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The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Take Control and Win

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,696 ratings  ·  364 reviews
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 approac
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published June 23rd 2020 by 4th Estate
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Pablo Alvarez Baeza Not necessarily as the author walks you through the basics of the game.
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  2,696 ratings  ·  364 reviews

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Shane Parrish
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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're not sure whether what you've learned is accurate or not, accurately executed or not. There's simply too much going on. ... But despite all this, one thing is undoubtedly true: while practice is not enough and there's not even close to a magic number for its effectiveness, you also cannot learn if ...more
David Epstein
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 writing style, her thinking style, and I like the topics she's drawn to. I also know her personally. But we came to know each other because of our mutual interests in topics like cognitive biases, talent, skill acquisition, judgment and decision making, and the balance of luck versus skill in various endeav ...more
Gretchen Rubin
A fascinating memoir about learning to play poker, and the larger lessons of the undertaking.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 guide and business read from an accomplished non-fiction author and regular contributor to the New Yorker who happens to hold a Ph.D. in psychology.

She will dedicate herself to mastering the game under the tutelage of Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel and a host of other poker luminaries. She will make
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 understandings (and misunderstandings) of risks I find just bewildering.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Maria Konnikova, a writer for the New Yorker, and a PhD in Psychology, went on a mission to learn poker. With a reporter’s curiosity, a psychologist knowledge, and a sharp committed intellect she became a pro, and even won a tournament. The lesson, pay attention. It’s a great lesson. I read the book carefully, but I didn’t learn much more no matter how much attention I paid.

This is the second book I read by a PhD in psychology devoted to poker (both women incidentally). The other book, Thinking
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 relieved when I finished it...
Harry Beckwith
Interesting, but my God this woman cannot write--or,
as she probably would put it, "cannot write to save her neck."

Riddled with cliches and filler like that, and she fails at setting up suspense well.
There's a much better story here, in need of a much better story teller.

She writes for The New Yorker?

Maria, hire an editor.
Ron Pri
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 story is as eventful as a flat line . No moments that make you take note. No insight either experiential or theoretical (given the author's psychology background) that stands out either.
I was bored rather than excited by the midway point and the rest was a tough uninspiring read where I was desperatel
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt information overload from this book. The angle is psychology defined through poker and poker analysis. Interesting premise, though, of someone who did not know how to play poker, but learned rapidly enough to compete at the highest level.
Nica's Musings
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
The book title described what it is - The Biggest Bluff

I was deceived by the book description and all the razmatazz. Am I missing something? I rarely give 2-star rating because I carefully choose the books that I read. But this one... Oh this one... I am just having difficulty comprehending. Maybe because I'm not a poker player? Maybe because I am not a gambler? I don't know. I am having difficulty following her thought process. For me, her narrative is all over the place. I couldn't figure out
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-rc-goal
It just made me miss Vegas, and reminds me of the delay to visit the Bahamas & Macau. ...more
Joe Gaspard
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From not knowing how many cards are in a deck (let alone, what beats what in poker), Konnikova plots her fascinating journey to the upper echelons of the tournament poker world. Having knowledge about poker is certainly not a prerequisite to enjoying this book. It does not recount a lot of hands, but instead details the specific psychological training and retraining that went into her success. From the basics of practicing focus, to the more complex learned skill of picking up the tells of other ...more
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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 between anecdotes about poker and experiences the author had and introspective insights about her growth as a player and person. Although sometimes it was interesting it was too unfocused and sometimes repetitive to hang together well.
Richard Estévez
Jul 19, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A garbler of metaphors. What could have been a great story to cover as a journalist, just gets pummeled with self-absorbed asides and clueless observations. Can't believe the New Yorker hired this author on staff. Not even worth one star.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent meditation on luck, skill, and handling both with perspective. Along with a dash of poker. I enjoyed every thought provoking page, especially Kevin Hart.
Benjamin Rubenstein
This is a cool book that sits at the crossroads of a rags-to-riches story, self-help, and memoir. I found it to be a great listen because even though it is nonfiction, much of it has the feel of a dream-like story. Sprinkle in tidbits on "how probability has amnesia, how winning streaks and losing streaks are impersonal randomizations" (The New York Times), how men behave around women, and much more and you get a memorable read, too.

My issue with the book--and this is a me-problem given that all
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Biggest Bluff reads a lot like The Karate Kid meets poker, where Konnikova introduces her Miyagi (Eric Siedler) as she's trying to understand the role of chance versus skill in life.

Why poker? It requires a good balance of luck and skill. If luck and skill were positioned on a horizontal axis from left to right - then roulette would be at the extreme left, chess at the extreme right, and poker right at the middle.

This book is a very easy read, and I would've given it 5 stars had I not alre
Elliot Omohundro
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book already has me playing online poker.

Konnikova would reference all of my favorite psychology and economics books, including one I am reading simultaneous to this one. This study of poker and its similarities to life on a grander scale is my type of story. Turns out, poker is the perfect amalgamation of many of my strongest interests.
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I so wanted to dislike this book going in. When I began to hear about this upcoming title and the descriptions put out by podcasts (Thinking Poker, Freakonomics), the premise seems stilted. Here’s this author who’s got it made in life, born rich I’m sure whose parents paid for her to go to Columbia, who supposedly doesn’t know how many cards are in the deck and she becomes a poker champion. Oh yeah, by the way, she gets coached by one of the top 10 poker players of the last 30 years, Erik Seidel ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I had read a rave review somewhere credible (like the NYT, maybe?) and decided to go for this one, even though it's not my usual read. Konnikova is a really good writer, quite engaging, but I just couldn't get past all the play-by-plays of the games. In the book's defense, I read it on a kindle and didn't realize it boasted a glossary of all the terms like big blinds and flops that had me scratching my head for so long. I got to the end, found the glossary, and realized what a different experien ...more
Elaine Siu
The poker portion of the book was long-winded and hard to get through. The interesting psychology theories and studies scattered throughout the book were what kept me in it.
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
I chose this book purely because of Maria Konnikova's name on the cover. I love her reporting, her combination of brainy science and the psychology of outsmarting others. Naturally I was interested in her book about con merchants, The Confidence Game. For The Biggest Bluff, she didn't just interview her subjects, she threw herself into the topic and became a poker player. And not just a poker player, but a poker champion.

Konnikova started at the very beginning -- she didn't even know how many c
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2020
I was so excited to read this book since Konnikova is my favorite science writer and this book didn't disappoint. It's a blend of memoir and science writing (mostly psychology with some econ thrown in) and even though I barely know anything about poker (but a lot about psychology), I really enjoyed it. She intersperses research, poker tips, and her own experience seamlessly, and I especially liked her analysis of her own decision-making shortfalls and connecting those deficits to things in the r ...more
Chad Schultz
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable tale of a psychologist/journalist who decided to go from knowing nothing about poker to being a professional poker player in a year.

She effectively makes the case that winning at poker requires as much skill as luck. Her own journey is a compelling and entertaining tale, and it's easy to imagine this being made into a movie. She also tries to connect poker with life, helping us learn life lessons from the game. I can sort of see her point. In a short game, a person could find themse
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this expecting a fun poker story of the amateur who went pro while writing a book. It's so much more - really it's a psychology treatise that has poker as it's core tenet but really is about people and how they react to all type of stimuli, luck and what it really may be, and any number of other topics. It's really well researched and while there are sections that do read a bit like a thesis, Konnikova never strays far from her main plot of taking on Poker and trying to cash at the World S ...more
Tim Murrell
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an exceptionally unique and entertaining read with both an absorbing narrative as the author takes up poker as a complete novice and is taken under the wing of one of the greatest players of all time and a broader look at how the game relates to life itself. Poker isn’t purely skill based (like chess) nor is it purely luck based (like roulette) and this book gets you thinking about how it parallels life in terms of making the best of the cards you get dealt. Some very basic knowledg ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a surprisingly good book about how the author went from literally zero poker knowledge to world-ranked (#5 woman, if I remember) in about a year. You won't learn the math from this to bet pocket jacks, etc. but you will find out what you have to learn after you master that aspect and that is well worth the price of admission.
Marissa Murray
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only am I now obsessed with poker (and feel like I understand the game much more) I truly loved the story. Huge fan of the game world and appreciate the way Maria writes and the psychological lessons we can learn from poker and apply to real life. Its really an exploration of luck versus skill, controlling what we can control... The best kind of non-fiction slash memoir.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book and recommend it to everyone. I loved reading and thinking about chance, skill, risk, control and the illusion of control, tilt, good hands, and bad beats, and how the ideas apply to poker and to life. A lot of the ideas about framing and attention and our choices in framing and attention really resonated with me. The ending felt a bit rushed and I wish there was a little more discussion about specific hands, but overall the book was great.

“Poker is exactly like life, bu
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