The Biggest Bluff

The Biggest Bluff

How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

eBook - 2020
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"How a New York Times bestselling author and New Yorker contributor parlayed a strong grasp of the science of human decision-making and a woeful ignorance of cards into a life-changing run as a professional poker player, under the wing of a legend of the game 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 PhD 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"--
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press,, 2020
Description: 1 online resource (354 pages)
ISBN: 9780525522638


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Feb 04, 2021

Recommended by Jeff Scharf

Jan 22, 2021

I am not a gambler. I was put off gambling forever when I lost my favorite boulder to a fifth grader, during a game of marbles. I was in the second grade at the time. I also worked a number of Las Vegas trade shows where an early morning start for the convention center, required exiting the hotel through the casino. The early morning gamblers all looked fairly miserable. I always assumed they had been up all night and that it had not gone well for them.

That said, I have always followed televised poker and wondered what it takes to play high stakes TEXAS HOLD 'EM at the professional level. Konnikova's book, THE BIGGEST BLUFF was as close to getting a seat at the table as most of us are likely to get. She is a writer and research psychologist who set out to determine where humanity intersects with skill and luck.

It is a fascinating journey which led her from complete novice to contender and occasional victor at high stakes poker tournaments around the world. During her journey she learned a lot about her decision making skills and overcame a lot of fears that had been holding her back. I admire the journey. The book itself was good but not great.

Nov 19, 2020

From the Next Big Idea Club at LinkedIn

Oct 12, 2020

The author’s interview on the Freakanomics podcast about this book was more interesting than the book. She promises revelations from playing poker that can be applied to one’s life, but doesn’t meaningfully deliver on showing the relevancy of what she learned to either quotidian or momentous decisions. The passages on her personal journey were repetitive and too long. However, the book is interesting in depicting the world of professional poker and how playing poker well is more than luck; in fact it’s a lot of practice and hard work to become proficient, combining an understanding of probabilities and human nature with physical and mental stamina.

Jun 23, 2020

Hey LVCCLD, how about getting some digital copies?

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