Scientist and poker fan John von Neumann founded game theory with the belief that mastering poker would reveal how to master humanity’s most intricate, strategic choices. Similarly, psychologist and national poker champion Maria Konnikova draws on her dual expertise to show leaders and individuals how to adapt and thrive – and bypass the con artists – in a world of waning trust. Her Davos 2019 lecture is scientific, original and riveting.


Trust is beneficial. Trusting cultures are economically and institutionally stronger, and trusting individuals tend to be happier, healthier, and more academically and entrepreneurially inclined. Humans are naturally trusting; they must learn distrust. Nevertheless, trust is waning. Populism is growing, as is skepticism toward facts, experts and the media. Society must rebuild trust without empowering harmful people.

In poker, if you trust too much, other players will bluff and intimidate you. But if you trust too little, you’ll call when you should fold. The winning strategy is “balance”: Observe emotions in other players, and...

About the Speaker

Maria Konnikova, PhD, is a psychologist and national poker champion. She wrote The Confidence Game.

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