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Do you remember Maria Konnikova? The young researcher who has turned a love for science into a love for cards. Luck has always fascinated her. And so, she wanted to write about it. Luck, she argued, was pure randomness. She may have been right at the time, but as she started studying the cards, it turned out that randomness can be mastered and subdued to one’s own fancy, even if only up to a point.

In her latest profile put together by New York Contributor Claudia Dreifus, Ms. Konnikova talks at length about her decision to plunge into poker without really having any prior knowledge. But the perennial prey of her philosophical quest – luck, has been too strong to resist. And the search has grown into a passion, and the passion, into a second job.

Ms. Konnikova Has the Felt

Ms. Konnikova has admitted that she had no understanding of how poker worked before she met with her teacher, a Hall of Fame professional, Erik Seidel. Mr. Seidel was polite and to-the-point saying that he will take her up as a student. Ms. Konnikova seemed thrilled.

She quickly started picking up the game. Not only that, she’d allocate 9 hours of her day just to poker. Unpicking odds, mastering the outcomes and introducing some order to the whole wild affair of luck.

And it’s not like Ms. Konnikova had the easiest of times either. She had to travel to New Jersey from New York just to play on some of the machines and experiment with some of the gaming options she has been studying.

Seidel the Enabler

Mr. Seidel has been quite supportive of Ms. Konnikova’s hobby. In fact, she had said that Ms. Konnikova has the right background to be playing. In her own words, she believes that her training as an experimental psychologist does in fact put her at an advantage over the majority of people. She simply has a better decision-making process when it comes to challenging situations.

Ms. Konnikova has been quite skilled at unpicking the little psychological cogwheels that push other players play. She elaborated on how the majority of male poker players would perceive her as a female poker player, and not an equal opponent.

This has led to quite a few bad decisions on the part of the male lot. And Ms. Konnikova is actually happy to be able to spot such nonsensical weaknesses in the psychology of her counterparts. But it has also been making her uneasy on occasion, including the occasion(s) when less-skilled poker players would make explicit comments.

The Upsides of Playing with the Top Brass

But it has not all been bad experience. Not in the slightest. The privilege to play with some of the world’s best poker minds has been quite the privilege to Ms. Konnikova indeed. “They are not only skilled,” she argued, they are also nice.

Maybe not Mr. Helmuth, I’d say. Ms. Konnikova has a brilliant mind and she’s an outstanding researcher, and as it turns out – a poker pro of the highest order.