Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Main Content

Livestream: Maria Konnikova on "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win"

5:00pm sharp to 6:00pm EST livestream book talk

Event Details

Speaker Series

The Biggest Bluff Book Cover
Date: Monday November 02, 2020 | 05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Speaker(s): Maria Konnikova, "New York Times" Best-Selling Author; Journalist; Professional Poker Player

In Conversation With: Kendrick Lo (Rotman JD/MBA ‘98), Lawyer and Patent Agent, Intellectual Property; Author, "A Poker Player's Guide to Mixed Games" (Eighth Street Press, 2014)
Topic: "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win" (Penguin Press, 2020)

On October 26, Rotman Events will email registrants the link to the page where you can watch the livestream of the book talk on November 2 from 5:00pm sharp to 6:00pm EST.

Location: Online
Cost: $37.00 plus HST per person (includes the link to the livestream and 1 unsigned hardcover copy of "The Biggest Bluff")
Register Now

Book Mailing: Starting November 3, unsigned copies of The Biggest Bluff will be shipped to paid registrants.

Book Synopsis: This book is about how a New York Times bestselling author and New Yorker contributor parlayed a strong grasp of the science of human decision-making and a woeful ignorance of cards into a life-changing run as a professional poker player, under the wing of a legend of the game

It's true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn't even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him to be her mentor. But she knew her man: a famously thoughtful and broad-minded player, he was intrigued by her pitch that she wasn't interested in making money so much as learning about life. She had faced a stretch of personal bad luck, and her reflections on the role of chance had led her to a giant of game theory, who pointed her to poker as the ultimate master class in learning to distinguish between what can be controlled and what can't. And she certainly brought something to the table, including a Ph.D. in psychology and an acclaimed and growing body of work on human behavior and how to hack it. So Seidel was in, and soon she was down the rabbit hole with him, into the wild, fiercely competitive, overwhelmingly masculine world of high-stakes Texas Hold'em, their initial end point the following year's World Series of Poker.

But then something extraordinary happened. Under Seidel's guidance, Konnikova did have many epiphanies about life that derived from her new pursuit, including how to better read, not just her opponents but far more importantly herself; how to identify what tilted her into an emotional state that got in the way of good decisions; and how to get to a place where she could accept luck for what it was, and what it wasn't. But she also began to win. And win. In a little over a year, she began making earnest money from tournaments, ultimately totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She won a major title, got a sponsor, and got used to being on television, and to headlines like "How one writer's book deal turned her into a professional poker player." She even learned to like Las Vegas.

But in the end, Maria Konnikova is a writer and student of human behavior, and ultimately the point was to render her incredible journey into a container for its invaluable lessons. The biggest bluff of all, she learned, is that skill is enough. Bad cards will come our way, but keeping our focus on how we play them and not on the outcome will keep us moving through many a dark patch, until the luck once again breaks our way.

About Our Speaker: Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow, Russia and came to the United States when she was four years old. Her first ever book was written in Russian. It was five pages long and had something to do with trolls. When Maria was in fourth grade, she wrote a play. It took what felt like years to complete and all of fifteen minutes to perform. The audience (of proud parents and siblings) raved. Maria cried when she realized that the sounds she kept hearing were not tears but suppressed—and then not so suppressed—laughter at the dead king who couldn’t stop wriggling as he lay on top of the two chairs that were supposed to symbolize his tomb. You know how the story ends. The chairs slid apart. The deceased monarch crashed to the floor. The room erupted. It was not how Maria had envisioned her first theatrical production.

Maria is the author of two New York Times best-sellers, The Confidence Game (Viking/Penguin 2016) and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking/Penguin, 2013). Her new book, The Biggest Bluff, about the balance of skill and chance in life, will be out from Penguin Press on June 23, 2020. She is a contributing writer for The New Yorker, where she writes a regular column with a focus on psychology and culture, and is the host of the longform storytelling podcast from Panoply, The Grift, about con artists and the lives they ruin. Her podcasting work earned her a National Magazine Award nomination in 2019. Her first book, Mastermind, has been translated into nineteen languages. It was nominated for the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for Best Non-fiction and was a Goodreads People’s Choice Semifinalist for 2013. The Confidence Game was awarded the 2016 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. While researching her latest book, Maria became an international poker champion and the winner of over $300,000 in tournament earnings–and inadvertently turned into a professional poker player. She is currently a visiting fellow at NYU’s School of Journalism.

Maria’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, California Sunday, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Observer, Scientific American MIND, WIRED, and Scientific American, among numerous other publications. Her writing has also been included in the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017 anthology and has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Excellence in Science Journalism Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Maria formerly wrote the “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American and the popular psychology blog “Artful Choice” for Big Think. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government, and received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University. She previously worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show on PBS. She still, on occasion, writes in Russian. She no longer writes plays.

Questions:, Daniel Ellul, (416) 978-6119 

Never miss an event
Sign up for upcoming events notifications »

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations received in writing to 24 hours prior to the event will receive a refund less a $10 administration fee per person. If we do not receive written notice of your cancellation, you will be charged the full amount for this session. Substitutions are always welcome.

Rotman's Event Privacy Policy

We adhere to both FIPPA and CASL. Read our Event Privacy Statement for details.


© Rotman School of ManagementThe Rotman School of Management is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AASCB)