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Preview — The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
The New York Times bestseller! A New York Times Notable Book 'The tale of how Konnikova followed a story about poker players and wound up becoming a story herself will have you riveted, first as you learn about her big winnings, and then as she conveys the lessons she learned both about human nature and herself.' --The Washington Post It's true that Maria Konnikova had never...more
Published June 23rd 2020 by Penguin Press
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Matt McgeeI sort of disagree with other answers. You don't have know how to play but you at least have to buy into the fact that poker is interesting and worthy…moreI sort of disagree with other answers. You don't have know how to play but you at least have to buy into the fact that poker is interesting and worthy of a book long discussion. I had no interest in poker before reading this book, and still doubt whether it has any really special place as a metaphor for living except that EVERYTHING we do as humans, including this stupid card game, reveals human character.(less)
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Rounding up from 4.5 stars. This book was such a delightful surprise. I never expected to love—or even read—a book about poker, but several readers with great taste told me to prioritize this one, and I'm glad I listened. In this story-driven narrative, author and New Yorker journalist Konnikova tells how and why she dedicated several years of her life to becoming a professional poker player, and seamlessly connects what she learns at the table to making better decisions and living a more satisfy...more
'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
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
Jul 24, 2020Kathy rated it liked it
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.
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...
A fascinating memoir about learning to play poker, and the larger lessons of the undertaking.
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
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...more
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...more
So, I didn’t care overly much about the ins and outs of the poker part. I’m sure it would be very exciting to someone with more knowledge than me- but that part mostly made my eyes glaze over. I also found her writing to be quite often repetitive, and she didn’t always seem to get when a point had been made and she didn’t need to give five other examples. I definitely am in the opposite possible mental place to identify with some of the Always Be Optimizing stuff she gets into at various points ...more
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....more
Jul 19, 2020Richard Estévez 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 08, 2020Harold rated it liked it · review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 09, 2021Conor Ahern rated it really liked it
This book chronicles what happens when a PhD in psychology takes on the world of high-stakes, no-limit poker and succeeds. Konnikova was interested in the interplay between luck, skill, and success, and so found her way to the poker table. This book fell into a genre of gimmicky-seeming books I am usually reluctant to pick up, but I really enjoyed it. I found myself invested in the author's journey from true novice to internationally ranked player, and she intersperses it with enough psychologica...more
I have been reading this book for more than a year now. I can now confidently say the book is not for everyone, over the long span of a year, I have read it with different mind sets and each has provided a different experience. Towards the end is when I enjoyed it the most, she became a friend, a teacher, a therapist and more importantly shared her love of life.
Aug 14, 2020Nica's Musings rated it it was ok · review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 13, 2020Devika 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...more
Nov 11, 2020Jonathan rated it liked it
6/10 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...more
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.
If you like poker I think you will like this book, if you tolerate or don't mind reading about poker there are also some great philosophical nuggets to be had. If learning about psychology with a gambling/poker backdrop makes you nauseous then you probably have not read this far anyway. Konnikova has a PHD in psychology and is a writer, she set out to write about poker behavior and became a pretty good poker player along the way. In reality this is probably a 3 star book, there is not really enou...more
Feb 23, 2021Jennifer Flanagan rated it it was amazing
So good! While seemingly about poker on the surface, the purpose of the book is to better understand the line between skill and luck, what you can control and what you cannot. In particular, the interplay of skill and luck in making important life choices under pressure. After several hardships in life, the author (PhD psychology) and learns how to truly pay attention, under high pressure and surrounded by distractions as she becomes a professional poker player (in a year!)... but most resonate fo...more
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
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
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.
Jul 13, 2021Jiwesh rated it it was amazing · review of another edition
This is an absolute treat of a book. It was gifted to me by a friend of mine and it jumped right to the top of my reading queue. The premise is super attractive: an author/journalist with a doctorate in psychology has turned to poker to study how much of success should be attributed to chance and how much of it to skill. This book has dominated my conversations and poker has taken over my YouTube feed over the last couple of weeks. The story is incredible. Maria Konnikova won her first tournamen...more
Jan 11, 2021Robert rated it it was amazing
I am fascinated by poker because it shares many of the same stylised features as real life: it is a game of decisions under imperfect information, a strange mix of luck and skill. Hollywood has popularised the idea that poker is purely about psychology and aggression: whoever can make the most ridiculous bluffs with the best poker face will win the chips. There is some truth in this, but the likely reality is that the maths is more important – every action must seek to maximise expected value. K...more
Beautifully written, full of wisdom about poker/life and a great story!
Aug 03, 2021Laura Ghitoi rated it liked it · review of another edition
Well, this was a disappointment. There is so much I disliked about this book that I'll just make a list. 1. Unnecessarily long. (I'm fine with longer books when every word and story is meant to be there. This is not the case for Konnikova who sometimes introduces poker people only for an anecdote or nugget of obvious wisdom) 2. I read this whole book and I still don't fully comprehend Konnikova's motivations to pursue poker. 3. The parallels between poker and life lessons made me gag. I must have r...more
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
Jul 30, 2020Cathie rated it liked it
It just made me miss Vegas, and reminds me of the delay to visit the Bahamas & Macau.
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