Book of the Week 22 – The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova

20th June, 2020

I’ve been a fan of Maria Konnikova’s writing for a while. She’s a Harvard-educated academic psychologist who switching to writing and turned out to be even better at that than psychology – her book, The Confidence Game, is a modern classic with a great mix of psychological research and true storytelling. Just my kind of thing.

The new book, The Biggest Bluff, sees Konnikova taking on the world of professional poker in the hope of learning something about psychology – and perhaps in the hope that her psychological training might give her an edge. 

In some ways this is a cross between James McManus’s astonishing true story Positively Fifth Street (journalist goes to Vegas to cover a murder trial, accidentally goes deep into the world’s biggest poker tournament) and Annie Duke’s excellent Thinking in Bets, in which an academically-trained poker champion shares what she’s learned. No bad thing, that, because both are great books.

Konnikova has a compelling story to tell about her rollercoaster ride through the world of high-stakes poker, and she tells it well, effortlessly weaving in the academic insights in between her lessons from her mentor, Erik Seidel, and the dizzying highs and lows of the table. I loved it.

UK: Blackwells   Amazon

US: Powell’s   Amazon

My NEW book The Next Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy is NOW OUT. Details, and to order on Hive, Blackwells, Amazon or Waterstones. Bill Bryson comments, “Endlessly insightful and full of surprises — exactly what you would expect from Tim Harford.”

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