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Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  10,680 ratings  ·  1,106 reviews
In Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made one of the most controversial calls in football history: With 26 seconds remaining, and trailing by four at the Patriots' one-yard line, he called for a pass instead of a hand off to his star running back. The pass was intercepted and the Seahawks lost. Critics called it the dumbest play in history. But was the call real ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Portfolio Penguin (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  10,680 ratings  ·  1,106 reviews

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Start your review of Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts
Eric Lin
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
tl;dr Acknowledge the (omni)presence of uncertainty in every decision we make, and recognize that "everything is a bet" - even decisions we're very confident in.

In poker, luck is acknowledged as a major factor in every hand. If you have a 50% chance to win a $100 hand, it is a sound decision to bet anything under $50 on the hand. Make this decision enough times, and you will eventually come out ahead (spending anything less than the expected ROI: $50 is net positive). But we have trouble thinkin
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
First half is basically Superforecasting recap

Second half is more interesting, with actionable techniques and tips to systematically improve decision-making
Eric Franklin
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book for understanding, identifying, and correcting biases in decision making, while also repeatedly separating the quality of a decision-making process from its outcomes.
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of author Annie Duke’s key insights is: ‘life is more like poker than chess.’

Meaning, we often make decisions and negotiate in an atmosphere of tension and deceit, without all of the information, based on probability (like poker).

As opposed to making choices and deals in a rational, formal, mechanistic context, where all of the information is available, and based on game theory, where we can reasonably assume the other player will make their best move (like chess).

Annie Duke splits lanes
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
3+ ⭐️

This book is nicely written, with good examples, and curious titbits about life of pro-level poker players.

It also has a great premise: all decisions are bets. But I felt there was just too much filler content to make it a satisfying experience for me. So while I enjoyed some bits a lot, I was skim reading the others.

I would recommend this book as a good intro read if you haven’t been following recent popular science releases on decision-making for the past 5 years or so. It also includes
Leo Walsh
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read dozens upon dozens of pop-science books on contemporary cognitive science. In fact, as I get older, I find cognitive sciences and how we humans work "in the world" more important science reading than the physics that captivated me when younger. And nearly all cover, at least in part, our "predictably irrational" cognitive biases. But few offer effective strategies for overcoming our built-in human failings. But former poker champ (and one-time Penn State PhD candidate) Annie Duke manag ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Good Book but if you are already aware of the common human cognitive biases (Influence by Caldini / Charlie Munger's psychology of human misjudgement speech - are good starts) then it might be repetitive. ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Th author discusses the topic of decision making and the probabilistic mindset that should be adopted. The unnecessary repetitiveness made this book boring and longer than it should be.
Hien Le
Oct 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
The book is a very shallow literature review of behavioral economics. Sprinkled throughout are references to recent events (Pete Carroll Superbowl moment) and glimpses into the author's career as a Poker player (discussions of outcomes with peers and player support network) but neither in any sufficient depth to be meaningful anecdotes. The referenced literature is paraphrased and summarized poorly, but repeated or elaborated in an unhelpful manner meant obviously to fulfill a word-count quota.

Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
The most important insights are right there in the intro or even in every other book about decision making--the central takeaway for me was that you have to make decisions with the facts you have and even if the outcome is bad, the decision could have been good given what you know. Like in poker. Oh and we all have biases, but you know that if you're the type of person who reads books like this all the time ...more
Cindy Rollins
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, audiobooks, business
My husband wanted me to listen to this on our trip to see grand baby Claire. I ended up loving it. Annie Duke narrates her own book delightfully. The premise is how she learned to think by playing poker. I loved her emphasis on results not being an indication of good or bad decision making. Sometimes things don’t work out even when due diligence is done. So many great takeaways from this book. I am sure I will reread it.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This supposed to be a nice book about poker, with some science behind.

But Author just pointed out that poker is mixed luck and skill, and you should focus on skill part. That's all, honestly.

There was a lot of smart things from over 100 self-help books, but reading them all put together and tide to poker was painful.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Great book on statistical thinking in business by a woman with a poker background and only a moderate ego, compared to a certain trader with a massive ego who has written about low probability high impact events. The first part of the book is more general statistical thinking, but presented well, and the last is more self-help about working around inherent cognitive biases and limitations.
Graeme Newell
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: overdrive
I really enjoyed this book. The author, Annie Duke, is a famous professional poker player. She has spent her life sitting around a poker table attempting to predict how chance and human behavior will coalesce to influence outcomes. This has given her a delightfully refreshing vantage point on the fallibilities of decision making.

Most of us vastly underestimate the role that good and bad luck play in the outcomes of our daily lives. Duke points out that we want to believe we are firmly in contro
Marc Sims
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really helpful. Main points:
- You should speak less dogmatically when you don’t know all the facts
- You rarely know all the facts
- Don’t confuse a good decision that led to poor results with a bad decision. Sometimes you just get unlucky.
- Confirmation bias predisposes you to interpret data in unreliable ways and the more intelligent you are the worse that problem is.
- Don’t make decisions based on immediate gratification—redefine happiness in light of a lifetime goal rather than the immediate
Carl Rannaberg
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really good book about the fundamentals of making smarter decisions. It's just simple and accessible advice backed up with interesting stories and examples and plenty of references to other books the read more. The main point in this book is that the world is almost never black and white. Nothing is 100% certain. Instead of being confident about something you should start thinking about how confident you are about it. Resulters only concentrate on results and doesn’t think that the decisions mig ...more
Cristian Strat
Decision frameworks and mental models from a professional poker player

The book makes a compelling case for decisions as bets and predictions as continuous probability distributions instead of black or white, or max-likelihood discrete choices. It draws on poker stories to illustrate these concepts convincingly.

The author is having difficulties situating these lessons in a business setting. Only a few examples are explored, but they're rather thin and unconvincing. More examples, and tactics on h
Charlie Kubal
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my most recommended non-fiction books of the year -- frames a way of thinking that I think is severely undervalued, and combats our culture's increasing tendency to retroactively call decisions good or bad solely based on result, and assess ideas based on their source versus their merit. Quick read with a high ratio of value to length -- highly recommend it. ...more
Paul Weidinger
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The mindset of approaching decisions as if you had to bet on them, and realizing there are no absolutes, is very valuable. However, this book suffers from a lot of the same ailments as others in the genre: it's an insightful 30-page idea in a 230-page package. There's too much pop-science fluff and meandering anecdotes. ...more
Camelia Rose
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Annie Duke is a world-class poker player and a researcher and educator in decision making. Thinking In Bests is a book about how to make better decisions. It is a nod to other behavior psychology books such as Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.

"Life is poker, not chess." In poker, luck plays a much more important role than in chess. Unlike the popular saying, not everything happens for a reason. The randomness of the world "makes it impossible to predict exactly how things will turn out
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, read-in-2020

Annie Duke offers up the idea that life is more like poker than chess. You can play the perfect hand, make all the right decisions and still get unlucky. Given the presence of uncertainty in every decision we make, even those decisions we feel fairly certain about, it's time to recognize that every decision is basically a bet and how thinking in this manner can give us a better process to make great decisions.

What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the
Klaus Leopold
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
The content has little to do with the title. If the book was called" Introduction to probabilistic thinking", it would be more appropriate and I would not have bought it.

It really got off to a good start. A bad result does not have to be the result of a bad decision. The world is not like playing chess, where there is practically no randomness involved. At that time I thought to myself, the writer would introduce me to the subject and then go deeper. Unfortunately, there is not much more depth.
Abhishek Kona
Sep 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book spends a lot of time setting up the premise and very little explaining the techniques. There is not much content here to be a book. The analogies are based a lot on pop culture and football. They might be based on research but I could not connect to all the examples / metaphors provided in the book.

Skip it IMHO
Cedric Chin
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m surprised that I’m rating this book so highly.

In many ways this is a rehash of the ideas from Thinking: Fast and Slow. But Duke presents a good collection of applied ideas from the field of judgment and decision making, seen through the eyes of a poker player. I found this a lot more useful than I expected. Five stars.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a combined review of the following books:
Gary Smith, "What the Luck?"
Dan Ariely, "Predictably Irrational"
Annie Duke, "Thinking in Bets"
Gary Smith, "Standard Deviations"

I'm a big believer that statistics and behavioral economics are much under-appreciated fields. As a booster shot, to recharge my thinking in these areas, I picked up these books. They pretty much did the job; they are well-written in the language of the common person.

Ms. Duke's work uses her experience as a gambler to shed
Mr. Gottshalk
Jun 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
A poker friend told me about this book, and his description was intriguing, so I gave it a shot. One of the main stories that is discussed is about when the Seahawks quarterback threw the ball on second and goal from the one yard line with 26 seconds left in the Super Bowl was the right decision. That is where I parted ways with the author. She does not take into account the fact that it’s only second and goal, they have a timeout left, and Marshall Lynch was running well with the football. As a ...more
Ruslan Voronkov
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Annie Duke, originally a psychology major, retired from the professional poker carrier six years ago and has since refashioned herself as a corporate speaker and strategic consultant.

This book is not about poker, but about life lessons learned while being in the poker circuit for a long time.

Main takeaways:
1. Nothing new or ground-breaking here. Just a compilation of meditations about human psychology, decision making, cognitive biases, system thinking, probabilistic thinking, etc..
2. Foundatio
Akshith Rao
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Who knew that the world of poker and behavioral economics had something in common. It was refreshing to read a book that talked about dealing with our biases rather than pointing to the different ways we trip ourselves into irrationality. Although we might not be as lucky as Annie to find a group that accelerates our efforts to tame the irrational mind, Tools like the betting strategy, inviting feedback and 10:10:10 rule can be pretty useful. I felt that the poker and baseball examples were used ...more
Bartosz Majewski
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
When making a hiring decision I'm making reasoning from this book since I can remember. Since the concept of betting and playing unfair games is close to me I couldn't look away when someone recommended me this book.

This is just a solid framework of continuously improving your decisionmaking. Some things (Duhigg and Kahneman or Taleb fragments) repeated other publications I've read, however, a lot of it was fresh, actionable and juicy. Highly recommended since this is a book of a fellow practit
Mario Tomic
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
The book started strong, the fundamental idea of viewing life decisions as a poker game where not all factors are known and we have luck at play was great. However, the book itself ended up borrowing a lot of components from other similar books and it wasn't unique enough compared to other books on decision making. If you've been reading a lot about decision making there's probably not much new information here for you. ...more
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Annie is the co-founder of The Alliance for Decision Education, a non-profit whose mission is to improve lives by empowering students through decision skills education. She is also a member of the National Board of After-School All-Stars and the Board of Directors of the Franklin Institute. In 2020, she joined the board of the Renew Democracy Initiative.

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