Annie Duke Wants You to Stop Making Bad Decisions

    Annie Duke Wants You to Stop Making Bad Decisions

    We’re often told that effective decision-making is only possible when you have information about all the potential outcomes. However, we encounter numerous situations in business and throughout our personal lives that only provide us with the bare minimum of information. So, how can we get better at decision-making under these circumstances? Author, decision strategist and former professional poker player Annie Duke is attempting to answer that question in her latest book.

    Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts brings together numerous insights and strategies that Duke has developed over her many years of playing poker and early exposure to the art of decision strategy. This book presents her overarching philosophy on decision-making and shares core elements of a system that anybody can put into place. At the heart of it all is Duke’s insistence that by understanding our cognitive biases, we can begin to find comfort in uncertain situations. We’re always taking chances or as Duke puts it, making bets at each stage of life, and thus, many of these outcomes are influenced by the information we don't have. In Duke’s eyes, by accepting this idea, it will help us to lessen the impact of our decisions.  

    The lessons Annie Duke has distilled into Thinking in Bets were hard won over the course of her 20-year career as a pro poker player. After quitting the University of Pennsylvania’s cognitive psychology doctoral program to pursue poker full-time, she went on to earn more than $4 million in prize money and a gold bracelet at one of the poker world’s top events in 2004, the WSOP. Regarding effective decision-making, poker is an ideal situation since players consistently make decisions with little information and more importantly, judge the efficacy of those decisions by money won or lost.

    As to be expected, most of Duke’s basis for her dialogue is presented through the concept of poker, but she also includes an impressively diverse array of sources, including references to academic research, published studies, TED talks, popular sporting events and many more. Thinking in Bets is a fascinating exploration into the ways in which we hold ourselves back, including the biases that prevent us from evaluating the decisions we make, preferences to “deal” only with black or white, the weight of being “right or wrong” and our susceptibility to one of pop culture’s most divisive topics: fake news.  

    It’s not all discussion and analysis though; once she’s addressed the issue of cognitive biases impending our decision-making abilities, Duke then offers a number of meta-cognitive approaches to help us revisit our way of thinking. If that seems like a concept that’s just too involved, then this isn’t the book for you! But these approaches do tie in well with popular ideas about consciousness and getting out of our own way.

    Although it starts at the poker table, it also discusses that time of the Seahawks’ fateful decision in the Super Bowl and Nate Silver’s 2016 election projects among others, Thinking in Bets is about understanding that bad outcomes do not always reflect on the decisions. Duke presents a liberating approach that encourages readers to take responsibility for their implicit biases while becoming more self-assured and able to fluidly navigate an uncertain world. Considering Annie Duke was one of the most successful female poker players of all time, it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about doing just that!


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