Maria Konnikova

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Maria Konnikova
Born1984 (age 35–36)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
OccupationAuthor (non-fiction)
Notable worksMastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
The Confidence Game[1]

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

Early life[edit]

Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 to Jewish parents.[2] Konnikova was four years old when her family immigrated to the United States after the Soviet Union opened its borders to allow Jews to move to Israel. The Konnikovas chose to settle in Massachusetts, outside 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 magna cum laude with a B.A. in psychology and creative writing. While studying at Harvard, Konnikova was mentored by psychologist and popular author Steven Pinker.[5]

Konnikova earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University in 2013.[3][6] She chose Columbia University so that she could work with psychologist Walter Mischel.[3]


Konnikova at IdeaFestival 2013

Following her graduation from Harvard, Konnikova worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose Show, where she helped set up the segment "Brain Series".[3][7]

Writer, author, and speaker[edit]

While working on the Charlie Rose Show, Konnikova 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. Her writing has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Paris Review and The New Republic.[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], but took a more-than-year 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] Konnikova explained that she was first introduced to the character of Sherlock Holmes at a young age, when her father read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories to her.[16] She later read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories at an age that she calls "very impressionable" and states that "they certainly did change my life."[10]

Konnikova's second book, The Confidence Game, 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]

Konnikova's 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?"; and in early 2017, released her own 10-part podcast about con-artists and the lives they ruin, called The Grift.[23]

Konnikova has spoken at events including the IdeaFestival,[24] TEDx,[2] SXSW,[25] and CSICon in 2016 [26] and in 2017.[27]

Poker player[edit]

Konnikova 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."[28]

In the late summer of 2016, Konnikova made contact with Erik Seidel, who agreed to become her coach for her goal of spending a year becoming a competitive poker player.[29] Other players also agreed to let her watch them play. Konnikova noted, "It was a beautiful learning experience that really accelerated my ability to learn the game."[29]

After starting with $20 and $40 tournaments, Konnikova began playing in higher stakes tournaments.[29] Her first major tournament, in April 2017, was the PokerStars tournament 2017 in Monte Carlo.[30] In January 2018, she won the PCA National event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No-Limit Hold'em Championship, winning $84,600.[31] 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.[31]

After her January 2018 win, Konnikova decided to delay work on her book, The Biggest Bluff, to compete in more poker tournaments with higher stakes[29] 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",[32] with PokerStars sponsoring her in professional tournaments.[28]

Despite the fact that she had earned more than US$200,000 at the poker table by August 2018, she said that "I’m never going to stop being a writer. Why can’t I do both? I love poker. Why would I stop?"[28]

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. ^ a b 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. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  6. ^ Konnikova, Maria (2013). "The Limits of Self-Control: Self-Control, Illusory Control, and Risky Financial Decision Making". 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. ^ a b "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". 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.
  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". 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.
  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. ^ "Maria Konnikova on "Psychologist as Novelist"". 13 January 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  25. ^ "The Confidence Game: The Power (and Price) of Stories". March 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  26. ^ "Confidence Games Featuring Maria Konnikova". 28 October 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  27. ^ Gerbic, Susan. "An Interview with CSICon Speaker Maria Konnikova". Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). CSICOP, a nonprofit educational organization. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  28. ^ a b c Dreifus, Claudia (10 August 2018). "Maria Konnikova Shows Her Cards". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  29. ^ a b c d Nuwwarah, Mo. "Konnikova Changes Plans, Delays Book After Incredible Poker Success". PokerNews. Archived from the original on 1 July 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  30. ^ "Konnikova's High Stakes Adventure Ends". 30 April 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  31. ^ a b Lamers, Adam (9 January 2018). "Friend of PokerStars Maria Konnikova Wins PCA Nat'l Championship". Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  32. ^ Newell, Jennifer (25 June 2018). "Maria Konnikova Signs on as PokerStars Ambassador". Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  33. ^ Jahren, Hope (3 October 2017). The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-1-328-71551-7.
  34. ^ "The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017.

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