Maria Konnikova's Story of the Psychologist Poker Player's Success

3 years ago
Maria Konnikova's Story of the Psychologist Poker Player's Success
13:45
17 Jan

(Photo: WSOP.com)

Maria Konnikova, a writer who immersed herself in the world of poker just to research her upcoming book, recently won the PCA National for $84,600. Her story got into the “non-poker” news media as well, Newsweek has published a piece about her recently. 

The Russian-American Konnikova has an A.B. diploma in creative writing and psychology from Harvard and a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. She has released two books so far - How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (2013) and The Confidence Game (2016), both non-fiction - and is currently working on a third one which will be about the great game of poker.

That is why in early 2017 Konnikova decided to hit the tables and learn all she can about poker. She chose 8-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel to be her mentor - it seems the learning curve has been successful.


Even before the Caribbean Adventure, Konnikova has added some impressive scores to her tally in live tournaments: she racked up 3 ITM finishes in the PokerStars Championship in Monte Carlo, and cashed in the WSOP 3 times in the summer.

But it was the $1,500 PCA National that brought her the real breakthrough. She managed to come in first in the 200+ player field, ahead of such seasoned pros like Chris Moorman, the player who has won more money on online tournaments than any other player. She got paid $84,600 for her victory, then snatched one more ITM finish before the PCA was over, a 42nd place for $22,020 in the $10K Main Event.

At the very beginning of her poker journey, she talked to PokerNews.com about her new endeavor. Newsweek used this interview for quotes in their article.

"I was interested in the question of skill vs. chance in life, and how much of my life do I control(...) And I’ve decided to use No-limit Hold’em specifically as a metaphor for life." - she said. "I’ve learned, first of all, that poker is an even better metaphor for life than I thought." 

She elaborated on how very similar skills are useful at the poker table and in real life situations, be it reading people or controlling emotions. She also talked about how a woman’s experience may differ from a man’s during a game; she feels women are more likely to have insults directed at them on the felt.


Newsweek themselves has talked to Konnikova last year about the insults she had to suffer as a female poker player, especially in the low-level live games.

The writer turned poker player also spoke about how she came into the poker world wondering whether she can use her knowledge of psychology to make up for what she lacks in GTO plays or just sheer poker experience. So far she learned that focus is the number one factor in poker success in her opinion; she believes that is where she can have an edge against other players who often get distracted by their phone or simply get up from the table in live games, giving up crucial information.

Konnikova will have more opportunities to study the professional poker scene, as she is planning to go “from Monte Carlo to Monte Carlo” with PokerStars, meaning she will be present at all the big PS series events until the 2018 Monte Carlo PokerStars Championships where her poker journey began last year.


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Marton Magyar is a Hungarian online poker player and writer who covers the latest in poker news.Read more

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