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Maria Konnikova Shows Her Cards (nytimes.com)
148 points by dnetesn 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

It's a possibility that Dr. Konnikova just played NY Times like a flute! That would be legendary. I'll repeat my comments about this part:

"When you see someone looking a certain way, you assume they play a certain way. So once I figure out how they view women, I can figure out how to play against them. They’re not seeing me as a poker player, they’re seeing me as a female poker player.

There are people who’d rather die than be bluffed by a woman. They’ll never fold to me because that’s an affront to their masculinity.

I never bluff them. I know that no matter how strong my hand, they are still going to call me because they just can’t fold to a girl.

Other people think women are incapable of bluffing. They think if I’m betting really aggressively, it means I have an incredibly strong hand. I bluff those people all the time."

I'm sorry but has anybody who praises these quotes actually played poker? This kind of strategy would only work on complete fish. It'd be very quickly exploited by any pro or a decent amateur.

I'd like her to name one pro or one good amateur in the world who thinks like this "Other people think women are incapable of bluffing."

This article seems like a throwback to 2004 when this kind of strategy would actually work on newbie players flooding casino tables.

I will however give Dr. Konnikova tons of credit if she got these quotes in the paper, so that now she can exploit people who actually believed them. That would be amazing. She seems like an accomplished and smart person, so this seems most likely.

> I'm sorry but has anybody who praises these quotes actually played poker? This kind of strategy would only work on complete fish. It'd be very quickly exploited by any pro or a decent amateur.

Check out the buy-ins [1] of the tournaments she is playing. You are way overestimating the skill levels of these players.

> This article seems like a throwback to 2004

I used a female avatar when playing online up until Black Friday, and while anecdotal, I swear by the effect. I have also been a witness to the way men play back at my women pro friends and at random women amateurs in a live setting.

There's a lot of embellishment in this piece and by Dr. Konnikova, but no, players didn't suddenly get smart after 2004.

1. http://pokerdb.thehendonmob.com/player.php?a=r&n=531869

She's playing smaller tournaments in addition to larger ones but the smaller tournaments by definition contribute less variance to her earnings.

In this comment I was responding on Twitter to people who actually thought that this is an amazing new idea she invented so it came out a little negative.

Have you tried using a female avatar after the Black Friday? The game has changed and Black Friday was one of the main reasons for fewer novices online. I remember reading on 2+2 forums about whether there was an effect on tournament registrations in live casinos and people reported little change. Many amateur online players just moved on to something else.

From what I understand, what she's trying to say is that she divides the players into two types, and for one type she never bluffs, and for the other, she bluffs all the time.

But she didn't discuss how she figures out if the player belongs to category one, or category two. There are two possible answers:

- She follows her intuition by observing the player and player's demeanor.

- She collects data on the players poker choices/tactics/strategies (in other words, she studies the player's game history), and using some kind of analysis, probably backed by a combination of her psychology and game theory expertise, she reaches the conclusion on the likelihood of the player belonging to category 1 or 2.

If it's the latter, then I have mad respect for her. If it's the former, my best guess is that she's just going through the phase of beginner's luck, and it won't last very long.

Well, she says:

1. There are people who view women like X, and when I suss that out, I play them like X'. 2. There are people who view women like Y, and when I suss that out, I play them like Y'.

That doesn't exclude the possibility she is fully aware that there are large numbers of people who don't have views about women that affect their poker play, and if they don't show view X or view Y, she just plays them normally.

So I'd say the quote suggests she divides players into AT LEAST two types, but my instinct suggests she has a lot more than two categories :-)

Being able to analyze people's play in hands would be very helpful to anybody but the play data is mostly available just for online play and even then it's hard to collect and likely against the rules of online casino.

I'm quite sure that she wouldn't find any frequent players with decent results who follow such a simplistic strategy against women. It would be a very large leak.

Just to add some color

BREAKING: Author and journalist Maria Konnikova becomes PokerStars Ambassador


> Maria Konnikova was just your ordinary psychologist and New Yorker writer when she began turning up at PokerStars events about 12 months ago.

Yep, anyone can do it, lol

Also does this article expose the stats of Maria's game? Itm, roi, bi? To me this article seems to be just a hype around upswing that Maria experiences. Downswing is just around the corner though.

>> Do you have any insights on why grifting schemes appear to be proliferating?

Fraud really thrives in moments of great social change and transition. We’re in the midst of a technological revolution. That gives con artists huge opportunities. People lose their frame of reference for what can and can’t be real.

Any evidence that fraud doesn't thrive at all times, including times of change and transition? This sounds like a just-so story.

Quote from OA that caught my eye as well...

"...We’re in the midst of a technological revolution. That gives con artists huge opportunities. People lose their frame of reference for what can and can’t be real."

So I suppose the hypothesis is that more people have defective bullshit detectors during big changes in any given field. A possible test of the hypothesis would be to look at fraud prosecutions by domain of deception (high tech stocks, property development) and by choice of victim (newly rich technical people, people new to a country &c) and see how those vary with time.

Microsoft doesn’t know that you have a virus on your PC (and won’t call you about it) but Facebook can identify your friends in a photo you posted better than you can.

That is not obvious to most people, because the concept of customer service we understand, while we really don’t understand learning algorithms.

> Microsoft doesn’t know that you have a virus on your PC

But technically Microsoft definitely can know that, if that were its goal. There's nothing technologically lacking to have that knowledge. Most probably it simply doesn't use that information, specifically doesn’t call random users.

I think it's related to the business truism, "a confused customer is more receptive to advertising messages."

They didn't say fraud doesn't exist otherwise.

I'm in areas and positions to see a lot of data in a trend like that. From my vantage point, the fraud stays happening in all kinds of ways with it going up or down based on both job opportunities (reduces crime) and opportunities for criminals (increases it). There's definitely been more attempts with things like Facebook-based scams, gift cards, and so on. The lower barrier to entry is increasing the number of people doing it. I wouldn't say any technological revolution or transition is causing it, though. The Web and social media already happened. ;) The cryptocurrencies do look like they're trying to push the envelope on theft described as failed investments, though.

I do suggest looking into crime statistics for fraud and how they're determined over time if you want a more objective, representative viewpoint.

While there is some fraud at all times the quantity varies. The recent IPO craze was epic.

Poker is an extremely interesting game that I have been diving head first into ever since I cam home from college and had a bit of disposable income.

Besides the fact that it's a very fun game that bizarrely mirrors the real world economy in many ways, it's a great way to make new friends in a town. Unlike a lot of other games, poker is all about communication. It really fosters connections when you play with the same people a bunch.

If you're interested in getting into poker, avoid the casino cash games at all costs. Casinos take a rake or the pot - aka, transaction fees (oh wow, so you're expected winnings are the growth of the economy minus transaction fees? How economic!). If you're starting to play poker you'll want to see as many hands as cheaply as possible. Try free bar poker or local cash games and try to make your money last as long as possible. This means folding a lot of hands

It's interesting, because there is one thing that professional poker players love and hate a lot: gamblers. A gambler will go all in on an extremely stupid bet, such as a 45/55 heads up. Your EV is to lose with such bets but gamblers will play them anyway. And hell, once about every two times they'll win.

Not trying to be a jerk but I disagree with about everything here.

Casino cash games are of the most profitable games, and certainly some of the most accessible, given that they typically run at consistent hours with usually a variety of tables/game times (depending on the size of casino).

Expected winnings are not the growth the economy, they are based off your personal win rate in your personal player pool, established by playing a high number of hands.

I agree you'll want to start by playing a lot of hands, but definitely do not just try to 'make your money last as long as possible'. I would recommend playing around a million hands online at the small stakes, using bank roll management, and working your way up that way. Develop strategies by reading some of the related content and adjusting it with your personal experience against your player pool.

Professional poker players love 'gamblers', they make the world go round.

Note: This is for people who want to get good at poker and maybe make some money off it. If you like to play just for fun, by all means do so at whatever stakes you enjoy. Poker is honestly a lot more fun if you are just trying to enjoy yourself and playing within your financial limits, and not trying to play optimally.

Thanks! I was very misinformed!

Yes, leesec's post is 100% correct.

Cash games are actually lower variance. I wouldn't recommend the game to anyone in good faith, especially if they're competitive. It's a huge time and potential money sink

Agreed on both counts. As an ex poker pro the easy money is long gone, apart from a few exceptions here and there.

+1 If you consider the hours of playing tournaments professionally it is a lot less than a programmer's take home.

Thanks for the info! I guess I just suck, I edited the post to reflect that.

I don't think it's in bad faith to recommend people play poker recreationally either for free or for small amounts of money. Obviously there's a world of difference between playing a game every weekend for $40 buy ins versus spending $800 every week at the bicycle.

On the same line of thinking, getting into street fighter is an incredibly rewarding experience! I wouldn't recommend anyone to jump in and dedicate their life savings to becoming a professional with no prior experience though.

Edit: that being said, if you or your family has a history with addictive behavior, I'd urge extrmeme caution

Ex poker player here (never particurarly a good one but still a winning one).

My first point is stress:

Poker is extremely stressful - you have to think hard and deep to outsmart your opponents, you need to learn a lot (as mentioned in the article) and constantly improve. However what you make in a particular hour, day, week or month is never completely in your control.

Certainly it can be fun to a beginner but being a pro and playing upwards of 5-6 hours a day is extremely tough while you try to make best decisions possible constantly and being constantly punished by luck is not entertaining at all, yet this will happen every day.

It's quite easy to lose a couple of big hands in a row, having a losing day is give or take a coinflip and a loosing week is nothing special.

If you only play live tournaments you will have loosing years! (just a matter of number of tourneys you can possibly play and the variance involved in tourneys [you can check the odds with some online variance calculators]).

Hope that paints the picture of the bruising your psychology will endure even if you manage to get yourself to the level needed for making a decent living out of it as far as finaces go.

Statistics also shows that vast majority of people are losers in this game via rake and other players being better. See for yourself by getting some hands database from online poker sites. Rake can even make certain games unplayeble for everyone!

My second point is poker marketing:

Yep, this is how marketing for poker works they sell you the image of (supposedly) successful pros making money and an image of a game of skill. (I mean a freaking scientist is telling you that you can make money, it's gotta be real!)

-Even though most people lose money and are just gabmling. -Even though being a poker pro is an extremely difficult profession. -Even though it is not especially fun for anyone involved and is at best an emotional roller coaster. -At worst leads people to losing everything they have (like in any other form of gambling), or ending up in debt. And even winning pros turn to losing pros with time because others catch up to them. -Oh, and yes, as mentioned we can't actually know if this woman is making money since losses at live tourneys aren't tracked by poker results tracking sites. -Oh oh and major poker sites, including the one mentioned in the article, are raising the rake making even more people lose money, people who previously were winning and were considered professionals.

To conclude, this is just a disguised marketing article for a gambling site, featuring a PR officer of the site. (english translation for "sponsored poker pro")

It's just a gross misrepresentation of the reality aimed at serving the gabmling industry.

Oh oh oh and AI did beat best poker players in the world. So professional online poker has no future really. Live then I guess? Well it's safe to say that there is no way to input chips stacks and bet sizes into a computer, that kind of device has not been invented yet!

(And for those saying only HU by AI, wouldn't be so sure. Poker snowie was able to make money at 6-max midstakes, there are non AI poker solvers that are considered even better then it. Thus be sure that winter is coming for poker and that the non living will conquer poker, even before the magical living AI come in 2030 [if the prophecies are to be trusted])

> To conclude, this is just a disguised marketing article for a gambling site, featuring a PR officer of the site. (english translation for "sponsored poker pro")

I was curious about your conclusion since the article doesn't mention anything, but a quick search returned this piece

BREAKING: Author and journalist Maria Konnikova becomes PokerStars Ambassador https://www.pokerstars.com/en/blog/2018/author-journalist-ma...

Where are you suggesting playing at, where no rake is charged?

The point about cash games being "incredibly hard" is a bit off as well. Almost all casino's 1/2 NL games are beatable without playing the advanced of a game. I'd also say any professional player, who is a legit professional, understand the variance that comes with getting your money in as a 55% favorite.

Having experienced two excessively lucrative places to play poker in my life (online early/mid 2000's and local "charity" games), the more gamblers, the better.

I really didn't write enough on that! My point was to play free local bar poker or to play tournaments with a low entrance fee, or even just local cash games (which are required to not have a rake in order to be legal). I think the goal early on is to play as many games as cheaply as possible.

And on the 55/45 - I'm referring to a classic Phill Helmuth tantrum.

This article is a bit misleading. She might have won $200,000, but it doesn’t account for buy-ins. Also, tournament poker has huge variance. It could take years to know if someone is a winning player. If you play cash, a good player will win something like 7/BB per hour. I’m not saying she is or isn’t a good player, but the metrics used are misleading.

You're correct that "career earnings" is a misleading statistic, but it's one that's popularly used in poker.

Daniel Negreanu, currently #2 on the all-time money list, actually had a net negative year in 2017 despite winning $2.8 million that year (https://www.cardschat.com/news/daniel-negreanu-loses-money-i...).

That said, I'm not sure the article is that misleading. Maria is 720th in the GPI rankings, which does account for buy-ins (http://pokerdb.thehendonmob.com/player.php?a=r&n=531869). For someone who began playing a year ago, that's a pretty remarkable achievement.


I should also note that "career earnings" or close variations are used in several sports, including golf and tennis. Take home pay is much lower than topline/headline numbers, but for obvious reasons it becomes tedious to ask people to calculate and publicize their living and travel expenses, etc.

>$200,000 in tournament jackpots.

I have never played jackpot tournaments. If I understand correctly it's you get a jackpot from winning several sit&go tournaments in a row. I don't know how the money there is divided.

@nokinside the quote is poorly written, this isn't some special bonus she won, she's amassed over 200k in earnings over the last 18 months. Her largest single win being worth over 80k. You can view her stats here.


How is it misleading? The theme of the article isn't that she's going to be the next Tom Dwan after all. If someone wins the lottery after investing 1 million dollars on tickets they still won the lottery.

It is misleading because the entry fees are not $1.

Exactly this. Literally anyone can randomly luck a few tourneys. Case in point - Main Event winners such as Jamie Gold and/or Jerry Yang.

I've always loved poker. I played for a year or so online for funsies and watched a lot of videos of the pro.

Then one day I went to a casino and tried my luck there. I did very well, cleaned up two guys. I went home way richer than I entered, and I felt sick to my guts.

Never went back and stopped playing.

>> Sometimes I’ll go to New Jersey and hop onto the poker website at an internet cafe. Online poker is illegal in New York, but not in Jersey. <<

Aka, VPN.

All the legit sites require multi-factor verification, wifi data, cell phone geofencing, etc. Not to say it can't be spoofed, just requires a bit more effort.

When I worked for Amazon in NYC - back before NJ was paying sales taxes, we were told we were allowed to work from home if we lived in NJ, but to say code of something like "I'll be working from Penn Station tomorrow".

Because they didn’t have a presence at that point in NJ?

Cool, tax fraud!

American banks are blacklisted as well, good luck getting around that restriction with a VPN.

Can't you just open a bank account outside of the US?

Yes though NJ you can walk into a 7/11 and fund your account or immediately collect cash winnings from any Borgata casino cage 24/7 https://www.onlinepokerreport.com/

One of my small pet peeves is how Texas Hold'em became the "standard" for poker games as opposed to classic 5 cards each game

You get 2 cards and fold most of the time. Not really fun.

My experience is the opposite. I think Hold 'em opens up the game for playing more. Unless you're playing some crazy home game with wild cards, the classic 5-card games (draw, stud) are "you get 2 cards and fold most of the time." And since you have less information about the other players' hands, you can't exploit (bet) marginal edges as well. The 7-card games (including 7-card stud, which is a classic) are more fun.

The information sharing is something that changes the game, I agree.

Yup, especially 10-handed, the game has become incredibly nitty, since you're very likely folding 9/10 hands, sometimes more.

Can Google's AI win at poker?

Not necessarily Google AI. But AI is already at pro poker level.


One caveat, the AI in those matches, Libratus, played heads-up Texas Hold 'Em, i.e. 1 vs 1 play.

It's yet to be demonstrated that any program can defeat humans in 6 handed or full-ring play, probably due in no small part to the variance in those games.

AI is already very good at head's up (two players against each other).

IMHO the real challenge will be playing against multiple players with slightly varying levels of skills. Playing little differently against different players gives an edge if you can model their behaviour.

(ultimately winning in poker means growing bankroll faster than anyone else over multiple games)

Kinda a light read, but interesting.


You have access to the future and all you bring back is a title to a patreon link? ;)

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