Maria Konnikova's Book Research Turns into $200,000 Poker Winnings

Just over a year ago New Yorker contributing journalist Maria Konnikova took some time off to study the nuances of poker as research for a book she's writing, to be called "The Biggest Bluff". What she wasn't expecting was that within a year she'd have cashed for over $200,000 playing the game, including winning a title at this year's PCA for $84,600.

Unlike other journalists who have written successful books about poker (Anthony Holden's Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player, Victoria Coren-Mitchell's For Richer, for Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker) who already had more than a passing interest in poker, Konnikova had precisely zero experience with the game, and according to a twitter post, she didn't even know how many cards made up a full deck.

Konnikova's success may seem a little less surprising when you look at her background. With a Ph.D in psychology from Columbia University and having already written a successful book on scamming and psychology “The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time." it was likely Konnikova would be able to put her ability to get inside people's heads to good use at the tables. Also, lessons from poker crushers Erik Seidel, Jason Koon and Isaac Haxton wouldn't have harmed her chances of success either!

Speaking to UK national newspaper The Independent, Konnikova said,

“I was thinking about my next project on luck and whether we can learn to tell the difference between skill and chance and how much we really control.”

On the recommendation of a friend she read John Von Neumann's “Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour,”. In the book Von Neumann posits a theory that the game of poker is a metaphor for life - a theory that Konnikova decided to put to the test so decided to take a year off to do so.


Above: Maria Konnikova after her first major tournament victory at January's PCA in the Bahamas.

Of her journey so far Konnikova said, "I was doing horribly but I really worked hard. At first, I didn’t do well. I was really scared. I had never played live poker before,” but soon enough the practice and repetition started to pay dividends and Konnikova notes, “I started winning pretty consistently,”.

Her year has gone so well that Konnikova has decided to delay the publication of her book and ride the wave of success at the tables she is currently riding. Speaking to the New York Post Konnikova said,

“I should have had a first draft in long, long ago. I could never have predicted that I would ever be where I am now. I started this project with absolutely zero background in it."

The journo turned grinder has no intention of leaving her former day-job behind, however, saying; “I’m not abandoning writing. I really want to give it my all, but this is for the book ultimately,

After winning event #4 at January's PCA in the Bahamas ($1500 NLHE) where she topped a 230 strong field for her biggest payday of $84,600 she went on to cash in the $10k Main Event for $22,020, and more recently she finished 2nd in a $2,500 APPT event in Macau where she won another $57,519.

On her future in poker Konnikova told the New York Post; “There’s definitely one version of the future where I still write and play poker professionally. Why in the world wouldn’t I do both?”

Why not indeed...


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