Annie Duke's advice for beating coronavirus

Jon Pill
Posted on: September 28, 2020 08:10 PDT

Annie Duke is back in the news, giving business advice to CNBC’s @Work virtual event. In a weird and wide-ranging interview, she doled out coaching on not just how one should make decisions in the boardroom, but also in combating the COVID epidemic and on making investments.

Relevance is a losing battle for anyone who quit poker in 2012 but still relies on headlines that read: “ A poker champion on how to win[...]” And Duke knows she has to stay relevant if she’s to keep picking up her speaking fees. Hence her leaning on the hot topic of COVID, in a session on poker theory and corporate culture.

It’s been a while since Annie Duke poked her head above the parapets. In June this year on the Conversations With Tyler podcast, she announced she was retired from poker. Duke hasn’t been seen at the tables since 2012, so many of us might have suspected that this was a towel long since chucked in. Never forget that the WSOP bracelet she uses to underpin her poker chops came from an event in 2004, for Omaha hi-lo.

That was a couple of years after she left UltimateBet. UB was still laboring under the ever-expanding reveals of Russ Hamilton’s cheating. Her full retirement from the game came directly after she helped launch The Epic Poker League, which ran four events before filing its Chapter 11 papers.

So one should bear these unusual credentials in mind when taking Duke's epidemiological advice.

Life lessons

All those caveats laid out, some of the advice is pretty solid.

In the CNBC article breaking down her session, there are sections with titles like “Most meetings begin with the wrong goal” (the wrong goal is trying to get everyone to agree. Duke says a better goal is “to expose places where people have different opinions .... to inform decisions.") and "Know your opponent's view of the world."

Other bits of advice are almost painfully straightforward, as where she advises people to wear face masks.

“We don't know how well it works," she says. "But what we should really care about is how much it can hurt. Doctors have been wearing [masks] for surgeries for a long time, so we know there's no harm, so not knowing about the upside doesn't matter. And the upside could be big."

No, doubt

There is some less edifying waffle in amongst those gems. On the subject of how much one should use intuition, she tells the interviewer that “Depending on your definition it could be not at all, or it could be quite a bit.”

But her main goal in the session is to get her listeners comfortable dealing with incomplete information. An admirable goal. Uncertainty is the bread and butter of poker players and statisticians. But much harder for the average person on the street.

"Don't be afraid of guessing" is number one on the list. "The No. 1 thing is to recognize you won't get a right answer or wrong answer and you have to be OK in between."

Even if that didn't come from an ex poker pro, it's not bad advice.

Featured Image from Flickr used under CC license.