It's been a while since there was a very good non-fiction book about poker. The fish out of water scenario has always made a compelling and exciting story since the dawn of time. Hollywood minted billions of dollars on that theme and literature is peppered by tales told by strangers in a strange land doing extraordinary things.
"The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win" is a new book hot off the presses from Penguin. It's authored by Maria Konnikova, who caught her first whiff of poker infamy when he won a side event at the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. It might not seem that big of a deal until you realize she had never played poker up until a year earlier after getting mentored by Erik Seidel.
Seidel does not take on students, but he was intrigued with Maria Konnikova's degree in psychology. Seidel felt had what it takes to master one of the most difficult parts of poker. The math was the easy part, but it's the head games and self discipline that makes/breaks a player.
Konnikova took Seidel's walk-n-talks in NYC parks to heart. One of the all-time great tournament players dispatched Yoda-like wisdom, much to her dismay at times. He also cut her off when she attempted to regale him with bad beats. Focusing on the negative is toxic, whereas Seidel though she should always focus on her decision making process versus the inevitable result.
In 2017, Konnikova started out playing online poker from a coffeeshop in New Jersey. When she finally caught a grasp for the game, Seidel invited her to Las Vegas. She shadowed him while he played in High Roller events at the Aria, while she dabbled in his first foray into low-stakes tournament on The Strip.
She wanted to play at the Aria, but Seidel gave her a wise piece of advice... don't play the $140 tournaments until you can win a $40 one.
So, off she went to various low-stakes MTTs. She shipped the 10am at Planet Ho and she was off and running. She celebrated with an Aria tournament and took second place, which secured her a first-ever entry into Hendon Mob database.
That spring, she flew out to Monte Carlo to play side events while sweating Seidel play in high roller events. She min-cashed in a couple of events, but Seidel thought she should take her game to the next level and focus less on min-cashes and more on final-table scores.
In the summer of 2017, Konnikova min-cashed in three events during her first-ever WSOP as a player.
At the start of 2018, Konnikova found herself in the Bahamas playing in the PCA National, a $1,500 buy-in side event. She went the distance and faded a field of 230 players. She banked $84K for the victory and outlasted a final table that included Chris Moorman and Harrison Gimbel.
A couple months later, Konnikova finished in second place in an event at the APPT Macau. It was her second-biggest score to date at $57,500 and she added another country to the growing list of places she cashed in.
At her second WSOP in 2018, Konnikova cashed in four events including the Main Event. She set a goal -- cash in the Main Event -- and although it took her a year longer than she wanted, she still managed to pull off 970th place for a score worth $17,025.
Last summer in Las Vegas, Konnikova cashed in six more WSOP tournaments. Overall, in her short career, Konnikova cashed 13 times at the WSOP for just shy of $50K in winnings.
You can buy a copy of Maria Konnikova's new book here... The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.
Check out her appearance on CBS News Sunday Morning edition.