Review of Thinking in Bets

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  • Background
  • For Beginners
  • Engaging


Annie Duke went from studying for her PhD in psychology to winning more than $4 million and multiple championships in professional poker. Here she molds what she learned at the poker table into sound, practicable advice for making decisions in life. She writes with equal compassion for people who think luck dominates their lives and for people who believe their own skills drive every outcome. Duke makes it plain she believes that luck and skill define every decision. She offers original ideas about learning to make better choices, such as creating a “truthseeking” group of like-minded friends to review one another’s life decisions with kindhearted ruthlessness. All card players – and anyone who might let their emotions lead them to “tilt” – will welcome Duke’s program for gaining mindfulness and recognizing how to get out of your own way.

About the Author

Annie Duke, the only woman to win the WSOP Tournament of Champions and the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, is a corporate speaker and consultant on decision strategy.


From Academic to Poker Champion

Annie Duke graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English and another degree in psychology. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and intended to earn a PhD in “cognitive psychology.” However, she writes, fate intervened, and she found herself in rural Montana. Her brother Howard, a poker player who would go on to win more than $6 million playing professionally, urged her to play in Billings. Duke describes this as the beginning of her “20-year career” as a professional poker player. She won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet, the WSOP Tournament of Champions and the NBC National Heads-Up Championship. In total, Duke says her wins tallied more than $4 million.  

“Uncertain Future” 

Duke came to understand that poker is a crucible for learning about making decisions: how she made decisions, how others made decisions and how people regard their own decision-making processes. She says that a poker hand usually involves around “20 decisions.” The result of all those choices is simple: The player wins money or loses it. She depicts every hand as a rich vein of feedback the astute player can mine. Duke came to regard poker bets as decisions. Because she never knew what cards the dealer would turn over, every one decision dealt with an uncertain future.

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    E. S. 5 months ago
    Annie's video at Google Talks was a great summary of the book's views and advice: