Writer Turned Poker Player Maria Konnikova on Psychology of Poker

A few years ago, Maria Konnikova was busy writing books, and didn’t know the first thing about poker.

Maria Konnikova was on the way to having a successful career as an author. At that time she had published two books. They were Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes and The Confidence Game

That all changed when her grandmother died in a freak accident and Maria Konnikova got sick with a mystery illness. These events caused her to ponder the role of chance in our lives, and she became fascinated with poker.

She spoke to The Independent about her experiences and her plans to write a book about poker.

“There’s private information that only you have, and there’s public information that everyone has, and people are trying to leverage that and make strategic decisions around it” she said.

“Unlike most poker players, I’m not someone who grew up in a gaming household. A lot of poker players get into poker because they played a lot of games, they played cards, they played poker, when they were little, so it was something they were always exposed to. I didn’t even know what poker was.


Skill VS Chance


“So I started reading about poker and thought this could work. The origins of this book are much more personal, and the way in was me learning to play poker from zero, immersing myself in this world, actually becoming a professional poker player to use it as a metaphor for life; to actually try to pick apart the skill versus chance balance. Because the thing about poker is you have both and you have to learn to tell the difference if you want to become a good poker player.

“At the poker table you’re playing really long hours, it’s stressful, you have to make a lot of decisions quickly. Sometimes it’s not a very friendly environment so you’re under stress and it’s very emotional and so a lot of things come up because your resources are getting pared down.

“It’s like going to a therapist except on steroids, it’s like a therapy session where like all this shit you’re carrying with you is going to come out at the poker table . . . all of your insecurities, all of the things you’re worried about, it’s all going to come out in the way you play.”

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