Virtual Event: Maria Konnikova
The Biggest Bluff:
How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win
in conversation with JOSHUA FOER
June 15, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes international poker champion MARIA KONNIKOVA—author of the bestselling books Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes and The Confidence Game—for the paperback release of her latest, acclaimed book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win. She will be joined in conversation by journalist and entrepreneur JOSHUA FOER, author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of The Biggest Bluff on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About The Biggest Bluff
It's true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn't even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him to be her mentor. But she knew her man: a famously thoughtful and broad-minded player, he was intrigued by her pitch that she wasn't interested in making money so much as learning about life. She had faced a stretch of personal bad luck, and her reflections on the role of chance had led her to a giant of game theory, who pointed her to poker as the ultimate master class in learning to distinguish between what can be controlled and what can't. And she certainly brought something to the table, including a Ph.D. in psychology and an acclaimed and growing body of work on human behavior and how to hack it. So Seidel was in, and soon she was down the rabbit hole with him, into the wild, fiercely competitive, overwhelmingly masculine world of high-stakes Texas Hold'em, their initial end point the following year's World Series of Poker.
But then something extraordinary happened. Under Seidel's guidance, Konnikova did have many epiphanies about life that derived from her new pursuit, including how to better read, not just her opponents but far more importantly herself; how to identify what tilted her into an emotional state that got in the way of good decisions; and how to get to a place where she could accept luck for what it was, and what it wasn't. But she also began to win. And win. In a little over a year, she began making earnest money from tournaments, ultimately totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She won a major title, got a sponsor, and got used to being on television, and to headlines like "How one writer's book deal turned her into a professional poker player." She even learned to like Las Vegas.
But in the end, Maria Konnikova is a writer and student of human behavior, and ultimately the point was to render her incredible journey into a container for its invaluable lessons. The biggest bluff of all, she learned, is that skill is enough. Bad cards will come our way, but keeping our focus on how we play them and not on the outcome will keep us moving through many a dark patch, until the luck once again breaks our way.
Praise for The Biggest Bluff
“I absolutely love this book. The story is fantastically gripping, and offers lessons about decision-making, luck, risk—and, most important, how to play at life like a cool-headed pro. This is one of my favorite books of the year.” —Charles Duhigg, author of bestsellers The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
“The Biggest Bluff is an exhilarating and often hilarious personal journey. What’s most exciting, though, is the probing sociological analysis by the brilliant and eternally-curious Maria Konnikova.” —Jesse Eisenberg, author of Bream Gives Me Hiccups
“The narrative is so gripping that you might get halfway through The Biggest Bluff before you even notice that you’re getting a master class in learning, focus, and decision-making. I tore through it in two sittings, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.” —David Epstein, author of Range
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