How novice author Maria Konnikova scooped the poker world

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She’s one of the most distinctive authors alive today, Maria Konnikova – a psychologist known for her work around the subject’s various intersections. Her books such as The Confidence Game (2016) and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (2013) have become widely referenced best sellers and lauded for their acute insight into certain aspects of the human condition.

But in a clear-cut case example of fact becoming stranger than fiction, the author herself has turned her hand in from writing about unique subjects to becoming one herself.

In the lead up to researching her new book about poker, Konnikova has become an unintended poker star, surprising everyone around her including herself. In fact, so good did she become, that she has even delayed the release of her forthcoming book to accommodate her new career. To date, her total tally stands at $200,000.

In the beginning, Konnikova went from modest ambitions of just understanding the game, where she admits she had no idea how many cards were in a deck, to winning major competitions like the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where she beat pros in the Bahamas and notched up a cool $85,000.

Her new career twist has garnered huge press and, no doubt to the delight of the publisher, should encourage more sales of the book when released. But right now, she has no plans of quitting her double life as a poker player and author.

She has had help along the way in the form of one of the best in the game, Hall-of-Famer Erik Seidel who took her under his wing. This is a guy that has won $34 million playing throughout his career so he knows a thing or two about the business. 

Konnikova at the beginning had shadowed Seidel in her year of research, and in order to understand the game better, Seidel let her in on a few low-risk games. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Her acute insight into the human condition has also helped her. Part of her literary work entails profiling people psychologically and studying their decision making patterns whilst under duress. This is half the work in poker, being able to foretell what your opponent will do next. In fact, Konnikova has gone on record several times describing her surprise at the similarity between poker and life. 

Now because of her recent win, she has received free entry to one of the biggest tournaments there is, the 2019 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold'em Championship, where she is set to ply her trade for the opportunity to win millions of dollars. 

This isn't the first time a rags to riches story has been documented in the world of poker. British player Victoria Coren Mitchell won the European championship in 2009 and a jackpot of a million and then penned her account in the book For Richer, For Poorer. But Maria has taken this one step further turning herself from apprentice & investigative journalist to the winning subject of her own book. 

We can't wait to read her book in what has become the next chapter of her life.


Photo by Neil Stoddart. License: PokerStars.