What started out as research about ‘luck’ for a new book turned into something more for Maria Konnikova. The Russian-born American writer and psychologist is now the newest ambassador for PokerStars.
Konnikova is a two-time New York Times best-selling author, a regular contributor to the New Yorker and host of the podcast, The Grift, about “con artists and the lives they ruin.”
It was a year ago when Konnikova made the conscious decision to enter the poker world. Her latest project will document her journey from novice player to one of elite status while looking at how poker skills translate to the real world.
For the project, Konnikova immersed herself into poker and game theory by playing and studying the game up to nine hours per day. She approached Erik Seidel for some coaching and set off to play poker as a full-time job for one year.
Konnikova has not only survived. She thrived. She has earned more than $200,000 in live tournament winnings including a first-place finish ina $ 1,500 NLH tournament at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. That win also earned her a Platinum Pass to the 2019 PokerStars Players Championship, making her the first woman to claim one.
Konnikova is not showing any signs of slowing down. This week, Konnikova was named PokerStars Ambassador.
Eric Hollreiser, Vice President of Corporate Communications at The Stars Group, said this about Konnikova:
I didn’t know – or frankly care – whether she would become a good enough player to turn pro. I knew from her past literary work that she’d be able to distill the essence of poker into life lessons in ways that would resonate with people. That was good enough for me. The fact that she’s now a competitive professional player is a testament to Maria and her work ethic. And it will also make her story even more compelling.
Konnikova finds a home and success on the felt
At a time when some of PokerStars’ biggest names have moved on from their relationship with the online poker site, PokerStars seems to be partnering with a new type of poker player – one with ties outside of poker.
Konnikova certainly fits that bill. As a prolific and well-respected writer, Konnikova has the ability to reach far and wide with her storytelling and tales from studying the game.
Konnikova said the following about joining PokerStars:
I never could have imagined poker becoming as big a part of my life as it has, and joining PokerStars as an official ambassador offers me an incredible opportunity to take my game to the next level and to represent a brand that I’ve come to admire greatly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the people I have the pleasure of working with at PokerStars are some of the nicest, smartest, and most fun I know. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my passion for poker with the world and, hopefully, bring many new players into the game.
The skill vs. luck debate
The question of whether poker is a game of skill or one of luck is a source of constant debate. Of course, the answer is that it requires a combination of both. Even the best players need luck, or at the very least not to get unlucky to win a tournament with huge player fields.
But how much of poker is skill and how much is luck? Konnikova weighs in.
“I think it’s far more skill than luck. Skill is essential. You will be destroyed without it in the long-term, even if you manage to survive for a bit. Luck, of course, is also a part of the equation: you have to be good and play well, but you also have to get lucky.”
The research that introduced Konnikova to the world of professional poker is for her new book “The Biggest Bluff.” It is due out in 2019.
It’s not so much a book about poker as it is a book about making the best decisions in the most difficult of times. “The Biggest Bluff isn’t about how to play poker. It’s about how to play the world.”
Konnikova, by the looks of things, has figured out how to play both.
Photo: Neil Stoddart