The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

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The New York Times bestseller!

A New York Times Notable Book

"The tale of how Konnikova followed a story about poker players and wound up becoming a story herself will have you riveted, first as you learn about her big winnings, and then as she conveys the lessons she learned both about human nature and herself." --The Washington Post

It's true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn't even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him to be her mentor. But she knew her man: a famously thoughtful and broad-minded player, he was intrigued by her pitch that she wasn't interested in making money so much as learning about life. She had faced a stretch of personal bad luck, and her reflections on the role of chance had led her to a giant of game theory, who pointed her to poker as the ultimate master class in learning to distinguish between what can be controlled and what can't. And she certainly brought something to the table, including a Ph.D. in psychology and an acclaimed and growing body of work on human behavior and how to hack it. So Seidel was in, and soon she was down the rabbit hole with him, into the wild, fiercely competitive, overwhelmingly masculine world of high-stakes Texas Hold'em, their initial end point the following year's World Series of Poker.

But then something extraordinary happened. Under Seidel's guidance, Konnikova did have many epiphanies about life that derived from her new pursuit, including how to better read, not just her opponents but far more importantly herself; how to identify what tilted her into an emotional state that got in the way of good decisions; and how to get to a place where she could accept luck for what it was, and what it wasn't. But she also began to win. And win. In a little over a year, she began making earnest money from tournaments, ultimately totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She won a major title, got a sponsor, and got used to being on television, and to headlines like How one writer's book deal turned her into a professional poker player. She even learned to like Las Vegas.

But in the end, Maria Konnikova is a writer and student of human behavior, and ultimately the point was to render her incredible journey into a container for its invaluable lessons. The biggest bluff of all, she learned, is that skill is enough. Bad cards will come our way, but keeping our focus on how we play them and not on the outcome will keep us moving through many a dark patch, until the luck once again breaks our way.

Title:The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win
ISBN:9780525522621
Format Type:

    The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win Reviews

  • Anne Bogel

    Rounding up from 4.5 stars.This book was such a delightful surprise. I never expected to love—or even read—a book about poker, but several readers with great taste told me to prioritize this one, ...

  • Shane Parrish

    "Most real-world environments are ... "wicked": there's a mismatch between action and feedback because of external noise. Activities with elements of surprise, uncertainty, the unknown: suddenly, you'...

  • David Epstein

    Disclaimer: I can't recall reading anything by Maria Konnikova — whether articles in The New Yorker or her other books — that I didn't think was either good, really good, or great. I like her writ...

  • Kathy

    This book fell flatter than I thought it would. There were sparks of interesting insight but I don’t think the author decided clearly whether the book was a memoir or a self-help book. It vacillated...

  • Artur Lascala

    I like poker. I like psychology. I like decision theory. The book does bring excellent insights on those three topics. However, the narrative was a bit of a drag. All in all, a decent read, but I felt...

  • Glenn Sumi

    A fascinating read for gamblers and non-gamblers alike. Without even knowing the basics of the game, New Yorker staff writer Maria Konnikova approaches Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel and asks him to ...

  • Gretchen Rubin

    A fascinating memoir about learning to play poker, and the larger lessons of the undertaking....

  • David

    There was little doubt that I was going to pick up this book given my love of Texas Hold'Em — but Maria Konnikova's latest isn't some poker guide to get you to the WSOP. It's part memoir, self-help ...

  • Mehrsa

    This is the first behavioral econ/neoliberalism as self-help I've read. It's interesting and I love poker so I learned a lot, but this whole idea of making personal decisions based on homoeconomicus u...

  • Robin

    The endeavour itself, going from poker novice is commendable enough even though it was meant to be a book project from the beginning. The narrative experience is not immersive, the unfolding of the st...