She Decided to Learn Poker for a Book, Started Winning Big

Amid successes, Maria Konnikova's book is pushed back
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2018 8:42 AM CDT
Writer Goes From 'Total Poker Outsider' to 6-Figure Winner
This 2013 photo shows Russian-American writer Maria Konnikova.   (Wikimedia/Thomas Hawk)

New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova was a "total poker outsider" when she decided to spend a year learning the game with the purpose of writing a book. Now, she might be considering a career change. Konnikova, under the wing of professional poker player Erik Seidel, has gotten so good at gambling that she's "all in on poker for the time being," PokerNews reports. That means Konnikova's writing is on hold and her book release date has been pushed back to next summer or fall, reports Deadspin. But at least she has money coming in. Plenty, in fact. In January, Konnikova beat out more than 200 players—including the all-time leader in online poker earnings—to win the PCA National Championship and $84,600. In March, she nabbed $57,000, finishing second in an Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau event.

Beginner's luck probably doesn't cover it. Konnikova—who has a PhD in psychology, per Deadspin—studied John von Neumann's texts on game theory before getting her start in $20 and $40 tournaments at the Golden Nugget. Later, she got the chance to look over the shoulders of poker greats, from Isaac Haxton to Jason Koon. That "really accelerated my ability to learn the game," Konnikova tells PokerNews. "It's sticking and I'm playing well. It's a really wonderful feeling when you're studying and working to have that validated." Expect more from her book than poker tips, though. Konnikova says she looks at poker "as a metaphor for life in general." It's all about "maximizing skill and not letting luck get to you," she says, adding, "I'm using this story to explore other themes and elements of what it means to be human." (Read more poker stories.)

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