Decent poker books are few and far between, and it is hard to think of many that are essential reading for budding poker players. Daniel Negreanu’s Power Hold’em Strategy could be up there as it gives readers an insight into the Canadian genius’s mind, but they won’t find anything in there that they wouldn’t also be able to get in his video courses. The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova takes more of a psychological focus and explains how a complete novice can become a champ of the game. This could be considered indispensable for anyone who wants to rise to the top of the poker world.
About the Book
Konnikova may be best known in poker circles for winning the PCA National event in 2018 and featuring in various other high stakes tournaments, but this hasn’t always been her career path. Indeed, the Russian-American only got into poker two years prior to that, when she contacted legend of the felt, Erik Seidel, with a proposal. The 36-year-old’s main interest is psychology, and she was intrigued about this side of the card game. She wanted Seidel to train her to become a professional, where she would also apply the skills she had picked up from studying for her Ph.D. at Columbia University.
Konnikova has written a series of books exploring the various ways in which the human mind works. Her first offering, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, focused on her love for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character and the ways in which his brilliant deductive mind worked. She followed the 2013 book up with The Confidence Game in 2016, a book which would probably have a greater appeal in the poker community than her debut publication.
The third offering from Konnikova is the one that poker players of all levels should check out. She wrote The Biggest Bluff during her time training under Seidel and when she was competing in major tournaments. The psychologist has an intriguing and engaging writing style, which gives readers a comprehensive outline of how she managed to cut it against the best in the business at the felt.
Who Would the Book Appeal to?
The Biggest Bluff goes into detail about Konnikova’s forays into poker playing and discusses the various attributes she needed to become proficient at on her journey to winning. A large part of the book is about how she managed to master the odds, and this refers to knowing which the optimal hands are to play and which cards should be mucked. There are also chapters about the incredible attention and focus that players need to take control at the card table.
Konnikova’s book would appeal to a range of people, from poker players to laypeople alike. The fact that she writes in depth about odds and the mathematical side of the game may charm people who indulge in other entertainment options that are grounded in probability. For example, people who enjoy online roulette or slots like Serengeti Gold are used to dealing with odds. They may be interested in experiencing this in a poker setting.
The 2019 book will mainly attract people who want to follow in Konnikova’s footsteps and make it to the top of the poker world without having any past knowledge of the game. By reading the book and modelling exactly what the writer did, there is no reason why others can’t do the same and take on the best in the business.
Proof that it is Possible to Master the Game
The great thing about The Biggest Bluff is the fact that it shuts down arguments about poker being based on luck once and for all. Those who enjoy the game know that it is predominantly skill based, but outsiders find it hard to believe that this is a game that can be mastered. The fact that Konnikova went from knowing nothing about poker to amassing more than $100,000 in winnings shows that it is possible to quickly become highly skilled at the felt.
This should also give belief to players who are stuck in a rut, or who think they can’t possibly improve on their current position. It is easy to put stars like Phil Ivey and Negreanu on pedestals, but it must be remembered that they were once amateurs as well. They simply followed a system and strategy, until they became regarded as two of the best in the world. Anyone who is dedicated enough can achieve the same feats as these people.
Konnikova’s book delves into the psychology of poker, but also takes a deep dive into the mathematical side of things. This book could be considered essential, as it shows how someone with no knowledge of poker can rise to the top.