Annie Duke on Investing, Gambling and Decision-Making

In a recent podcast interview with Bloomberg, legendary poker player Annie Duke—who retired from poker in 2012—explains how “getting used to dealing with noisy data” can serve you well in decision-making, including those involving investments. In the interview, Duke shares insights outlined in her new book, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.

Duke studied cognitive science and was pursuing a doctorate degree before becoming a professional poker player in 1994. Her academic background, she said in the interview, probably gave her an edge in poker because cognitive science studies “how people think, learn and how they are biased in how they process information.” But Duke says that her potential as a card player probably developed well before college, specifically recalling the dynamic at her family dinner table. Those discussions, Duke recalls, were “focused on getting to the truth rather than making everyone feel good about themselves,” an environment that made her comfortable hearing dissenting points of view. “It’s incredibly good training for poker,” Duke argues, and a great foundation for all types of decision-making.

If you approach the world from the standpoint that you want to be right, Duke argues, then you’re going to use any and all information to support your thesis and “swat away” information that runs counter to it. “Our decisions,” she says, “will suffer for it.” If, on the other hand, you stay focused on finding facts, dissenting views are no longer threatening and can actually help you make better decisions.