Maria Konnikova: a writer, a psychologist, a PCA tournament winner

01.03.2018

“It has become unrealistically difficult to win in poker. To be a winning player, one has to spend several years studying” – players keep repeating the same stuff from year to year. But Maria Konnikova proves that should one have a scientific-research approach combined with nice education – 10 months is all they are going to need to come all the way from a complete rookie to PCA National Championship winner.

Who is Maria Konnikova?

Maria Konnikova has become famous in poker community after winning at PCA National Championship in January, 2018. In the tournament with buy-in of $1,650 this girl managed to outplay 230 opponents, among which were Chris Moorman and Andrei Streltsov. Together with PCA Cup, Maria took home $84.600.

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After she showed on public with PokerStars sign, players and poker mass media were trying to guess where this adorable girl came from. Perhaps, she was an online regular? Maybe, an ex-dealer? Or some famous player’s girlfriend? The truth was much more entertaining.

A writer, a psychologist, a poker player

Maria play under US flag, but her surnames gives away the fact that she is of a Russian origin. In early childhood she and her family went abroad – to the USA. There she got her college diploma after graduating from Harvard with an A.B. in psychology and creative writing, she later became a Ph.D. in psychology.

Maria Konnikova is an author of two bestselling psychology books “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” and “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It... Every Time”. She is an author and publicist, psychology ambassador, several times TED participant. What made her enter a poker game? No one from Maria’s family was a card player, and Konnikova doesn’t seem like a person presupposed for gambling.

Why Poker?

The girl came to poker due to her writer’s and scientific interests. Maria got interested n question how good are people in controlling their lives, and what part of it belongs to the factor of luck. Then Maria got acquainted with poker thanks to the book by John von Neumann “Game Theory”. Neumann though that poker is able to help preventing nuclear catastrophe. This thought overwhelmed the girl and she decided to study the game.

Maria shared her thought in social networks: “Is it interesting for a full outsider, like me, to get involved into the poker world? I’ll get to it professionally and we’ll see what we’ll get”. However, Maria’s girl was not poker to play poker. After a year in poker community Maria plans to write a book about poker, or rather about how making right decisions is able to help in other spheres of life.

Some pros helped Maria to go all the way in poker - among them was Erik Seidel. Phil Galfond helped the girl in PioSolver, and Doug Polk. All the guys work with Maria free as they all are interested in her project.

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Poker as a metaphor for life

Maris sees poker as a metaphor for life. In poker and in real life there are place for luck and decision-making. Many people like to complain that everything’s bad and do nothing to improve the situation for the better. Poker is a perfect way to learn a man to make right decision. Life… and poker are no limit games where one has to go all-in every now and then.

“Poker shows who you are. For instance, I can be aggressive in situations where everything is familiar to me. On the unknown paths, I choose a passive line. This is a losing way in poker, and in life. Or, for instance, many players love their preflop hand, and then it turns out it is not good anymore on the flop. And they commit a mistake of continuing with the hand they should through away. It happens in life as well. People are awful in adjusting to changes. For instance, in relationships, we sometimes love a person like pocket aces preflop and can’t dump this person as we’ve put into this person a lot of time and emotions. There are plenty of moments like this one”.

Now we know that poker world is not going to let Maria go easily. In addition to Champions Cup, Konnikova won a platinum package to PokerStars Players NLHE Championship 2019 with  $9.000,000 guaranteed that will take place in Bahamas on January, 6-10 2019. Poker community is eagerly waiting for the book “The Biggest Bluff.”

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