Maria Konnikova: The Champion of Poker We Need But Don't Deserve

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 149

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Today’s guest on the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast has become one of the most important and beloved humans in the world of poker in just a couple of years, the one and only Maria Konnikova.

Maria is the New York Times Bestselling author of Mastermind, The Confidence Game, and the one that cements her lasting legacy in the poker world: The Biggest Bluff.

Despite having been released only one short year ago, The Biggest Bluff is widely considered to be one of the Greatest Poker Books of All-Time and, in my humble opinion, will also go down in poker history as the most influential.

A funny thing happened however, when Maria got her hooks into the world of poker…

The world of poker got their hooks into Maria.

Since beginning her poker journey Maria has since racked up over $300k in live MTT cashes and is now a mainstay at poker tournaments all around the world.

In today’s conversation with Maria Konnikova, you’re going to learn:

– The surprising internal nemesis Maria has to contend with regularly.

-An awesome story that illustrates Maria’s rapid-fire progression as a poker player involving a true poker Villain.

– Tactics that will help you do the things you know you really should but for some reason keep putting them off.

– And much, MUCH more!

And before you dive into my conversation with Maria, I want to take a second to let you know The Biggest Bluff paperback was released exactly one day ago and, if you haven’t yet devoured it cover to cover, you can grab your copy at all the regular places books are sold.

You can also grab it by clicking through the link on Maria’s showpage at

Now, without any further ado I bring to you New York Times Bestselling author, poker champion and champion of poker, the perpetually infused with greatness Maria Konnikova.

Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Maria Konnikova on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:

Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 149: Maria Konnikova: The Champion Of Poker We Need But Don't Deserve

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Pokers legendary champions, next generation stars and tireless ambassadors in the game, sharing their wisdom and guiding your journey to high achievement on the Green Belt. This is chasing poker greatness with your host, Brad Wilson

Brad Wilson:  Welcome welcome. Welcome my friend to another episode of the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, the founder of chasing poker, Brad Wilson, and today’s guest on the show has become one of the most important and beloved humans in the entire poker world in just a couple of years, the one and only Maria Konnikova Maria is the New York Times best selling author of mastermind, the confidence game, and the one that cements her lasting legacy in the poker world, the biggest bluff despite having been released only one short year ago, the biggest Bluff is widely considered to be one of the greatest poker books of all time, and in my opinion will also go down in poker history as the most influential. A funny thing happened. However, when Maria got her hooks into the world of poker, the world of poker got their hooks into Maria as well. Since beginning her poker journey, Maria has racked up over 300k, in live MTT caches and is now a mainstay at poker tournaments all around the world. In my conversation today with Maria Konnikova, you’re going to learn the surprising internal Nemesis Maria has to contend with regularly an awesome story that illustrates Maria’s rapid fire progression as a poker player involving a true poker villain tactics that will help you do the things you know, you really should but for some reason, keep putting them off, and much, much more. And before you dive into my conversation with Maria, I want to take a second to let you know the biggest bluff paperback was released exactly one day ago, and if you haven’t yet devoured it cover to cover, you can grab your copy at all the regular places books are sold. You can also grab it by clicking through the link on Maria’s Show page at chasing poker Now without any further ado, I bring to you New York Times bestselling author, poker champion and champion of poker to perpetually infused with greatness. Maria Konnikova. Maria, welcome back to chasing poker greatness. How are you been doing?

Maria Konnikova:  I’ve been doing well. Brad, how about you?

Brad Wilson:  I’ve been doing quite well. Lots of work. Lots of coaching lots of course creation. Lots of podcasting. Very busy.

Maria Konnikova:  Good does. He’s good, right?

Brad Wilson:  Sometimes it depends, you know, I can tell that you know, you’re a little tired. You’re on the 24 hour day interview grind right now. And like, I can say that, you know, doing like a course launch that’s interactive, pre vacation. I was like, a ball of dread and anxiety at every single little thing that I had to do. And it was just like driving me insane. But when I got back, I did a launch straightaway and was like excited, Rhian, you know, rejuvenated and just ready to rock which is very nice. It’s good feeling. Good place to be. Yeah, it is. And the last time that we spoke, the biggest Bluff was about to be released. You were on the promotion trail. So tell me about the release of the biggest bluff how that went, and what life has been like since then, besides, you know, the obvious world changing everything.

Maria Konnikova:  Well, so when the biggest buff was coming out in June, we were kind of in the midst of deep pandemic, you know, still in New York where I was. And you know, all the launch events were cancelled, because everything had been live. And it was scheduled to be this live thing supposed to come up. The book was supposed to come out the day before the main not the day before the week before the main event of the World Series. You know, it was it was all planned to be kind of this big Live Poker thing. Obviously, it wasn’t, you know, everything went virtual and the world was very, very different. But I feel very lucky that the book managed to find an audience and kind of break through despite everything that was going on.

Brad Wilson:  I would say yeah, I would say manage to find an audience. I had Chris Wallace on here who an indie author, he wrote Shortstack ninja, and he said he was like checking the Amazon rankings on poker. And he was like he had made it to three. And then he was at two and he’s like just he just wanted like One day of being number one, and in the biggest bluff came out and he was like, Well, I’m fucked. No chance, no chance of ever getting the number one because of the biggest bluff. But it’s been, you know, such a boon, I think just in reaching folks that were not a part of the poker world and bringing people in, and that is like the major blessing that you’ve bestowed on the entire poker community. So from all of us, just thank you for that. Because, yeah, it’s just, it’s been, you know, a runaway runaway success?

Maria Konnikova:  Well, I really appreciate that. And, you know, honestly, it’s an honor. Because I’ve wanted kind of from from the moment I came to understand and appreciate the potential of the game, and what it could teach us about ourselves, our minds, our decision making, I became very passionate about bringing more people to it, because, you know, I firmly believe that the world would be a better place, if everyone learned how to play poker correctly, but I’m not saying all of a sudden get, you know, have everyone go into casinos and start, you know, degenerate gambling. So what I’m saying it all mean, actually learn poker, approach it with the mindset where you appreciate the skill required and learn the components skills of the game, with that kind of metacognitive awareness of what you’re doing. Because that would then I think, translate into much better decision making much better choices, much better people in in all areas of life, I mean, I think the world would be a much more rational place,

Brad Wilson:  it for sure would, it promotes critical thinking, and an awareness of emotional state. So like, you know, you get immediately punished if you get triggered emotionally, and then do something. And just like, oh, there’s so many lessons that, you know, poker can teach us about how to live a better life, I think and just make better decisions in our own lives. And, you know, that wasn’t a thing that I thought about when I was 19 years old. And pursuing poker as a career path. It’s just something that I’ve learned over time, that, you know, I just extrapolate lessons and wisdom that I’ve gained in poker and then apply it to my life. And it’s just, you know, it’s just led to a better life all around. So I’m, you know, as somebody that brand is chasing poker greatness, I think that’s a thing that I can get on board with. So lots of people know lots of things about you, because I read your book, and you’re in your books, or you’re in the biggest bluff, specifically, a lot, right? So I wanted to ask you, what’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you?

Maria Konnikova:  Let’s say, well, people who know me know this, but I don’t know how to drive. That’s something that surprises a lot of people. I’ve never written about that. So, you know, I’ve always lived in the city, from from the age that I could drive. So I, I’m young for where I was in school, because I skipped a grade, most people don’t know that either. So I skipped a grade in elementary school, I skipped sixth grade. And my birthday is quite late in the school year. So I turned 17, right before graduating from high school, and I never took driver’s ed. So that’s when you can get a license 17 And I went straight to college, which was in the city. And then I moved straight from Boston, from you know, from from the from one city to New York, and lived there ever since I’ve never needed a car. And at some point, it became apparent to me that there are some benefits of not knowing how to drive, you know, you you can’t, no one can ask you to run random errands that you don’t want to run because you don’t. Yeah, and with it, you know, with Uber and Lyft and kind of ride sharing all of that becomes so much easier. You know, I had I had issues with it. Many times during my kind of journalistic career, I remember doing a story in Arkansas. And it was a real problem that I couldn’t rent a car, so I had to get people to drive me and kind of find, you know, find transportation because there was no Uber you know, that was kind of rural middle of nowhere, Arkansas Delta and that so I had moments where I thought, you know, I really should know how to drive.

Brad Wilson:  But I mean, it’s not splitting the atom, you know, they still have like Driver’s Ed, you could you can learn this you took on poker, you know, maybe the next book can be your journey on learning how to drive.

Maria Konnikova:  No, there will be no more learning journeys. I’m a big believer that every, every book every project should be new and should teach you something new and should be not just from a content standpoint, but from kind of my evolution as a writer should challenge me to go to a new level as a storyteller, and so for everyone’s saying, you know, do investing next or do you know, backgammon next? Or do this or that next? That ain’t happening. That’s, that’s not the way I work. And that’s not interesting to me.

Brad Wilson:  Yeah. Um, so, people may not know this about me either. But I had a podcast, before chasing poker greatness that did exceptionally horrible in numbers, because it was just a wide scope. It wasn’t niche down at all. But I did have VE Schwab on the podcast, who’s a famous author, fiction author, and she said something that like, I’ll never forget, and it was that fiction writers specifically tend to read only fiction, and that doesn’t help their writing style evolve. And she was talking about reading biographies, um, just a wide range of different books and stories in which, you know, she could draw, she can make her well deeper, basically, in which to draw from, and I always internalize that and thought about it like, yeah, you know, it’s easy to get complacent, it’s easy to fall into, like one niche, and then not explore other things. But oftentimes, you explore those other things, you learn so much more, and then you can just apply it, you know, across the board. So like, yeah, I totally see where you’re coming from there. And, of course, I mean, it’s all a learning journey, like, in some way, shape, or form. It’s just, yeah, no more, no more. I mean, there’s only one poker, right. Like even it’s hard to even find like something that’s parallel in the same way that I think poker is. And it’s just complexity, its humanity, and its intrigue, for sure, for sure. 

Maria Konnikova:  And you know, and I love that advice about reading widely, because I actually experienced the opposite. When you talk to readers of nonfiction. Not true of writers of nonfiction, they’re, they’re a little bit different. But readers of nonfiction tend to say, Oh, I don’t read fiction, you know, fiction can’t teach me anything. I only read nonfiction, which I think is also very wrong. So I actually think it’s ridiculously important as a nonfiction writer or as, as a reader, to read fiction, to read poetry, to read different modes of storytelling, so that you can constantly kind of see how to tell good stories, and feed your soul, so to speak, and your mind on all of these different levels. And so in my mind, you know, the way that I’ve always chosen my next project, whether it’s, you know, book or something else, is to just follow my curiosity and follow kind of the questions I want answered, and where my mind takes me and what I want to learn next, and how I want to learn it will get you excited.

Brad Wilson:  And I think that’s like, it’s true. Even when you you know, you zoom in to the poker sense of following curiosity and asking questions and learning and growing, it’s like, Oh, I wonder how this situation works. And then like, I wonder how the opposite situation where it’s on top of this current situation, and like the people that tend to have success in poker, I found are just insanely curious human beings that just want to know all the things they just can’t like, let it go, which I mean, again, I said this on the pod before, but that’s probably a reason why I was drawn into poker is because of that curiosity. And then also, it’s like, impossible to solve as a human being. So you just gets its hooks into you. And there’s just endless areas of curiosity to just explore, you know, even 17 years into my my career, for sure. 

Maria Konnikova:  And I think that that’s such a good marker for whether you’re in the right field. You know, are you curious? Do you want to be asking questions? Are you excited to learn more? And I completely agree with you that the best players I’ve met, you know, Eric Seidel, who’s my mentor, just ravenous for knowledge, for information, and for wide knowledge. Because the other thing I will say is, you don’t always know where your curiosity is, like, I didn’t know I was curious about poker, because I didn’t know anything about this world. But sometimes you have to kind of be willing to go out on a limb and explore a little, to see what’s out there and to be able to follow your curiosity. And if you’re just in your own little hole, and in your own little, you know, stereo vision, where you’re looking just in this narrow sense, at life and at what you do, then you might not even have a chance to discover and to grow and to figure out what you’re actually curious about. And so I think having this approach where you follow your curiosity, but you also allow yourself to be introduced areas that you might not have any curiosity about to see whether it awakens anything in you. I think that both of these things are really important. So I think it’s just an open one. mindedness, a willingness to explore willingness to listen, and to experience things that you might never have known that you should be listening for? Or wanting to experience? 

Brad Wilson:  Yeah, it’s a pot odds problem, really, for the for the poker player, it’s a pot odds problem, right? Like, I think about that. And I think about my, you know, 78 year old grandmother, who will refuses to try sushi of any kind like that always right? And it’s like, it’s such a pot on thing. What’s the downside, you try it once, like, you hate it, right? And then you don’t have to try it again. But if you try, if you love it, then you get to experience it, you know, for the rest of your life. And I think that people just ought to try things, even if they feel like, Oh, I’ll hate that, or I won’t like that. If you’ve never tried it, you don’t know. And, you know, it’s not like, you can try 20 things and discard all of them. And then the 21st resonates with you, and then you found something that you can enjoy forever. And it’s just like, yeah, it’s just a pretty easy pot odds calculation to keep trying and putting yourself out there. 

Maria Konnikova:  You know, it’s funny, when you when you started talking about your grandmother and sushi, I just started picturing, you know, a toddler, who will only eat a few different types of foods, just throwing everything off the table, and not not even trying it. But how will you know, if you if you don’t try. And I think that’s an attitude that can actually be instilled from a very young age, you know, you have the kids who will try anything, because that’s always been kind of the attitude of their parents. And then the ones who you know, goes into adulthood, refusing to try anything. And then you have the people like me, who for a very long time, only ate a few different things. And whenever we went out for a meal, my mom would always have to either, like, bring some food with her, or, you know, make sure that you know, the restaurant could at least give me white rice or something. When I was very little, there were only a few things I would eat and then look how it turned out. But but you know, sometimes it is something where you grow and you learn and you learn openness, just like you you learn close mindedness. I think both of these things are skills that can be Well, one of them’s not a skill, but I think you can learn open mindedness at any age, even though you know, it’s harder. In the case of your grandmother, my grandmother is in her 90s and also has never tried sushi.

Brad Wilson:  What can you do? What can you do? Here’s the real question, though. What if you love driving, like as much as Danica Patrick, what if it’s like a thing for you and your license?

Maria Konnikova:  Oh, you do? Let’s let’s clarify. Yes, actually, no, I got it at 17.

Brad Wilson:  I had a drive. 

Maria Konnikova:  I just haven’t driven since since passing my driving test. And I think and I have a big suspicion that I only passed my driver’s test because the instructor wanted me out of the car. Possible, because the first thing I did was press the gas before removing the brake, because I forgot to remove the brake. So you know, lots of lots of fun things. But I do have that lesson. So I, I know that I actually, I lack hand eye coordination. I don’t do well with anything that requires it. And I actually and I don’t enjoy being in a car or even being driven like I just do not enjoy the car experience.

Brad Wilson:  All right. All right, I’ll I won’t press any more. So through after the release of the biggest bluff in the middle of the pandemic, and all of that, what have you been up to post you know, all the media obligations, the release and all that?

Maria Konnikova:  A lot of things. So I’ve, I’ve managed to stay quite busy. I mean, the media never really stopped, which is a great thing. You know, I I’ve, I’ve been doing interviews and, and things for the last year. But I also worked on a new TV show that will be coming out from Apple in probably 2022. I can’t say much more because you know, it’s a Indian disclosure now. But that’s been fun. So I was actually in a virtual writers room for six months at the last year. Working on that. I am now working on a screenplay and a few other screen projects. I have an audible original that I worked on during the pandemic that’s going to be out this winter about migraine. Because as people who’ve read the biggest bluff know I’ve been a lifelong migraine sufferer. So I did a deep dive into that and I’ll be narrating that myself. So that will be out and I’m now working on a number of new projects, including more Vegas based content so stay tuned.

Brad Wilson:  Any anything you’d like to share with the listener about my Drain specifically, like just anything that may be counterintuitive that they don’t know.

Maria Konnikova:  They’re I mean, I think that a lot of people who’ve never experienced them, don’t realize how serious they are and how debilitating most people who’ve never had a migraine think it’s just a headache, and really underestimate what it does to you. And I was actually shocked as I kind of did this deep dive into this world, that even today, not only do doctors underestimate it, but that there are so few good treatments. And so little is known about migraine, we still don’t know what’s going on. The causal pathways are still unclear. It’s actually it’s quite crazy. How much murky science there is around migraine, and how different they can be. It’s for some people, some one person’s migraine might look nothing like another person’s migraine.

Brad Wilson:  That’s pretty shocking. Considering how, you know, relatively common it is you would think that yeah, oh, for sure.

Maria Konnikova:  For sure. I mean, and it’s, I think one of the reasons we don’t know a lot to be honest. And this is something I write about is that most migraine sufferers are women. And so and it’s actually true of most diseases that affect women, disproportionately, they’re less studied. Just the way of the world.

Brad Wilson:  Oh, boy. Okay. That casts a shadow all over me already. It’s just, yeah, I, we’ve, I’ve had multiple guests, we’ve talked about, you know, women’s events and stuff. And just like, life experience, you know, I have two young daughters, and I have a wife. And so I’m surrounded by, you know, young women and my wife. And it’s just a different life experience from males and females just across the board. And I had almost no awareness of it, having, you know, a sample size of one, only my own life experience, you know, that, like, my wife walks through a parking lot with like, this thing on her keychain, like on her knuckles, just in case, like, every day, and I’ve never once been afraid in any sort of situation that like, I’m going to be knocked down, beaten down, you know, raped, whatever it is, like, I’ve just never had that fear. And it’s just, it’s just, it’s weird. And yeah, it just got to do better. Got to do better.

Maria Konnikova:  It’s true. It’s true. And I mean, we all learn to do that. I mean, I don’t know of a single woman who lives in New York, who doesn’t walk at night with keys in between your knuckles, right, so that you can strike with with your keys. If anyone does not do that, you should know you have to. And even still, like I’ve been assaulted on the street. 


Brad Wilson:  You know, there’s really, what do you mean, assaulted, like, sexually assaulted grabbed? Wow. Wow. Yeah, that’s awful. We have my wife bought these like cat ear things that are pointy that like, go around. It’s like a special thing. But I’m really sorry to hear that. And I mean, it’s just, yeah, it’s, I can’t I, I’m not gonna get into it because I can’t even formulate words or thoughts to get into it. 

Maria Konnikova:  But you know, but it is. Unfortunately, it’s the way the world is. And you know, you you learn to deal with it, and you learn to protect yourself. I wish we didn’t have to, but survival skills are important.

Brad Wilson:  It may be the way the world currently is. But we just have to do better. It’s just I hope so unacceptable across the board.

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Unknown Speaker:  Before boot camp I had been playing for maybe 15 years somewhat seriously, always trying to get better jumping from learning program to different learning programs and training site to training site kind of feeling a little bit lost not really knowing how to go about getting better. And preflop bootcamp just felt like a great starting point. A way for me to move from being a Losing player to possibly a winning player. It felt like the right first step.

Brad Wilson:  Once you jumped in boot camp, what was your experience like?

Unknown Speaker:  Well, first off, I realized that I had been making a lot of mistakes prior to boot camp, kind of learning what Rangers should look like and what hands should be played in what situations you know, I was, it was exciting because I, I could see what other people had been doing to me what kind of what I had been missing in my game. And then from there, it’s just the whole camaraderie of everybody that’s signed up working together trying to achieve that goal, you know that that was fun, that’s pushing each other and really helping one another kind of feeling like you’re a part of a team. It was, it was a great experience. I enjoyed the process, and I learned a lot.

Brad Wilson:  What was your experience, like, playing cards, post bootcamp,

Unknown Speaker:  it’s a totally different experience. You know, it put me in a position to be successful, as opposed to always being behind the eight ball and then playing catch up. I really feel like it’s, it’s the foundation of a solid poker game. And since bootcamp, I’ve been able to turn a profit and keep building on what I learned there, you know, being able to go back into the group and really worked together even after boot camp was over. It’s, it’s been awesome.

Brad Wilson:  What’s your sample size of winning post boot camp,

Unknown Speaker:  I think I have so many 1000 Hands played. By now you know, I’m a father and I have a job. So I’m not a professional player by any means. That’s my sample size.

Brad Wilson:  Preflop bootcamp is the flagship chasing poker greatness training program. If you’d like to dramatically upgrade your preflop game, a new bootcamp launches on the last Saturday of every single month, and your link to join is chasing poker camp. One more time that’s chasing the poker camp all one word, where you can click through in the description box of this episode. So as it relates to your poker journey, let’s we’ll we’ll try to get get more joy infused in after that. But imagine there’s a greatest hits collection of stories that you’ve accumulated playing poker traveling around going to these tournaments. Tell me a story. This on Maria Konnikova, has greatest hits collection.

Maria Konnikova:  Oh, boy, I mean, one that has not been told in the biggest bluff, I assume.

Brad Wilson:  I mean, either way, just one that’s it. Maybe there’s a listener out there that hasn’t,

Maria Konnikova:  you know, I will, I will tell you there’s, there’s a non biggest bluff story that I would put in my, in my greatest hits. It’s Vegas based. So when I first started playing, for people who kind of haven’t read the book, I started online playing in New Jersey, you know, I’d commute every day from New York, and then went to Vegas and started playing in kind of smaller events, and could have moved up gradually, when Eric thought that I was ready to to move up. And there was this guy, who I who was clearly a regular on the Vegas tournament scene. And as you you know, when you’re playing these daily tournaments, you start seeing a lot of the same faces, you know, just like you see a lot of the same faces at the higher level tournaments, kind of the daily tournaments, you know, the $100, tournaments, the $200 tournaments, there’s, there’s the fixes that you start seeing. And I had seen him a few times. And he did not he did not like me, and he just was one of these relentlessly aggressive people who would always pick on me, and it’s one of these things that I write about, you know, never take it personally, right, obviously, but it was pretty clear in this case that there was something personal there. And I remember sitting with him at the Wynn 1k, which was the first 1k that I ever played. It was kind of my, my Big Shot. I did not, did not do well, I busted very early on, but you know, you got it, you got to start somewhere. And he was at my table. And I was in the big blind. This is to illustrate how personal it was. And there was a limp and then a bunch of limpers after and I said something, I was like, oh, you know, I’ll be nice and check. And he looked at me and he said, Yeah, not everyone has the balls to squeeze. And I just kind of looked at him and I was like, okay, that’s not the story, though. Story is later on during another tournament where he was at my table again, and I was already better. This was later on in my in my poker life, where I had where I’d grown the balls to squeeze and I had a had kind of learned a thing or two. And I ended up playing multiple hands with him and busting him from the tournament with some, with some nice check raising and, and other just totally crazy bluffs with absolute air. And I was very, very proud of myself. And that was kind of one of my proudest moments in my coming up in the poker world, because he was just always so nasty to me.

Brad Wilson:  I don’t know why people are like that. It’s, it’s see, like, the conclusion that I came to about, like, specifically women events was like, the major benefit of women events is like, there’s no minimum. Like, that’s the, that’s like the draw. Right? Like, there’s that’s funny, right?

Maria Konnikova:  And I will say, you know, most people are not like that, you know, most people don’t have those nasty comments, and most people won’t won’t take swipes at you like that. But for the most part, it’s okay. But there are there are people like that. And it is, you know, it was very clear that it was just he didn’t know me, you know, he had no idea who I was. And you have to remember this was before anyone knew who I was, I was not yet a PokerStars team Pro. I hadn’t won anything. I was just some random girl at a table. And I think he just took exception to that somehow.

Brad Wilson:  Well, Vanessa Cade put it very well, when she said that even if it’s like 2%, so one out of 50 and you play it like five tables today or six tables today? On average, there’s gonna be one asshole, even if it’s a number is smallest 2%. So, yeah, it’s just, there’s just no place. I got to, I’m getting I’m feeling all the emotions right now.

Maria Konnikova:  But you know what, but then it’s so gratifying when you bluff with you know, six high and get them to fold. Because you know, you’ve you’ve read their soul, and realize the spots that they’re taking, and you just with absolute impunity, do anything you want. And they’re forced to fold.

Brad Wilson:  Yeah, it’s always gratifying to read somebody’s soul, though, doesn’t matter if they’re mean to you or not mean to you. Like, if you’re your best friend, it’s probably even the best the best time to read somebody. So when you’re like good, good buddies, for sure.

Maria Konnikova:  But I will say I never showed the bluff because I think that’s also nasty. I I’m not going to go down to that level of proudly, you know, flipping over six high, even if it’s strategic space, if it’s strategic, you can do it. But you know, when I was asking Eric about this way back when his advice was basically Never show your cards unless you have to. He said, The only time that he could think of to show a really big Bluff is if you’re playing specifically against Phil Hellmuth into that mode, and then and then go for it. But otherwise refrain and he was just joking about Phil, of course, he loves Phil.

Brad Wilson:  But once he I don’t know. Like a half joke. There’s some like truth,

Maria Konnikova:  There’s something a little grain of truth to that. And I’m sure Phil would actually acknowledge that.

Brad Wilson:  I’m sure he would. So you kind of just answered one of my questions that I had about your when you think of nemesis in your poker career, who’s the first person that comes to mind? But the follow up was when you think of nemesis in your career? What’s the first Maria Konnikova thing that comes to mind?

Maria Konnikova:  What do you mean about like,

Brad Wilson:  internal struggle?

Maria Konnikova:  My internal nemesis?

Brad Wilson:  Yeah, your internal emesis?

Maria Konnikova:  I’ve so many of them. But I think I mean, this is a cop out answer. But it’s true. I think impostor syndrome is one that I’ve always struggled with. And still do, you know, this, this feeling of feeling like I don’t deserve anything. And that, you know, why? Why do people read me as opposed to someone else? Why am I in this position as opposed to someone else? And just feeling like, you know, I’ve, I’ve gotten lucky, and that I don’t always deserve to be where I am. And feeling like I’m a bit of an outsider, I’m a bit of an imposter. In a lot of different situations.

Brad Wilson:  What do you make of those feelings?

Maria Konnikova:  I wish they didn’t exist. There’s nothing I can do about it. Actually, it’s funny. If we want to go all Freudian. I talked about the soit. In the book, I mentioned that I worked with Jared Tendler, who’s wonderful, who has a new book out too, which is great.

Brad Wilson:  He’s podcast episodes gonna be released pretty soon, too wonderful. 

Maria Konnikova:  Um, and, you know, Jared, and I actually talked through some of these kind of imposter syndrome things. And, you know, I think you can never it’s really dangerous to try to bring it down to one specific cause, or one specific thing, but I do think it probably shaped me that you know, I came to the US as a young child and didn’t speak English and had to go to school and not fit in and not speak English. Not understand anything, and kind of feel my way and feel lost for kind of a very crucial year of my life. But like I said, that’s a little too simplistic. I don’t think that that’s that. That’s, that’s all there is to it. But there’s definitely something to it

Brad Wilson:  Any benefits of the imposter syndrome?


Maria Konnikova:  

I mean, I think it prevents you from getting overconfident, which is good. Usually, you know, nothing fully prevents overconfidence, and I’ll be the, I’ll be the first to admit that. But I think it I think it’s a it’s a nice antidote or countervailing force to feelings of overconfidence,

Brad Wilson:  Do you think it’s a driver for high performance?

Maria Konnikova:  Maybe, I think that in, in my case, I certainly am self motivated, you know, no one’s ever driven me, I’m very lucky that I had parents who said, you know, do whatever you want to do. You know, as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters. And so, you know, they never, they never said, Oh, you have to bring home a good report card, or you have to do this, or you have to go into this career, you know, they said, you want to be a writer, great. If you can make it work, that’s amazing. You know, just, if you’re, you do what you love, and you’re good at it, you’ll be able to make money. That was always there kind of their message to me. And so all of my kind of my drive to succeed has always been from from inside kind of from my own personality. For me pushing myself beyond the limits. I mean, I almost gave myself a nervous breakdown in high school, because I pushed myself so hard to be the best, and no one was putting pressure on me. It’s it was all internally generated. And I think that that’s certainly never gone away. And probably part of that is the imposter syndrome, that keeps you kind of keeps you going.

Brad Wilson:  And are there any other parts to it? That’s self motivating force? I mean, like, what is the dialogue in your mind when you’re just totally driven on this one thing, and just all consumed by it?

Maria Konnikova:  I don’t think it’s a dialogue. I think it’s more of a bitch Maria screaming her head off at me.

Brad Wilson:  What about the you know, there’s an internal feeling. I know that like, when I’m, it’s hard for me to switch modes, from like podcasts to private coaching, and then writing, sales, copy and promoting and marketing and then building a course like these are all different, like, I think of myself as having multiple personality disorder in some way where like, if I’m in like, mass database analysis mode and building a course, then I wake up in the morning, I spent all day looking at it, analyzing it and building out the course. And then I go to sleep. And then I wake up and I do the same exact thing. And I can’t do anything else, like until it is done. I’m like, very, very obsessive. Is that the same for you? Or is it just like, you have one project? And you’re just in it?

Maria Konnikova:  No, no, I’m actually very different. I always have multiple things going at once. And the way that I keep my kind of creativity and my drive going is by cross pollinating, basically, and seeing what, what is motivating me at any given point in time. So like, right now I’m working on at least three, possibly four different projects. And so it’s one of these things where I will immerse myself deeply, but then I’m also able to kind of get out and immerse myself in something else. And sometimes I’ll do that, you know, multiple times in a week or even in a day. And I find that having a lot of things going, keeps me motivated, keeps me driven, keeps me on task, in a sense, because I have a lot of different obligations. That said, there are moments in every project where I immerse myself completely because I have an I don’t recommend this to anyone. But I’ve always worked to deadline. So I get the bulk of whatever it is I’m doing done as the deadline is looming over my head. And so when it comes to crunch time, I will clear my schedule, and I will not be able to have any distractions. So I will just go for weeks and just be working on whatever it is I’m working on, you know, to to give an extreme example, for the confidence game, which was my book before the biggest bluff. I had the deadline looming and this was already like an extended that deadline and I could not be late because the release date had been announced and the production calendar and all of these things. And it just so happened to be like January 2, something like that. And so I ended up basically for all of December, I did not leave the apartment, my husband ended up, you know, going to see his family for Christmas without me. I spent Christmas working, you know, I spent everything working. And it was just these endless days, all I was doing was living and breathing the confidence game to get it finished by that deadline, and I’d had over I mean, I’d had plenty of time. It’s just, but that’s, that’s the way that my mind works. That’s the way that I concentrate, and I’m able to actually get it done. You know, it’s funny, I, by the way, must have thought that I was the saddest person in the world. What do you think? It’s like thank you for

Brad Wilson:  You say that it’s kind of funny, because I say that, like I work on one thing. But I mean, I constantly have like seven or eight projects that are just all going like simultaneously, you know, the podcast has to be released every single week, I have no, I have no choice. Because I have a set schedule. And I have all these those obligations. And then private coaching is going all the time. And then webinars, future courses, all the stuff and I’m like you in the way that I did a pre sell on my latest course because I procrastinated like two months. And I was like, I’m just going to sell a bunch of them and tell everybody it’s a free roll. Like if I don’t have it done, you just get it for free. I’ll return your money. And that was like, that was a way to get me get shit done. It got it got released on time. Just because I put the deadline out there and

Maria Konnikova:  I pressure isolations public commitment. That’s it. That’s the way to do it.

Brad Wilson:  It’s a huge driver, driver of action, public commitment, having an accountability, like social accountability with somebody else, monetary

Maria Konnikova:  commitment, anything, anything that you have a commitment to one of my favorite incentives that I think works very well is if you’ve failed to do something, you know, if you fail on your goal, you have to donate money to a cause you hate. That one works really, really well. No, seriously,

Brad Wilson:  no, I know. I’ve I’ve done that. And donate it to a cause I didn’t like so I’m laughing because I experienced it. There’s another one too, I think it was a podcast somewhere I can’t remember. But basically like tack $100 Bill somewhere in your closet. And if you have like a fitness goal, or whatever it is, and put a lighter next to it. And if you don’t commit, if you don’t follow through on your fitness goal, or whatever it is. You have to light the money on fire. I think

Maria Konnikova:  that that’s actually horrible advice. Really perfectly honest. Because TAKE THAT $100 and donate it to a good charity. A lot of people can use that money, even if it’s your charity you hate? No, it’s donated to a good charity. Oh, good. Okay, but get rid of it for you.

Brad Wilson:  Okay, well may go,

Maria Konnikova:  don’t go burning $100 bills, a lot of people.

Brad Wilson:  I there’s probably 0.1 person that would never, ever even attempt it or even follow through on it. I think the donation policies much better, especially if like somebody else is in charge of it. Because then, you know, I think if you’re forced to pull the trigger, you may not pull the trigger yourself.

Maria Konnikova:  Oh, for sure. No, it always has to be mean, there are actual sites for this

Brad Wilson:  where you’re really at it. Wow.

Maria Konnikova:  I don’t know. I can’t give you the URL off the top of my head. But yes, they exist.

Brad Wilson:  So just Google it if you’re if you’re interested. So what is this upcoming year look like for the WSOP? Like, what’s the what’s your schedule look like? What are your plans?

Maria Konnikova:  Um, I mean, I don’t know yet. I’ll be playing. I’m actually doing this interview from Vegas right now. Oh, really? Yeah. So I’ll be Vegas based for a while because my next project is Vegas based. It’s not poker, but but it is. Vegas based. So so yeah. So I’ll be playing but I’m also working. So so we’ll just see. We’ll see how I’m feeling. We’ll see how much studying I get done. Because it’s one of these things where I’m not going to play if I feel like I don’t have any edge. Right. If I feel like I’m rusty, if I feel like I’m coming in just as a total wreck. I’m not going to throw money away.

Brad Wilson:  Well, I assume you’re you’re sharpening your skills play by all this stuff. Yeah. So you’ll be fine. You’ll have an edge. I think it’ll be pretty, pretty clear that you have an edge. It’s probably going to be a different you know, I don’t how many live things have you done as it relates to poker?

Maria Konnikova:  So this, I just played my first live tournament this week. Yeah,

Brad Wilson:  it feels like it’s going to be different for you after the release of the biggest bluff. Have you found it any different than before?

Maria Konnikova:  Yeah, I mean, I Definitely have found that at every table, there are a few people who recognize me and who talk about the book. I’ve had a few people now bring a book to me to have it signed. And I’ve only played in two tournaments. So which is funny, because I actually don’t have a single copy of my book in Vegas with me, but other people do. So that’s nice.

Brad Wilson:  They bring it for you. What was some advice that you got when you were embarking on your poker journey that you now disagree with?

Maria Konnikova:  You know, I think that and this is not advice that came from Eric, because Eric’s advice is golden. No, seriously, because he gave so little of it. Right. And it was always so nuanced. But I think the the advice that I got at the beginning, that aggression wins, really needs caveats.

Brad Wilson:  Yes.

Maria Konnikova:  To too many people. And I think it was great advice for me at the time, because I was too timid. And I definitely erred on that side. And like, in my first it’s funny, my first tournament back. So I, the first time I sat down a few days ago, I kind of I was being too timid. And I know that but it’s, you know, and I hadn’t played live for a year and a half. And so I just was kind of feeling out the waters that’s gone now. You know, it’s just, it just just took a few days. But the people who played with me at that first table probably thought, wow, you know, this is like the biggest player in the world. And I was, but for, like I said, for good reason, at that particular moment, but it was good advice for me starting out because my tendencies were to the risk averse side. But then, you know, once you get over that, and once you kind of embrace your aggression and figure out how to do it, I think that’s advice that can make you go broke, because so many people just refuse to fold and want to bluff and are just way, way over bluffing in spots where they don’t understand what their frequency is, should be where they should not be bluffing. And I think that also makes you quite exploitable. And I’m just noticing, you know, Live Poker right now. In these last few days, I’ve noticed that a lot, that it seems like it’s brought out this hyper aggression in a lot of people,

Brad Wilson:  I think the natural tendency of new poker players is to be a more passive, just in general, at least in all the data that I’ve looked at, and the data that I’ve analyzed, that just appears to be the case that lower level poker players tend to be more passive, just in nature. And as they improve, you know, they get that advice, like, be aggressive, like always be aggressive. And it’s something that in private coaching sessions with my students, you know, I have graphs I’m like, super, super nerd in that I have like, just Google sheets that are just so many grids, and so many calcs, and just so much stuff. And I’ll show them how, when you get say 30% of the flop, and in aggregate, you win, say one big blind, every time villain calls based on their range composition versus, you know, your range composition, where I can show them like with each category of hand how much you’re supposed to win or lose. But as you bet 50% villains are folding more 50, you size up the 50% Villains fold more, so the range is stronger, so your EV goes down some and then when you buy 70% Villains fall even more. And so the range composition gets stronger. And you can turn a situation where if you bet 30%, and it’s your wedding plus one BB every time you do it and villain calls depending 90% And now you’re losing 1.5 big blinds every time villain calls. I mean, you can make those shifts, and it’s pretty easy to do. And folks don’t realize that like you can over aggress and aggression can cost you lots of money. With bluffing and also with your value hands. I mean, if you think about it, like as an extreme, if you have like say king, queen on King SEVEN NEWS rainbow, like, if you bet small, it’s pretty clear, you can get called by a bunch of worse hands. But if you just jam, like you just 100x rip it right 100 Extra at the pot? Well, when you get called, you’re not going to get called that often. But when you do, you’re smoked, like every single time. And so like if you just think about things, you know, and that extreme for the listener, just bear that in mind. And there’s no like simple, easy solution to this game. It’s very complex, it’s very difficult and calling, you know, there are certain spots, there are lots of spots across the tree where checking is going to outperform betting and calling is going to outperform betting or raising and use, you know, you just have to do the work and try to figure out how to use all the tools in your tool belt.

Maria Konnikova:  That’s absolutely true. And the other thing that I’ve the other thing that I’ve learned is that especially when you’re playing live where with a lot of recreation You know, players, players don’t understand hand value as well as you do. And so they might be betting huge. And your read might be while this person is super strong, but they might just have a weak top pair and think that they’re invincible, and not realize that they’re beat by all of these things. I’ve already had an experience, you know, several times where people didn’t see a flush on the board or didn’t see a straight, and just confidently thought that they were great. And so the other, the other thing that I would say, is, you know, be be wary of that, and realize that, you know, that people perceive hand strength differently. And I know that and it’s actually that can both help and hurt you. Because I understand that, you know, my top parents might not be a great hand. And so sometimes, maybe I will actually lose a little bit of value, because I will have been called by worse if I had been bigger. But I kind of out leveling myself in a sense and thinking, Well, you know, how do I want to play this? And how do I want to play my range, etcetera, etcetera. And so sometimes in these live events, you can’t out level yourself and just bet a lot because people will call you people are not folding these days.

Brad Wilson:  Yeah, hold the full button, the full buttons kind of broken. I think another thing I see now, now that you say that is like, my students will have like, top here we kicker and sometimes they’ll just like, be a flush, completing turn. And they’ll just like jam or something. It’s like, they’re like SPR is like 1.5. And I’m like, Why? Why did you do that? And they’re like, well, three to a flush. The board’s getting scary. I’m like the board’s already scary. Like, like, it’s already scary. You know, son, God, scary. Yeah, it’s already there. It reminds me of some of the spots remind me of like, you know, people who are afraid of heights, and they get like this impulse to like jump, because they’re so afraid. They say there’s what this fear to be over and done with and so like, that version of in poker is like just sticking all the money in with an inappropriate hand, because like you’re afraid of what’s going to happen next? Or maybe you don’t know how to navigate it appropriately. And,

Maria Konnikova:  yeah, that’s, I think, I think that that’s really, that’s really important. And if you look at actually how a lot of solvers approach, drawers and hands that traditionally, you know, we’d check with check, raise a lot. Oftentimes, they don’t, they just call because you win more money, if you just wait to see what happens, in a sense, rather than just like, piling it all in ahead of time, I was I’ve been very surprised to see that sometimes, that sometimes the better the better policy is not to pile it in. Then again, you know, you also have to think psychologically, like, I’ve, I’ve played hands, I had a hand and in the last tournament I played, where I ended up really over betting the turn, because it was a very scary board. And I had everything, and I didn’t want it to get scarier. And I felt like if another if another bad card comes off, I’m just not getting paid. Right. So so let me at least try to extract max value, and it worked. I ended up getting someone to shove on me. But but it was a gamble that I took even though I was very strong. And I didn’t care if it got scarier, because I had everything. But I did care from their perspective, right, that you don’t want. That’s kind of how I think of it, not what will improve me, but what will keep them from calling me when I need to get called, which is a little bit of a of a flip.

Brad Wilson:  It’s pretty funny, because I call that exact concept fragility. I did a webinar, like a year ago on the concept of fragility on the board. But yeah, and that’s the thing that, you know, it’s not just it’s not always just calling with your drawers for because, like, solvers are like pure math, right? So they don’t tell us why there’s no like narrative as to like, they don’t say, Oh, well, you do this, because of this, this, this, it’s um, you know, if you need to have drawers in your calling range, you need to have good hands in your calling range. And the same way that you need to have good hands in your raising range and back and lower equity hands in your, it’s just like about balancing the range and constructing good ranges and not being not being exploitable. And that’s the thing that’s like very hard for beginners, and even like intermediate level players to always wrap their mind around that, like, we’re not playing this one hand, we’re playing like all the hands that we have here. And we need to have a strategy that protects us from getting exploited with anything that villain might do or anything that might happen on you know, any equity shifting turn, we need to have some very specific hands so that for board coverage within each component of our range, so anyway, yeah, it’s just poker is complicated.

Maria Konnikova:  And that’s why it’s so interesting, and that’s why it’s so fun. And, you know, you’re constantly learning and constantly adjusting and sometimes throwing correct strategy out the window and in one particular situation for very good reason.

Brad Wilson:  Yeah, well, you should against against like, very specific profiles in certain situations, I mean, make taking an exploitable. Something’s only like. So the way that I think of GTO versus exploitable players, I always use the metaphor of Rock Paper Scissors, right. So, you know, you want to randomize, you want to GTO way you just randomize and choose each one of them 1/3 of the time, and that’s just totally random. Nobody’s going to exploit you, you’re going to play perfectly. But if you’re playing in somebody that chooses rock 80% of the time, well, the exploit is just to choose paper every single time, right? But when you do choose an exploit, there’s a natural counter that’s available to the villain. And so it’s, it’s up to us to recognize will the villain see the natural counter here? Or will they just miss it? And if they miss it, then you just take the export? Because that’s, that’s going to make the most money?

Maria Konnikova:  I think that’s absolutely right. Um, yesterday, I was playing against someone who I realized after playing with him for a few hours, see bet 100% of the time, literally, there was not a single time where there was no see, but I was like, Oh, interesting. So you, you can then start exploiting that. And he didn’t notice, like, he just, that’s what he did. Yeah, because he would always try to get people to fold the flop. That was kind of that’s how he played poker.

Brad Wilson:  Which means like, on the turn, he’s gonna have a much weaker range like things. 

Maria Konnikova:  Yeah, I mean, so many things once you notice that, but that’s rare. I mean, normally, people aren’t that obvious.

Brad Wilson:  not that obvious.But people are very, very predictable, just Yes, in there.

Maria Konnikova:  But I’ll also say that you have to be careful. And then I’ve made the mistake of making reads too early on what kind of a player someone was. And so you do need to have an observation over time. Right? If someone is, you know, raising 90% of hands, they might not actually be a maniac, like maybe that first hour, they actually got huge hands over and over and over. That happens.

Brad Wilson:  Somebody’s racing 90% of the time, I’m going to make the assumption that a maniac is not the luckiest human in the world. Like, I know what you mean, yeah, it’s easy to you get three about four times in a row. And all of a sudden, you think this person is just coming after you when the reality is exactly.

Maria Konnikova:  And you just need to realize that your assessments are also subjective and biased, and that sometimes you’re just justifying things you want to do anyway, by saying, Oh, well, this guy’s you know, way too loose. So I’m gonna take advantage of that. And maybe they’re not

Brad Wilson:  Well, honestly, the way that I. So if somebody three bets mean, the fourth time in a row, I actually think they’re stronger than when they three about me the first time and they threw me two times in a row, I think the second time, they’re going to be a little stronger, because like, they know that they’re, they know that they’ve raised you two times in a row, and they’re not just gonna go out of their way, unless you have like a physical towel, or they’re, you know, there’s something else going on there. But they’re not just gonna go out of their way to pick on the same person, because like, they know that you can only pick on the same person so many times before they fight back.

Maria Konnikova:  Yes, unless that person always fold unless they

Brad Wilson:  always fold. I mean, in which case, then just keep three betting them. But more of, you know, if you’re, you know, if you’re a more advanced player, and somebody three bets, you three times in a row, and then they’re just, it just feels like they’re less likely to likely to do it the third time in a row, because they know like, this is okay, they’re, they’re gonna, they’re gonna start fighting back soon.

Maria Konnikova:  Let’s see, if I know that, you know, that aren’t gonna take advantage by three betting light. You might, you might say, there you go. And that’s poker for you. Right? And

Brad Wilson:  if and if we play against each other two times, and then you do it again. I’m going to No, no more. Maria. You’re getting the four beds.

Maria Konnikova:  Sounds good. I’ll be ready for it.

Brad Wilson:  I’m sure you will. You kind of have a pretty good teacher. I do. What’s it what’s a person got to do to get Eric Seidel on a podcast? By the way, that guy. He’s such a poker legend of the game. And, man, he’s just, he’s my personal greatest of all time poker player. He’s just, he’s he’s my favorite. But he’s wonderful.

Maria Konnikova:  Yeah, he doesn’t he doesn’t do a lot of media.

Brad Wilson:  I know. I’ve seen I’ve seen, but that’s okay. He, I mean, again, that’s maybe one of the better reasons for him to be your mentor and all of that because he’s this sort of like, mysterious human being.

Maria Konnikova:  This is true, this is true. And I feel very, very lucky that I’ve had a chance to learn from him.

Brad Wilson:  And, and everybody else is lucky that you shared those lessons and It was from from your learnings with Eric Seidel. And so we’ll, we’ll close down shop here. And I’ll ask you about a project you’re working on right now that’s near and dear to your heart.

Maria Konnikova:  I am working on a screenplay. I can’t say much more, but I’m really excited. And I hope I do a good job with it.

Brad Wilson:  I’m sure you will. I’m sure you’ll do very, very well. When do we get to know more about the screenplay? And I hope to be in the fall. Awesome. Awesome to hear. When you’re when you’re out promoting it, we can talk about it. And then you can mysteriously tell people about the next project. We can just keep it going that way. Just leave a little breadcrumb, from conversation to conversation.

Maria Konnikova:  Excellent, excellent. I don’t do it on purpose. No, I don’t like I’m trying to.

Brad Wilson:  I totally understand, you know, non disclosure agreements or non disclosure agreements, what can you do? And so final question, Where can the chasing poker greatness listener learn more about you on the worldwide web,

Maria Konnikova:  they can go to my website, which is not very often updated, but it exists. And the social media I’m most active on is Twitter, and Instagram, so So those would be the places to go. And I’m doing my paperback virtual book tour. Starting next weeks, I have a lot of fun events coming up. I have my launch event with Nate Silver. Then I’m doing a conversation with Michael and black and one with Josh Boyer. There’ll be a lot of fun stuff coming up in the next few weeks.

Brad Wilson:  Awesome. And your website can be updated less frequently. Dan Clayton Fletcher, who came on the pod recently playing he has a link to his MySpace on his website. He does win. Thank you very much for your time and your energy. I’m always grateful. And thank you for everything that you’ve done for the poker community, specifically, again, we’re all very, very grateful for having you as as a member and yeah, just just Thanks, and we’ll catch up next time.

Maria Konnikova:  Thank you so much, Brad. It’s been a pleasure as always.

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Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 149: Maria Konnikova: The Champion Of Poker We Need But Don't Deserve

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