Maria Konnikova


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Maria Konnikova is a Russian-American writer with a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. Konnikova has worked as a television producer, written for several magazines and online publications, and written three New York Times best-selling books. She primarily writes about psychology and its application to real life situations.

Maria Konnikova
Born1984 (age 37–38)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
OccupationAuthor (non-fiction)
Notable worksThe Biggest Bluff
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

The Confidence Game[1]
Scientific career
ThesisThe Limits of Self-Control: Self-Control, Illusory Control, and Risky Financial Decision Making (2013)
Doctoral advisorWalter Mischel

Early lifeEdit

Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 to Jewish parents.[2] She was four years old when her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Massachusetts, outside of Boston.[3]


Konnikova attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts.[4][better source needed] After graduating from high school, Konnikova attended Harvard University, where she graduated with a B.A. in psychology and creative writing. While studying at Harvard, Konnikova was mentored by psychologist and popular author Steven Pinker.[5]

She earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University in 2013.[3][6] under Walter Mischel.[3]


Konnikova at IdeaFestival 2013


Following her B.A., she worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose Show, where she helped set up the segment "Brain Series".[3][7] While working there, she also wrote the "Literally Psyched" column for Scientific American[8] and the psychology blog "Artful Choice" for Big Think,[9] both of which she is no longer involved with.[10] In April 2013 she had an article published in The New Yorker for the first time;[11] she continues to contribute regularly with articles about psychology and science.[12][13] She took a leave of absence to work on her third book.[14]

Konnikova's first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, was published in January 2013 by Viking Press/Penguin Group, became a New York Times bestseller, and has been translated into 17 languages.[15][12] She was introduced to the Sherlock Holmes character at a young age, when her father read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories to her.[16]

Her second book, The Confidence Game, also published by Viking Press/Penguin Group, made the New York Times best-seller list for February 2016 in the crime and punishment category,[17] and the Canadian Best-Sellers List for non-fiction for the weeks ending 26 January[18] and 2 February[19]

Her third book, The Biggest Bluff, was published on June 23, 2020, by Penguin Press; she had signed the book deal in March 2017[14] and submitted the manuscript in October 2019.[20] The book follows her immersion into the world of poker and explores the role of chance in our everyday lives.[21][22]

Konnikova makes regular appearances on The Gist podcast in her own segment called "Is that bullshit?". In early 2017, she published a 10-part podcast about con-artists and the lives they ruin, called The Grift.[23]


Konnikova has said that she became interested in poker after reading John von Neumann’s work on game theory. She described it as a way to examine the mind’s responses to conditions that involve both skill and chance. Konnikova told The New York Times that "When I started this, I didn’t know how many cards were in a deck. I hate casinos. I have zero interest in gambling."[24]

In the late summer of 2016, she made contact with Erik Seidel, who agreed to become her coach for her goal of spending a year as a competitive poker player.[25]

Her first major tournament, in April 2017, was the PokerStars tournament 2017 in Monte Carlo.[26] In January 2018, she won the PCA National event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No-Limit Hold'em Championship, winning $84,600.[27] The win also came with a Platinum Pass worth $30,000 to the PokerStars Players Championship in January 2019.[14] Her total earnings prior to the event were about $30,000.[27]

After that 2018 win, Konnikova decided to delay work on her book, The Biggest Bluff, to compete in more tournaments with higher stakes[25] She took up professional poker playing full-time. Beginning in the summer of 2018, she became affiliated with PokerStars, an online gaming site; in June 2018, she became a PokerStars "Ambassador",[28] with PokerStars sponsoring her in professional tournaments.[24]

In November 2019, Konnikova and PokerStars “parted ways”.[20]


"Confidence Games" CSICon 2016


  • Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Viking, 3 January 2013, ISBN 978-0670026579
  • The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time, Viking, 12 January 2016, ISBN 978-0525427414
  • The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win, Penguin Press, 23 June 2020, ISBN 978-0525522621


  1. ^ a b "Maria Konnikova Wins Critical Thinking Prize from CSI for "The Confidence Game"". CSICOP.ORG. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  2. ^ Konnikova, Maria (9 August 2014). Maria Konnikova:TEDxColumbiaCollege. TEDx. Event occurs at 0:00 to 1:30. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Joss Fong (10 January 2013). "It's Elementary". The Scientist. LabX Media Group. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. ^ Maria Konnikova (7 January 2014). "The Open-Office Trap". The New Yorker. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  5. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (21 April 2014). "The New Yorker Out Loud(Podcast): Maria Konnikova on her approach to writing and the psychology of yawns". (Podcast). The New Yorker. Event occurs at 11:40 to 14:40. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  6. ^ Konnikova, Maria (2013). The Limits of Self-Control: Self-Control, Illusory Control, and Risky Financial Decision Making. (Thesis). doi:10.7916/D8QR54B5. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  7. ^ Konnikova - Charlie Rose (video and transcript). 24 February 2016. Event occurs at 0:00 to 3:00. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Stories by Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Book Brahmin: Maria Konnikova". Shelf Awareness. Shelf Awareness. 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Why we need answers". The New Yorker. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Harvardwood Heads To... SXSW: The Confidence Game - The Power (and Price) of Stories with Maria Konnikova AB '05". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Contributors, Maria Konnikova". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Ho, Karen K. (12 July 2018). "New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova keeps winning at poker". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 31 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Christian DuChateau (11 January 2013). "Become a 'Mastermind' with Sherlock Holmes' help". CNN. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  16. ^ Chitra Ramaswamy (12 January 2013). "Interview: Psychologist Maria Konnikova on how we can all learn to think like Sherlock Holmes". The Scotsman. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Best Sellers, Crime and Punishment". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  18. ^ Bethune, Brian. "The MacLean's Best Seller list :week of Jan 26th". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  19. ^ Bethune, Brian. "The MacLean's Best Seller list :week of Feb 2nd". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  20. ^ a b Newell, Jennifer (26 November 2019). "Maria Konnikova Finishes Poker Book and Leaves PokerStars". Retrieved 31 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ "The Biggest Bluff |". Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  22. ^ Hill, Kashmir (1 September 2020). "To Play Poker in a Pandemic, Americans Flee the U.S." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  23. ^ "The Grift". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  24. ^ a b Dreifus, Claudia (10 August 2018). "Maria Konnikova Shows Her Cards". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ a b Nuwwarah, Mo. "Konnikova Changes Plans, Delays Book After Incredible Poker Success". PokerNews. Archived from the original on 1 July 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  26. ^ "Konnikova's High Stakes Adventure Ends". 30 April 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ a b Lamers, Adam (9 January 2018). "Friend of PokerStars Maria Konnikova Wins PCA Nat'l Championship". Retrieved 31 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ Newell, Jennifer (25 June 2018). "Maria Konnikova Signs on as PokerStars Ambassador". Retrieved 31 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. ^ Jahren, Hope (3 October 2017). The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-1-328-71551-7.
  30. ^ "The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017.

External linksEdit

  • Official website
  • Scientific American column
  • The Grift podcast
  • Maria Konnikova Poker Interview
  • Tournament poker results