Maria Konnikova Wins PCA National Championship For $84,600

4 years ago
Maria Konnikova Wins PCA National Championship For $84,600
10 Jan


Winning the PCA National Championship is no small deal, there is $84,600 to pocket – a substantial return on the $1650 buy-in. But when one of the members of that field is your poker coach, that lends it some of the gravitas of a graduation ceremony. The real coup though is if you have a book out in a few months, co-written by you with your poker coach about your time in the poker world.

This is of course not a hypothetical; it is where journalist Maria Konnikova found herself yesterday when the dealer pushed what was left of Alexander Ziskind’s stack her way making her the winner of this year’s PCA National Championship Konnikova went into the final table with the second chip-lead and by heads up had Ziskind, who is Oklahoma’s 9th biggest tourney cash winner, out-chipped three-to-one.

Journalist to Poker Pro

This comes as a third act climax to Konnikova’s latest writing project: the year she has taken out to immerse herself in the poker world; a kind of Millenial update of Anthony Holden’s Big Deal. Erik Seidel is on board as her coach, and PokerStars have lent her a few shirts and hats. The idea is that she will be playing the PokerStars circuit from last year’s PokerStars Monte Carlo event to this year’s – currently scheduled for the end of April.

With this victory on top of the roughly $30k she’d already won, her lifetime winnings are now $116,204. All of which have been earned since March last year. Not bad going for someone whose main potatoes are earned with the written word.

Konnikova’s career path has been an eclectic one: a BA in creative writing, a PhD in psychology, a column in New Scientist, a segment on Charlie Rose, and mentoring from Steven Pinker. She’s written two books including one about grifters.

Some of that understanding of analysis and deception is clearly working at the tables.

Amateur No More

The win here in the Caribbean is her fifth final table and first win of the project. Taking down the 290 player field and lasting out the three days, suggest the kind of professionalism that might stick.

While other writers like Anthony Holden, Victoria Coren-Mitchell and Al Alvarez have taken up poker professionally for a while. It doesn’t seem to stick in the end as more than a hobby. Which is a shame, since the poker world could do with more advocates with their kind of talent at the table and eloquence on the page.

Perhaps Maria will stay on battling it out on the tables as well as the bestseller lists.

Final Table Results

1Maria Konnikova
2Alexander Ziskin
3Kevin MacDonald
4Loek van Wely
5Harrison Gimbel
6Ryan Smith
7Marcos Carneiro Antunes
8Chris Moorman

Articles 278

Jon is a freelance writer and novelist who learned to play poker after watching Rounders in year 9. He has been giving away his beer money at cards ever since. Currently he is based in Bristol where he makes sporadic donations to the occasional live tournament or drunken late night Zoom session. He ...Read more


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