Derek Sivers

The Biggest Bluff - by Maria Konnikova

The Biggest Bluff - by Maria Konnikova

ISBN: 052552262X
Date read: 2022-09-10
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Amazing use of poker to form a philosophy of probability, intuition, instant karma, taming your emotions, treating triumph and disaster the same, and agency. Brilliant writing, mixing real-life events with philosophical pauses. Rare mix of riveting and thoughtful. Combine with “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke.

my notes

The more you overestimate your own skill relative to luck, the less you learn from what the environment was trying to tell you, and the worse your decisions become.
When you think you know more than you do, you ignore any signs to the contrary.
The illusion of control prevented real control from emerging.
Before long, the quality of your decisions deteriorate.

You did what worked in the past, or what you had decided would work - and failed to grasp that the circumstances had shifted so that a previously successful strategy was no longer so.
You failed to see what the world was telling you when that message wasn’t one you wanted to hear.

People fail to internalize numeric rules, making decisions based on things like “gut feeling” and “intuition” and “what feels right” rather than based on the data they are shown.
We need to train ourselves to see the world in a probabilistic light - and even then, we often ignore the numbers in favor of our own experience.
We believe what we want to see, not what research shows.

The reaction isn’t in line with the statistics.
You’ve overcompensated because you went through a bad experience.
You’ve undercompensated because the statistics haven’t ever affected you personally.

Our experiences overcome everything else, but mostly, those experiences are incredibly skewed: they teach us, but they don’t teach us well.

When you imbue probability with emotion, it becomes luck.

Betting on uncertainty is one of the best ways of understanding it.

Immanuel Kant proposes betting as an antidote to one of the great ills of society: false confidence bred from an ignorance of the probabilistic nature of the world,

To our minds, 99 percent, even 90 percent, basically means 100 percent.

The offer of a bet makes you pause.
Now that you have something real at stake, you have to reevaluate just how sure of a sure thing your opinion really is.
You become aware of the possibility of your being mistaken.

Kids learn so much better - and remember what they’ve learned - if they know exactly how or when they’ll apply the knowledge.

It’s easy to have an illusion of skill when you’re not immediately called out on it through feedback.

Until you start playing a lot, it’s just information overload.
Know the dangers of too much information in an experience-free vacuum.

Are you thinking correctly?
You need a way of testing your thought process.
The only way to do that is by failing.
Everyone plays well when they’re winning. But can you control yourself and play well when you’re losing?

Treat triumph and disaster the same.
The wins really go to people’s heads. And the losses - they can’t deal.
If we lose early, we have a shot at objectivity.
But when we win at the start, that’s when we see the illusion of control.

There is no answer. It’s a constant process of inquiry.

In any interaction, you want to have as much information as possible.
When you’re the person acting last, you have the best of it.
You already know your opponents’ decisions, their plays, their opening bids.
In a negotiation, you have the power.
In an argument or debate, you have the power.
You know more than they do. They have to initiate. You have the benefit of responding.

Not playing scared is not the same thing as being aggressive. It means not making decisions because you’re afraid.
You can’t play scared.
You can’t be afraid of how you look.
You can’t be afraid someone will walk away because of what you do or don’t do.
You have to play smart.

How we frame something affects not just our thinking but our emotional state.
The words we select - the ones we filter out and the ones we eventually choose to put forward - are a mirror to our thinking.
Clarity of language is clarity of thought.
The expression of a certain sentiment, no matter how innocuous it seems, can change your learning, your thinking, your mindset, your mood, your whole outlook.
The language we use becomes our mental habits - and our mental habits determine how we learn, how we grow, what we become.

Bad beats drag you down.
They focus your mind on something you can’t control - the cards - rather than something you can, the decision.

The most we can do is make the best decision possible with the information we have; the outcome doesn’t matter.

My favorite poet, W. H. Auden:
“Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer.
In both cases man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences.”

Overconfidence in your opinion comes from thinking you know more than you do simply because you have more information available to you.

You’re not lucky because more good things are actually happening; you’re lucky because you’re alert to them when they do.
You can be on the alert for it, prepare yourself to recognize it and profit by it when it comes.
To be successful, we need to train our powers of observation, to cultivate that attitude of mind of being constantly on the look-out for the unexpected and make a habit of examining every clue that chance presents.

Poker is exactly like life, but with instant karma.

Before you do anything, think ahead to how that action fits into your narrative arc.
If it doesn’t, well, perhaps it won’t work out the way you’d like it to.
You need to be aware enough of your own narrative that it coheres, comes together, makes sense.

Why are people doing what they’re doing?
If you haven’t thought through the motivation, the behavior will be off.
They’ll suddenly do things that make no sense.

Why are you acting this way?
Never judge anything others do without asking the same question.

Too much studying without playing makes it hard to fully absorb knowledge.

“tilt”: to inject emotion into your decision process.

We often argue with the truth.
If someone gives us our actual thought process, we dismiss it in favor of the version we’ve constructed for ourselves.

We’re incredibly good at is making excuses for ourselves and crafting explanations for why we’re still as good as we thought.

People don’t fare any better than a coin toss at deciding whether someone is lying or telling the truth.
Even with significant training, people are unlikely to spot the practiced deceiver.
The face, in the end, is not a particularly good metric - and the eyes are certainly not the window into the soul.

Personality is all about context.
Nuance of humanity.
Don't strip traits from context. Don't give people global scores.
Maybe I’m conscientious at work but a slob at home, or agreeable in the face of authority but a sudden bully in the schoolyard.

Avoid situations where skill falls by the wayside, where you have to rely on variance alone to break your way because you simply can’t measure up otherwise.

Seek out situations where you’re a favorite; avoid those where you’re an underdog.

The why shouldn’t ever be for the simple glory of saying you’ve done something.

We tend to be overly optimistic when we map out timelines, goals, targets, and other horizons.
We look at the best-case scenario instead of using the past to determine what a more realistic scenario would look like.

You need to think in terms of preparation. Don’t worry about hoping. Just do.

Stock market returns have been found to be lower on days with greater cloud cover - and higher when a favorite sports team wins.
Over and over, incidental events affect decisions they shouldn’t actually influence, simply because they affect how we’re feeling.
Tell people what’s going on, though, and they can often overcome it. Exmaple: by asking, “How’s the weather down there?”
In other words, if our attention is drawn to the actual cause of our mood, it stops having an effect.

Denying luck individually is to suggest that we have much greater agency than we really have over outcomes in our lives.