the top professional level people should be allowed to do it. I think that you should have to show your eyes."

Annie, a Columbia University graduate, had early ambitions to become a member of the world of academia. She attended graduate school for five years studying cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (where she won a National Science Foundation Fellowship) before moving to Montana in 1992 with her new husband, Ben. She launched her poker career playing in the local poker rooms in Billings.

"I don't wear sunglasses because I don't believe you should and because I can't see the cards if I do. I'm hiding my eyes but I have no idea what my hand is. So I think on balance it's probably better not to have them on my face. But you know my brother (champion poker player Howard Lederer) doesn't wear sunglasses. Erik Seidel, who is one of the greatest players ever, doesn't wear sunglasses. Phil Ivey doesn't wear sunglasses. There are a lot of players who just don't wear them because they really do obscure your vision.

"What you have to do is be very aware of how players perceive you at the table. If you look at the top players, it has to do with sitting like a statue. It's just a matter of disciplining yourself to make your face blank, completely relaxing every muscle in your face and just sitting there until the hand's over. It takes a while to get it, but hopefully I'm not giving away too much information. I seem to be doing o.k. without the sunglasses. I think there are some moves now to get rid of the sunglasses, which would be something I'd really like to see."

Next week Annie talks about her $2 million payday in the Tournament of Champions and the impact that internet poker has had on the game.

"Sunglasses Should Be Banned": Poker Pro Annie Duke is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp