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Stuck @Om

Jun 29, 2020

In this episode of Stuck@Om, I’m talking with an old friend, Maria Konnikova. Maria holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is the author of multiple best-selling books, and is also a professional poker player. We immediately dive into her book “The Confidence Game” about how con artists convince people of unbelievable things. We dissect how movies and TV glamorize the con artists while placing blame on those who were conned. We even touch on our shared love for Sherlock Holmes. 


We enter into a much deeper discussion about Maria’s most recent book “The Biggest Bluff”, which was released June 23rd. When Maria wrote the book, she set out to write about luck and the things we can and can’t control. After reading John Von Neumann’s book on game theory, she realized poker was the perfect medium for her exploration into chance. Erik Seidel — a renowned poker player — agreed to let Maria shadow him to learn more about poker. Maria never thought this opportunity would lead to becoming a professional poker player. 


We talk about what poker has taught her about emotional control and how you have to learn to identify your emotions to become an expert poker player. The goal isn’t to move away from being emotional — because it’s human nature. But you must identify your emotions and learn to remove them from the equation. You must also identify your triggers: What types of people make you mad? What interactions make you upset? What excites you or makes you happy?


We further delve into the psychology of poker and the topics of psychological distancing, physical distancing, and how to prevent emotions before you’re triggered. We chat about how emotions can be essential to decision-making. Maria also shares about her experience as a professional poker player and what she learned about herself throughout her journey. Our conversation travels deep into psychology, emotion, self-awareness, and the uncertainty of life. Please listen — Maria’s captivating story cannot be missed. 


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Outline of This Episode

  • We talk about Maria’s three books
  • What does TV get right about con artists?
  • How Maria landed on writing a book about poker
  • Making decisions because of and in spite of emotion
  • How emotional control impacts the game of poker — and life
  • Maria’s journey to becoming a best-selling author
  • Maria’s time as a professional poker player
  • What Maria learned about herself from poker 
  • The uncertainty of mortality that’s part of our being
  • How epidemiologists use poker as a model for disease spread

Resources & People Mentioned

Maria Konnikova's Books

Connect with Maria

Connect With Om