Maria Konnikova

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Maria Konnikova
Born1984 (age 38–39)
Moscow, Soviet Union
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Columbia University (PhD)
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

Maria Konnikova (born 1984) is a Russian-American writer. She is the author of the book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.[2]


Early life and education[edit]

Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow, Russia, to Jewish parents.[3] She was four years old when her family emigrated to the United States and settled in the state of Massachusetts.[4]

Konnikova attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts.[5][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 at Harvard, Konnikova was mentored by Steven Pinker.[6]

She earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University in 2013,[7]under Walter Mischel.[4]

Writing and media[edit]

Following her B.A., Konnikova worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose Show, where she helped set up the segment "Brain Series".[4][8] She also wrote the "Literally Psyched" column for Scientific American[9] and the psychology blog "Artful Choice" for Big Think.[10][11] In April 2013, her article on uncertainty in decision making was published in The New Yorker, [12] where she continues to contribute.[13][14]

Konnikova at the IdeaFestival (2013)

Konnikova's first book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes nominated for an Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for Best Non-fiction in 2013.[15][13] Her book, The Confidence Game, was published in 2016 and appeared on the New York TImes' Crime and Punishment best seller list.[16] Her third book, The Biggest Bluff, in 2020, follows her active participation into the world of poker.[17]

Konnikova makes regular appearances on The Gist podcast in her own segment, "Is that bullshit?" In early 2017, she published a 10-part podcast about con-artists and the lives they ruin, called The Grift.[18]

Poker career[edit]

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, "When I started this, I didn’t know how many cards were in a deck. I hate casinos. I have zero interest in gambling."[19]

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 as a competitive poker player.[20]

Konnikova competed in her first major tournament, the PokerStars tournament 2017 in Monte Carlo.[21] In January 2018, she won the PCA National event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No-Limit Hold'em Championship, winning $84,600.[22] The win also came with a Platinum Pass worth $30,000 to the PokerStars Players Championship in January 2019. Her total earnings prior to the event were about $30,000.[22]

After that 2018 win, Konnikova decided to delay work on her book, The Biggest Bluff, to compete in more tournaments with higher stakes.[20] She took up professional poker playing full-time. From June 2018 to November 2019, she partnered with PokerStars, who sponsored her in professional tournaments.[17]


"Confidence Games" CSICon 2016

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • 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. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Maria Konnikova". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  3. ^ Konnikova, Maria (9 August 2014). Maria Konnikova:TEDxColumbiaCollege. TEDx. Event occurs at 0:00 to 1:30. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Fong, Joss (10 January 2013). "It's Elementary". The Scientist. LabX Media Group. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  5. ^ Maria Konnikova (7 January 2014). "The Open-Office Trap". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  6. ^ "Alumni Profile: Maria Konnikova". Columbia University. 11 October 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  7. ^ Konnikova, Maria (2013). The Limits of Self-Control: Self-Control, Illusory Control, and Risky Financial Decision Making. Columbia University (Thesis). doi:10.7916/D8QR54B5. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  8. ^ Maria Konnikova. 24 February 2016. Event occurs at 0:00 to 3:00. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  9. ^ "Stories by Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  11. ^ "Book Brahmin: Maria Konnikova". Shelf Awareness. 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  12. ^ "Why we need answers". The New Yorker. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  13. ^ a b "The Confidence Game - The Power (and Price) of Stories with Maria Konnikova AB '05'05". Harvard University. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  14. ^ "Maria Konnikova". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  15. ^ Christian DuChateau (11 January 2013). "Become a 'Mastermind' with Sherlock Holmes' help". CNN. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  16. ^ "Crime and Punishment Books - Best Sellers - February 14, 2016 - The New York Times". 31 May 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  17. ^ a b Newell, Jennifer (26 November 2019). "Maria Konnikova Finishes Poker Book and Leaves PokerStars". Retrieved 28 February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "The Grift". Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  19. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (10 August 2018). "Maria Konnikova Shows Her Cards". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ a b Nuwwarah, Mo. "Konnikova Changes Plans, Delays Book After Incredible Poker Success". PokerNews. Archived from the original on 1 July 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  21. ^ "Konnikova's High Stakes Adventure Ends". 30 April 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ a b Lamers, Adam (9 January 2018). "Friend of PokerStars Maria Konnikova Wins PCA Nat'l Championship". Retrieved 28 February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ "The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  24. ^ "Excellence in Science Journalism Award | SPSP". Retrieved 17 May 2023.

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