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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,821 ratings  ·  605 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, 368 pages
Published June 23rd 2020 by Penguin Press
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Maura I know nothing about poker, and a LOT of the discussion went over my head. If you're the kind of person who will feel frustrated by not understanding …moreI know nothing about poker, and a LOT of the discussion went over my head. If you're the kind of person who will feel frustrated by not understanding every detail, then I'd skip this book. I made the decision to let the Greek-to-me references slide and just focus on the main points about human emotion, decision-making, biases, etc., and I enjoyed it. (less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  4,821 ratings  ·  605 reviews

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Shane Parrish
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"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
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 05, 2020 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Artur Lascala
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
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...
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
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
Harry Beckwith
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
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.
Robin Hood
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
Richard Estévez
Jul 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 11, 2020 rated it liked it

This is a very fun book that doesn't ultimately say anything new. Its rehashed data in social science about how the mind works, in the fun setting of poker. Don't get me wrong, I genuinely enjoyed it, but if you've read Drive, Thinking Fast and Slow or Fooled by Randomness, then there won't be anything novel here other then application and setting.

Konnikova is an engaging author, and keeps the pace interesting by varying between narrative of her journey to poker mastery, pop psychology and n
André Coimbra
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, full of wisdom about poker/life and a great story!
Michael Schuermann
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
First, it’s a great (true) story, well told.

Second, great insight into decision making, understanding people, and understanding yourself.

A great read.
Owen Little
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book and story. Read this book because Trevor showed me a podcast done by her and it was awesome. Konnikova is brilliant, and it's such a cool idea - the relationship between luck and skill in life. Konnikova does such a good job exploring this via poker, while also maintaining an interesting narrative. I love how she doesn't really give herself a lot a credit, yet she got into poker for the sole reason of writing this book, and then she became one of the world's best. There are so ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-rc-goal
It just made me miss Vegas, and reminds me of the delay to visit the Bahamas & Macau.
Joe Gaspard
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Elliot Omohundro
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Elaine Siu
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
J Alvarez
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Randomness and probability fascinates me, and I picked this book after reading an article about it which talked about how poker can teach you how to understand chance and risk and make better decisions in your life.

I was disappointed that the book didn't delve much into this specific subject, but it does share lots of other interesting insights. I found particularly eye-opening her chapter about "tilt": how we need to better predict and understand our moods and reactions to events and decisions
Benjamin Rubenstein
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, overdrive
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 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Connor JRM
Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
The Biggest Bluff is, forgive me for my straightforward analogy, a sort of bluff. Konnikova promises the story of her (impossibly good) first year of playing poker, which saw her playing at internationally competitive tournaments that only a select few thousand will be able to play (and even fewer to make money at) each year. In this sense, she's made a hefty pre-flop bet, because literature-starved poker afficionados (yes, that's me too) are on the constant lookout for anything worthwhile to re ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
A word of warning: If you’re not a fan of poker, don’t buy into the book’s promotional bluff that the work will enthrall anyone interested in the psychology of decision-making. At least half of this anecdote-laden book focuses like a laser beam on the world of poker. I’ve long been a fan of Texas Hold’em, so I enjoyed this insider’s peek into professional poker through the eyes of newbie. But here’s my beef: I’m convinced the work would have been strengthened by judicious editing. Some table tal ...more
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