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Thinking in Bets summary

Annie Duke

Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

4.4 (348 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

"Thinking in Bets" by Annie Duke shows how to make better decisions, using the principles of poker. It explores the limitations of human reasoning and how to think probabilistically to improve outcomes in uncertain situations.

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    Thinking in Bets
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    Human minds tend to confuse decisions with their outcomes, which makes it hard to see mistakes clearly.

    Super Bowl XLIX ended in controversy. With 26 seconds left in the game, everyone expected Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to tell his quarterback, Russell Wilson, to hand the ball off. Instead, he told Wilson to pass. The ball was intercepted, the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl, and, by the next day, public opinion about Carroll had turned nasty. The headline in the Seattle Times read: “Seahawks Lost Because of the Worst Call in Super Bowl History”!

    But it wasn’t really Carroll’s decision that was being judged. Given the circumstances, it was actually a fairly reasonable call. It was the fact that it didn’t work.

    Poker players call this tendency to confuse the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome resulting, and it’s a dangerous tendency. A bad decision can lead to a good outcome, after all, and good decisions can lead to bad outcomes. No one who’s driven home drunk has woken up the next day and seen it as a good decision just because they didn’t get into an accident.

    In fact, decisions are rarely 100 percent right or wrong. Life isn’t like that. Life is like poker, a game of incomplete information – since you never know what cards the other players are holding – and luck. Our decision-making is like poker players’ bets. We bet on future outcomes based on what we believe is most likely to occur.

    So why not look at it this way? If our decisions are bets, we can start to let go of the idea that we’re 100 percent “right” or “wrong," and start to say, “I’m not sure.” This opens us up to thinking in terms of probability, which is far more useful.

    Volunteering at a charity poker tournament, the author once explained to the crowd that player A’s cards would win 76 percent of the time, giving the other player a 24 percent chance to win. When player B won, a spectator yelled out that she’d been wrong.

    But, she explained, she’d said that player B’s hand would win 24 percent of the time. She wasn’t wrong. It was just that the actual outcome fell within that 24 percent margin.

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    What is Thinking in Bets about?

    In any situation, the best decision isn’t guaranteed to work out, and even terrible decisions can sometimes turn out to be the right ones. So when things go wrong, who do we blame and why? And what about when things go right? In Thinking In Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts (2018), poker champion, author and business consultant Annie Duke shows how our addiction to outcomes leads to irrational thinking and the confusion of luck with skill.

    Thinking in Bets Review

    Thinking in Bets (2018) by Annie Duke is a thought-provoking book that challenges our decision-making process. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with practical strategies, it teaches readers how to improve decision-making by thinking like a poker player.
    • Through compelling examples and insightful anecdotes, the book explores the role of luck and uncertainty in our lives, making it a fascinating read.
    • With its engaging storytelling and the author's expert knowledge in psychology and decision science, the book keeps readers entertained while imparting valuable wisdom.

    Best quote from Thinking in Bets

    Statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but . . . what is known to different degrees of certainty . . . – Richard Feynman

    —Annie Duke
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    Who should read Thinking in Bets?

    • Gamblers
    • Decision-phobes
    • Anyone who wants to stop making the same mistakes over and over

    About the Author

    For over two decades, writer, coach and speaker Annie Duke was one of the world’s top poker players. In 2004, she earned a World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet ahead of 234 other players, and in 2010 she won the WSOP Tournament of Champions and the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

    Duke holds a master’s degree in cognitive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also completed her doctoral coursework before beginning her career in poker. She currently works as a consultant, speaker and author. Her autobiography, Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker, was published in 2005.

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    Thinking in Bets FAQs 

    What is the main message of Thinking in Bets?

    The main message of Thinking in Bets is to make better decisions by embracing uncertainty and using the principles of poker.

    How long does it take to read Thinking in Bets?

    The reading time for Thinking in Bets varies, but it can be read in a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is Thinking in Bets a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Thinking in Bets is worth reading for its insights into decision-making. It offers practical advice for navigating uncertainty.

    Who is the author of Thinking in Bets?

    The author of Thinking in Bets is Annie Duke.

    What to read after Thinking in Bets?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Thinking in Bets, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Quit by Annie Duke
    • How to Decide by Annie Duke
    • The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
    • Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath
    • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
    • Outlive by Peter Attia
    • Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg with Lauren McCann
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson