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Maria  Konnikova

Maria Konnikova

New York Times Best-Selling Author & Champion Poker Player


Maria Konnikova is an award-winning author, professional poker player, and writer for The New Yorker. She is an ambassador for PokerStars Team Pro and has written two New York Times bestsellers, The Confidence Game, winner of the 2016 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking, and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, an Anthony and Agatha Award finalist. Maria is currently working on a book about poker and the balance of skill and luck in life, The Biggest Bluff, to be published in 2019 by Penguin Press. In the course of her research for the book, Maria amassed over $270,000 in poker tournament earnings within one year and captured a major international poker title. It’s not entirely surprising, given the background she brings to the poker table: apart from being a bestselling author and award-winning journalist, Maria holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University. Her doctoral work was on risky and emotional decision making in uncertain environments—the precise sorts of conditions you encounter not only at the poker table but in many corporate settings. Her theoretical findings, alongside her new practical experience, form a powerful combination for insight into the human decision making process in environments far removed from poker. It is this unique perspective that she will bring to any speaking engagement. Read More >

Maria’s writing has been featured in Best American Science and Nature Writing and has been translated into over twenty languages. Maria’s podcast for The New Yorker and WNYC, “The Long-Distance Con,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards for 2019.  Maria also hosts the podcast The Grift from Panoply Media, and is currently a visiting fellow at NYU’s School of Journalism. She graduated from Harvard University.

Maria Konnikova speaks about a range of subjects involving decision making, creativity, learning, and the psychology behind everyday life. She has given dozens of keynotes around the world; been a featured speaker at conferences like the World Economic Forum at Davos, TEDNYC and TEDx, and SXSW; led corporate retreats and annual meetings; and taught the key skills of optimal decision making to groups of all ages. In addition to giving talks, Maria can supplement her appearance with personalized workshops for your audience. Over the last several years, Maria has developed interactive decision making workshops that use poker as a tool to explore the mind and help participants emerge with a roadmap for improving their thought processes going forward. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Ted NYC: Storytelling Can be Dangerous

What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach US About Decision Making

The Psychology of the Con: How Not to Get Fooled

The Poker Game of Life

Speech Topics

The Poker Game of Life: Using Poker to Enhance Thinking & Decision Making

In this talk, Maria combines her personal experience as a champion poker player with her original research into the psychology of human decision making to explore how we can all learn to make better decisions in every aspect of our lives, from the negotiating table to our personal relationships. How can we think probabilistically, manage our emotions, evaluate risk distinguish the noise of chance from the elements of control, learn when to go all in — and when to fold? Journey with Maria into some of the deepest crevices of the human mind, and emerge with a roadmap for how you can, immediately and practically, become a clearer thinker and more optimal decision maker in all areas of your life.

The Art of Persuasion, Trust, & Confidence: What We Can Learn from Con Artists

When Maria was working on her best-selling book, The Confidence Game, she spent over three years in the company of confidence artists and their victims, learning the intimate techniques of persuasion and deception from the people who practice it best. In this talk, Maria will explore the psychology of the con and why even the smartest people are susceptible to it. She’ll also show us what we can do, as professionals and as humans, to avoid the pitfalls that our humanity creates for us without losing our ability to trust. Join Maria in exploring what con artists can teach us about the essence of persuasion and trust. You will not only learn to spot and arm yourself against deception and fraud — in everything from potential investment opportunities to personal relationships — but will emerge knowing how to use the tools of the con artist’s toolbox to become a better and more confident persuader yourself. After all, why can’t we use the tricks of the best influencers in the world to make that world a better place?

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes: The Scientific Method of the Mind

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home? We can, as Maria shows us in this talk. Beginning with the “brain attic” — Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge — she unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, this talk explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our own creative powers.