Thinking in bets

A bad decision is always considered the one that yielded a bad result. Atleast that’s how you and I would think. The book, written by Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke will let you unlearn a lot about how you view decisions. 

“…We are a victim of our tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome. Poker players have a word for this” “resulting”. When I started playing poker, more experienced players warned me about the dangers of resulting, cautioning me to resist the temptation to change my strategy just because a few hands didn’t turn out well in the short run. Even the best decision doesn’t yield the best outcome every time. There’s always an element of luck that you can’t control, and there is always information that is hidden from view.”

That’s not the only fallacy a human brain has while processing thoughts.  There are a few that I am highlighting here for you to feel amazed and appalled all at once.

Hindsight bias: Knowing the outcome to a decision makes that outcome feel like it was inevitable, and all other possible outcomes are forgotten.

Self-serving bias: Taking credit for the good outcomes and blaming the bad outcomes to luck while watching others and attributing luck for their good outcomes while thinking bad outcomes were inevitable.

Thinking in bets is a manual that provides tangible ways to beat these fallacies and increase the quality of bets made. Life as it says, is poker and not chess. The decisions that we make in our lives such as choosing a career, business, saving and finance, lifestyle choices involve uncertainties, risk, and occasional deception, prominent elements in poker and they can be treated as “real games”. These are far from chess decisions. 

Chess, for all its strategic complexity, isn’t a great model for decision-making in life, where most of our decisions involve hidden information and much greater influence of luck. Poker, in contrast, is a game of incomplete information.

The book is divided into six comprehensive chapters namely: Life is Poker, not Chess. Wanna Bet?, Bet to Learn: Fielding the Unfolding Future, The Buddy System, Dissent to Win, Adventures in mental time travel

Few takeaways for me:

  • You should speak less dogmatically when you don’t know all the facts. You rarely know all the facts
  • Confirmation bias prompts you to interpret data in defective ways and the more intelligent you are the worse that problem is.
  • Don’t confuse a good decision that led to poor results with a bad decision. Sometimes you just get unlucky.
  • Don’t make decisions based on immediate fulfilment—redefine happiness considering a lifetime goal rather than the instant results.
  • Have a community of people to help keep you from making impulsive decisions.

What could have gone better?

  • More techniques could have been elaborated
  • Gets repetitive at points, could have been concise to make better impact
  • Title of the book can be misleading, in my opinion

Overall, as an all-inclusive yet quick read filled with numerous examples, this book has morphed how I view my problem sets. I find myself challenging the confidence levels in my beliefs, trying to learn from other’s outcomes to develop my beliefs, and make my own uncertainty clear when communicating decision processes. The book has inspired me to make more thought through and mindful decisions.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Megha Chaturvedi
Megha is a passionate storyteller with over 12 years of experience supporting various organisations helping them shape their communication strategies. An ambivert, Megha wants to be constantly educated by new people, ideas, stories, hobbies, and places. In her part time, Megha does pro-bono consulting, mentors students and stalks brands on social media.

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