A Champion Poker Player on How to Make Better Decisions

Most people don’t understand how to be good decision-makers, but they could get better, says Annie Duke, a decision strategist and retired professional poker champion.

Duke won more than $4 million in tournament poker before retiring from the game in 2012. She is the co-founder of The Alliance for Decision Education, a non-profit whose mission is to improve lives by empowering students through decision-skills education. She recently was interviewed in a live YouTube session by Don Moore, who studies overconfidence and is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

The talk was wide ranging and covered decision-making on the COVID-19 pandemic, writing books, investing and playing poker. But no matter what the challenge, she said, the common thread in making good decisions is thinking probabilistically. That means putting aside biases, accepting evidence, embracing uncertainty and weighing the range of likely outcomes before deciding on a course of action. The result is not guaranteed, but you will have made the best decision possible based on the information that you have.

That is easier said than done and often is not what happens when people make decisions. Instead, people sometimes use their beliefs, which are tied to their identities, to guide their decisions and infect others, Duke said.