Professional Poker Players: Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Bobby Baldwin

Phil Hellmuth


Born in 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin, Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth holds the record number of WSOP gold bracelets – a so far unbeaten 14; he is considered one of poker’s most successful ever players. His poker career has, to date, won him nearly $20m; yet he is not the biggest winner in terms of cash prizes. However, he possesses the record for most cash prizes and most final table appearances, and for 20 years was the youngest winner of a WSOP tournament (aged just 24 in 1989).

The year 1993 saw another record for The Poker Brat when we how a record three gold bracelets in a single year, acquiring second place in another casino tournament in the same year. Hellmuth is nothing if not consistent.

The Poker Brat

Despite his successful career, a series of big wins, and an impressive 14 gold bracelets, Hellmuth apparently has a short fuse when he is losing. Though some suspect this is an act, either to play up to the cameras or to lull his opponents into a false sense of security, Hellmuth insists that his outbursts have been genuine. Nevertheless, he has a reputation for a short fuse and is called “Poker Brat” because of his temper.

The most notable occasion was on the first Poker After Dark when, during a bad hand, Hellmuth asked fellow players to stop talking while it was his turn. When Hellmuth himself started talking, the others asked him to remain silent so they could carry on their conversation. It elicited chuckles from the table and Hellmuth stormed off only to return later. On other occasions, he has resorted to personal insults and been punished during tournaments. In some cases, the punishment has been overturned.

Life outside gambling

Hellmuth is married with two children, and presently lives in California; his interests and business ventures go beyond playing the game of poker too. Playing on his Poker Brat personality, he has released a range of clothing and apparel under the same name. He has authored books, created instructional videos, commentated on tournaments, and written articles for several high-profile poker magazines. There is at least one mobile app under his name too.

He has taken part in many fundraising tournaments and mixed with some famous names in raising the profile of charitable causes – from the world of politics, screen, and American sport. He has been largely active in the Poker Cares philanthropy.

Annie Duke


Until she was surpassed by Vanessa Selbst, Duke was poker’s highest-earning woman, despite only having won just a single WSOP gold bracelet. Born in New Hampshire in 1965, Duke’s parents were card players but not avidly so. Poker is clearly in her blood though as her brother (Howard Lederer) plays professionally. She has another sister who is a poet.

She played poker as a hobby until her brother encouraged her to take it up professionally – clearly recognizing that she had a talent at an early age. Initially, she continued on her academic path but a short while before defending her doctoral thesis, decided she no longer wanted to pursue academia. This turning point led to Annie Duke (then Lederer) becoming The Duchess of Poker.

The Duchess of Poker

2004-5 was pivotal to Duke’s poker career. Not only did she get divorced and relocate to California, but 2004 was also the year she won her only WSOP gold bracelet. She had already been on the circuit for ten years, finishing 14th and a respectable 5th in side games of WSOP, and 26th in the main game of 1994. In 2000, she achieved one of the highest finishes of any woman in the history of professional poker and became the female highest earner – this despite having not (yet) won a professional tournament.

2004 was the inaugural year for WSOP Tournament of Champions and Duke won the main event, not just being the first woman to do so, but the first person. This cemented her status as the sport’s most successful woman until the arrival of Vanessa Selbst just a few short years ago.

Her second title came in 2010 when “The Duchess of Poker” at the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, claimed a $500,000 pot and became the only woman (to 2015) to have won that tournament.

Life outside gambling

Born Annie Lederer, she married Benjamin B. Duke in 1992. Their marriage lasted 12 years and produced four children, after which Annie Duke kept the married name and moved to California to continue her career.

Like many of her fellow professional gamblers (for example, on, she has engaged with charity work and philanthropy. Along with the actor Don Cheadle and a mutual friend, they set up the charity Ante Up For Africa, a movement that organizes poker tournaments to raise money for African charities. To date, they have raised several million dollars for worthy causes.

Bobby Baldwin


One of the earliest celebrity professional poker players, Baldwin was the first youngest winner of WSOP, which he achieved in 1977. The 1970s were his heyday and he was only in his 20s at the time. He decided to retire playing professionally shortly after this. He was born in 1950 in Oklahoma and during his career, won four gold bracelets in just three years.

He began playing poker aged 12 and despite losing his very first game, was fascinated enough to learn to play and develop his skills; he further developed them through his time at OSU. Most famously, he and a group of friends took $5000 poker winnings to Las Vegas. They lost all their money in a matter of hours but a gesture of goodwill led to a $500 credit by the casino. Baldwin went on to convert that $500 into $180,000.

1970s World Series of Poker Tournaments

Baldwin’s fame came in a three-year period (1977-79). In 1977, he won two gold bracelets at the WSOP; the first as the winner of Deuce to Seven Draw, the second being the Seven Card Stud.

Though his winnings were small ($10,000 and $5,000 respectively) it spurred him on and a year later he won the main event at WSOP, in turn becoming the youngest ever winner. He would be succeeded by a number of people through the 1980s and 1990s but he was the first high-profile youngest ever winner of a WSOP main event.

He also won a gold bracelet in 1979, becoming the first person to win games at three consecutive titles. His 1979 title was once again in the Deuce to Seven Draw and later that year, won the same game at Superbowl of Poker.

Life outside gambling

Baldwin has become famous for things other than professional poker. He has a passion for off-road racing and is considered a superb billiards player. As far as gambling is concerned, he gave up playing in the 1980s to manage casinos. He is currently the president of a casino group so has experience on both sides of the table. He has written books on the subject of poker, most famously “Bobby Baldwin’s Winning Poker Secrets” which he revised in 2004 with the assistance of Mike Caro.

He still plays poker, though not professionally, and is said to have earned in the region of $2m since retiring from professional gambling.

About Carolyn Lang