Annie Duke: 'What Life Lessons Can Poker Teach Us? All of Them.'

Poker champ talks game theory, gambling, and Donald Trump.


"What life lessons can poker teach us? I would say all of them," states Annie Duke, professional poker player and author of the book Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker. "What basically happens is that you really can see in a very magnified way [how] our irrationalities play into our decision-making."

Duke, who won the 2004 World Series of Poker Tournament, double-majored in English and psychology at Columbia University and studied cognitive linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. And she is the author of several poker instruction books that teach game theory and the importance of probabilistic thinking.

"The problem is once we've formed a belief—which we haven't vetted really well—we notice information that reinforces this belief. We don't notice information that discounts it," says Duke. "What would happen instead if we had a belief and we were forced to think about it as a bet? It would force us into thinking about probability."

Duke sat down with Nick Gillespie at Reason Weekend 2016, an annual donor event for the nonprofit that publishes Reason.com and Reason magazine, and discussed game theory, life lessons learned from poker, the importance of being belief updaters, and her experience with Donald Trump on 2009's Celebrity Apprentice.

"In a weird way, Trump is actually an amazing behavioral scientist," says Duke. "He understands intuitively—I think—something very deep about the way we form beliefs and what people want to hear back in regards to our beliefs."

Approximately 43 minutes.

Produced by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Paul Detrick and Todd Krainin. Music by Kevin MacLeod.


00:12 Annie Duke, welcome to Reason Weekend.

03:00 How Annie got involved with poker and why the game is so popular in the United States.

06:24 Duke on life lessons learned from playing poker.

10:00 Controlling emotion in poker and how game theory relates to decision-making.

13:24 Duke on limits to knowledge and how you solve for outcome indecision.

15:50 How cognitive science and confirmation bias applies to how we digest political information.

18:44 Is there a libertarian edge to critical thinking skills and do young people view the world in a pluralistic way?

22:00 How beliefs form and how betting leads to probabilistic thinking.

25:54 Duke on why poker is considered a vice and gambling prohibition.

28:36 Is gaming culture helping teach problem-solving skills to a younger generation?

31:30 How language and studying English helped Annie to dominate the poker scene.

34:30 Duke's experience on Celebrity Apprentice and her thoughts on Donald Trump and the rest of the presidential candidates.

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