THE BIGGEST BLUFF: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Take Control and Master the Odds


If you play poker and love playing the game, this book is for you.  It is not a guide or handbook book for poker or gambling.  On the contrary as the title suggests, the book makes it clear that playing poker is not about gambling but mastering the odds.  In order to win a hand, you should know when to place a bet based on the two cards in your hands, moves of your opponent(s) and what is on the table.  Although what cards you are dealt with is based on chance, placing a bet purely on chance or bluffing your opponent on impulse is likely to lead to misfortune.  The same skills can be applied to availing opportunities in life with the cards you are holding in the form of your talents pool. 

The writer is a psychologist.  She was fascinated by the game and its striking similarities to the dynamics of human life. On a quest to master her poker skills for the grand tournament in Las Vegas, she undergoes a focused training for a year or more. During this run up she psychoanalyses every move within the game and compares with how we handle life when faced with choices we make with little information or in uncertain scenarios.  If things work out we give credit to ourselves and if they don’t, we blame our bad luck or others.  She explains that most things happen in life by chance by being at the right place at the right time.  Just like holding the right pair of cards and placing the bet at the right moment, our decisions and choices in life should be based on information, and knowing what is at stake and what is to be gained.

Although the book briefly explains the game and the terminology used in it, to enjoy the reading and benefiting from the advice, you should already be a good poker player with understanding of all card moves and turns and what they mean.    The narratives and analysis are based on the Texas Holdem technique.  The tips will certainly sharpen your playing skills.  But more importantly, the tips offer guidance to making the best of opportunities in life, most of which happen by chance by being at the right place at the right time while encountering unpredictable circumstances. 

So what is exciting about the book? For a game lover, it is the comparison of every move in the game with random turn of events in life based on chance. The outcome depends on how you make your choices (bets) based on what options (cards you hold) and information you have or circumstances (cards on the table) you face. The author argues that notwithstanding your skills, strategy, foresight which we often credit ourselves with, winning a hand is due to mere chance in being doled out the two cards and what the flips, turns and rivers display is simply the chance of being at the right place at the right time.    

The humorous accounts of irony, puns and emotional play during the game kept me bursting with laughter and fascinated with her acute observations and analogies.  The reactions of play mates in disappointments, and verbal expressions are hilarious.  The descriptions of players keeping a poker face, the variety of costumes, cover ups and looks are warlike scenes on a battle front.

I gained a lot from this reading.  Adopting the tips, I paid more attention to things around me.  I became more observant of small things around me especially when on a quest for something.  It definitely produced desirable results for me.   

Shortly after I finished reading this book, I was once walking through market when I noticed a picture plaque in display window of a clothing store.  It portrayed holding a fan of playing cards in the center, encircled with writing “BLUFFING – A Pair of Balls Beats Everything”.  Only a poker player would get a laugh out of it, In my case, having read this book, my outburst made people turn their necks.    

The book reinforced my interest in poker and aroused a burning desire to play in a group of hard core players and at a casino.  I kept practicing and playing with chips whenever I got a chance. I longed to play at a casino with money. I was so confident at winning a big hand.     My confidence exploded on my face when I did get to play recently at a casino in USA with small amount of money. Being inexperienced at a real poker table I was dazed by the speed at which cards were being dealt and bets being made.  I lost all my money in a matter of minutes. It only made me realize how complete a novice I was at the game and did not have the pair to beat it….  

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