By Sean Chaffin
Most poker players would kill to have one-on-one lessons from WPT Champions Club member Erik Seidel, picking the brain of some of the most accomplished players in the game. How would he play certain hands? What are some concepts to consider when reading opponents? Maybe some strategy advice when playing heads-up?
But Seidel doesn’t usually offer poker training or coaching. In fact, the eight-time WSOP bracelet winner was even averse to showing his cards in the early days of televised poker and the hole-card cam. Knowing that, Maria Konnikova (pictured) considers herself lucky. The poker player and New York Times best-selling author will be releasing her latest book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master the Odds, and Win, in June. Her latest work chronicles her tutelage under Seidel and entry into the world of poker.
“When I started working with Erik, I knew that I was writing a book and that was the initial way that we got together because he doesn’t coach people,” she says. “The only reason he agreed to work with me is because he knew this was for a broader audience and for a bigger purpose – to bring poker to people who aren’t already poker players or poker fans.”
The new book is scheduled for release on June 23 to coincide with the Las Vegas summer, where she’ll be playing as well as doing promotional work for Biggest Bluff. In the field for Day 1A of the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, Konnikova says the book focuses on her own poker life but also understanding luck and uncertainty.
“The new book is about my journey into the world of poker,” she says. “It’s not actually about poker even though it’s set in the world of poker. It’s using poker as a life metaphor to explore the role of luck in our lives – how we can learn to tell what we can control and can’t control. And how we can learn basically to use the kind of thinking that you learn through poker outside of poker, so that you can react better to chance events, understand uncertainty better, and hopefully emerge a better person as a result.”
Initially, there were no real plans in place on where her poker training would lead or how it would turn out. Then in 2018 Konnikova made news by winning a $1,650 PCA event in the Bahamas for $84,600. That score helped cement the ideas her new work would focus on.
“I didn’t know what kind of book it would be because I didn’t know what my journey would look like,” she says. “I’d never played poker. I didn’t know how many cards there are in a deck. I really started with zero. Who could have predicted that within a year I’d win an international championship, be sponsored by PokerStars, and have all these different things happen? I certainly couldn’t have predicted it.”
Konnikova had a deep run at the WPT Borgata Poker Open in Season XVII, finishing 20th for $24,695. She now has more than $311,000 in live tournament winnings.
One of the things poker has taught her, she says, is to be open-minded about the future and comfortable about uncertainty. She doesn’t know how much poker she’ll be playing, but it will definitely be part of her plans. The LAPC is on her radar after the Borgata.
“That’s kind of how I’m looking at it,” she says. “I’m just planning one event ahead and seeing how it fits with the book.”
Poker has seen its share of nice literary contributions to literature including Al Alvarez’s classic The Biggest Game in Town and James McManus’s Positively Fifth Street. Like those works, Konnikova believes Biggest Bluff will appeal to poker players and a general audience as well.
“It’s a book that requires you to have zero familiarity with the world of poker because that’s where I started and that’s where the journey begins,” she says. “But it’s also my journey with Erik Seidel and some of the best players in the world. So I think even some of the best players will derive a lot from it because you get insights from some of the best minds that have been around poker for decades.”
The Biggest Bluff is published by Penguin Press and available now for pre-order.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.