3 lessons on decision-making from a poker champion | Liv Boeree


So I’m a professional poker player,
and today, I want to talk about
three things that the game has taught me
around decision-making
that I find apply to everyday life.
Now the first of these things
is about luck.
Now, like poker, life is also
a game of skill and luck,
and when it comes
to the biggest things we care about —
health, wealth and relationships —
these outcomes don’t only depend
on the quality of our decision-making,
but also the roll of life’s dice.
For example, we can be
perfectly health-conscious
and still get unlucky
with something like cancer.
Or we can smoke 20 a day
and live to a ripe old age,
and this kind of ambiguity
can make it hard for us to know
how good our strategies are, sometimes,
especially when we’re
experiencing a lot of success.
For example, back in 2010,
I won a really big poker tournament
known as the European Poker Tour.
And because I’d only been playing
full-time for about a year,
when I won, I assumed
I must be rather brilliant.
In fact, I thought I was so brilliant
that I not only got rather lazy
with studying the game,
but I also got more risky,
started playing in
the biggest tournaments I could
against the very best in the world.
And then my profit graph went
from a thing of beauty
to something kind of sad,
with this worrying
downhill trend for a long time,
until I finally realized
that I was overestimating my skill level,
and got my act together.
And this kind of reminds me
of what we’ve been seeing
in the cryptocurrency space,
at least in 2017,
where the only thing that’s been going up
faster than the markets themselves
is the number of “senior
investment specialists”
who have been appearing out of nowhere.
Now I’m not saying it’s not possible
to have a strategic edge,
but at the same time,
it’s very easy to feel like a genius
when you’re in a market
that’s going up so fast
that even the worst strategies
are making a profit.
So when we’re experiencing success,
it’s important to take a moment
to really ask ourselves
how much of it is truly down to us,
because our egos love to downplay
the luck factor when we’re winning.
Now, a second thing poker taught me
is the importance
of quantifying my thinking.
When you’re playing,
you can’t just get away with going,
“Eh, they’re probably bluffing.”
That’s just going to lose you
a bunch of money,
because poker is a game
of probabilities and precision,
and so you have to train yourself
to think in numbers.
So now, whenever I catch myself
thinking vaguely about something
really important, like,
“It’s unlikely I’ll forget
what I want to say in my TED Talk,”
I now try to estimate it numerically.
(Laughter)
Trust me, it helps a lot
with the planning process.
And the thing is, almost anything
that could possibly happen here today,
or at any point in the future,
can also be expressed
as a probability, too.
(Laughter)
So now I also try to speak
in numbers as well.
So if someone asks me,
“Hey, Liv, do you think you’re going
to come along to that thing tonight?”
instead of just saying to them,
“Yeah, probably,”
I actually give them my best estimate —
say, 60 percent.
Because — I know that sounds
a little odd —
but the thing is, I ran a poll on Twitter
of what people understand
the word “probably” to mean,
and this was the spread of answers.
Enormous!
So apparently, it’s absolutely useless
at actually conveying
any real information.
So if you guys catch yourselves
using these vague words,
like “probably” or “sometimes,”
try, instead, using numbers,
because when we speak in numbers,
we know what lands
in the other person’s brain.
Now, the third thing I want
to touch on today is intuition.
How often have you seen
these kinds of inspirational memes
in your Facebook feed?
[Always trust your gut feeling
and never second-guess.]
They’re nice, right?
It’s lovely. Yes. “Trust your soul.”
Well, they’re terrible advice.
These are some of the best
poker players in the world right now.
Do they look like people who live
purely off feelings and intuitions?
(Laughter)
Look at them!
Obviously, these guys
are about slow, careful analysis,
and that’s because the game
has outgrown the days
where pure street smarts
and people-reading
can get you to the top.
And that’s because our intuitions
aren’t nearly as perfect
as we’d like to believe.
I mean, it’d be great,
whenever we’re in a tough spot,
to just have an answer appear to us
from some magical source of inspiration.
But in reality, our gut
is extremely vulnerable
to all kinds of wishful
thinking and biases.
So then, what is our gut good for?
Well, all the studies I’ve read
conclude that it’s best-suited
for everyday things
that we have lots
and lots of experience in,
like how we just know
that our friend is mad at us
before we’ve even said anything to them,
or whether we can fit our car
into a tight parking spot.
But when it comes to the really big stuff,
like what’s our career path going to be
or who should we marry,
why should we assume that our intuitions
are better calibrated for these
than slow, proper analysis?
I mean, they don’t have
any data to be based off.
So my third lesson is,
while we shouldn’t ignore our intuitions,
we shouldn’t overprivilege them either.
And I’d like to summarize
these three lessons today
with my own set of memes,
with more of a poker-player twist.
“Success is sweetest when you achieve it
across a large sample size.”
(Laughter)
“Your gut is your friend
and so is a cost-benefit analysis.
(Laughter)
“The future is unknown, but you can
damn well try and estimate it.”
Thank you.
(Applause)

100 thoughts on “3 lessons on decision-making from a poker champion | Liv Boeree

  1. "Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future"

  2. She is so damn hot! She is pretty and very sexy accent. I wanna play poker with her personally 😘

  3. There's a 100% chance I came here for the thumbnail a 75% percent chance I'll try to fap a 12.5% I'll be successful a 75% chance I'll feel bad for doing it and a 100% chance I'll forget about all of this after I sleep

  4. I clicked on the video 32% because I wanted to get life tips from poker and 68% because she's very, very beautiful!

  5. Keep in mind everybody.. poker has few rules and risk factor is only win or loose or try again. And life has many unknowns algorithms

  6. The only point that is TED worthy is making probability numbers for day to day situations.

  7. I respectfully disagree. Liek dogs have sniffing power by nature, humans have instinct and gut feel by nature. There are several crime cases solved by following inner instinct during that case solving.

    Of course, in business you cannot purely follow your gut. But mark did follow his gut by releasing Synapse for free and not accepting deal from Yahoo. Those were not based on numbers. He believed (which is another feeling or emotion) in himself and nothing with probability.

  8. Elon musk first two rocket launches failed twice. So by probability, he has more chances to lose the third time. Hmmmm

  9. I am not a pro, but I used to play a lot and studied a lot about the game. Poker definitely have taught me a bunch of life lessons beside what's mentioned in the video
    1. stay focused on the goal – having fun vs making money.

    2. adjust strategy according to situation – ppl nowadays always try to come up with formula to success and lot of ppl screwed up because situation can never be the same like poker. every time your opponents are different and their hands are different. tat's y I hate those poker videos saying you should do this when u have AK and you should do that when u have suited connector

    3. analyzing – that's what I like the most about this game. analyzing your opponents and exploit their games.

    4. you can never escape from tipping, have to tip the dealer when you are trying to make money at the table. hey why don we tip the floor manager. He is making sure we have a fair game

  10. There's a 100% chance that the 3 exuberant males to stand-up in the front row knew her (there's even a space for her). There's 'a good' chance that they thought it would increase the number of people behind them to stand-up.

  11. They could have gotten a top 10 poker player, but instead in the name of diversity TED brings on Liv Boeree. Sure she's a pro but she isn't at the top tier and not what you would call an expert in regards to other players. Other professionals TED invites on are always at the top of their game.

  12. When everything becomes data and numbers, I'll be there, gladly holding my bleeeding heart with my hands.

  13. Welp, it looks like my street smart days of poker are over snuffs cigarette climbs on horse

  14. Good stuff. I've found that Phil Ivey has some great tips too, but they few and far between. Doyle Brunson is a favorite of mine as well. A legend, and one who also put a lot of early effort into teaching about the game. Personally, teaching my 6-year old to play Texas Hold'em with change (that he incidentally gives me if I lose and run out of money because he just likes to play) has shown me some other lessons.
    1. Math skills
    2. How to think and remember like a computer, while also reading people's body language.
    3. How to be aware of your own state of emotional and physical health (aka, don't play when tired).
    4. How to not fall apart when losing
    5. It's a game, have fun, be nice, but don't ever bet more then you're willing to lose.
    6. "The Gambler" by Kenny Rodgers has some great life advice.
    7. It's okay to lie to dad if we both agree lying is okay about poker only, and only when playing. My son thinks bluffing or lying about his hand is the greatest thing ever.
    8. Practice and a love for the game is key.
    9. Don't be a jerk when you win.
    10. How to take advantage of luck.

  15. She had me until… 'Don't trust your gut/intuition'
    Just like poker skill, intuition can be honed through meditation & being more in touch w/ your spiritual self.. Again, this too is science.. Just something science itself doesn't understand very well.

  16. I think she screwed up the decision making part just by playing poker. Joke, she's a world champion and I gamble like a pig too…

  17. There's a 100% chance you will regret being so degenerate during your best years and will wish you had found a nice moral British husband and had children instead, like you were supposed to.

  18. Beautiful, intelligent, confident, and successful. This is what a high quality woman looks like.

  19. TED talk has downgraded to this – a golden ball bozo teaching life from her "lessons" from a degenerate game of cards – while the millennial betas white knights drool over her

  20. champion!!!!!!!!!!! she hasent won a tournament in 20 years hahahahahahahaahahahahah what a pretentious nut sac

  21. No hate: she looks pretty good, but this jacket and shirt are from the middle age!! 😀

  22. yeah yeah the way she looks is stunning but what I find absolutely attractive about Liv is her brain and her mind. Her mentality is damn hot.

  23. Yep, all of this applies to investors as well. Pretty easy to feel like a genius when the market is on an upswing.

  24. Another female poker player wrote a book about basically everything she said?

  25. Most people think 51% probability is 100% certainty. "There's a 60% chance of rain" – your friends decide to stay in. "There's a 70% chance Hillary will win" – even Trump wasn't prepared for for a victory celebration on election night.

  26. perhaps, the most interesting talk on TED. so much packed into such a small syllabus…

  27. You cant be all loosey-goosey in speech. Everthing you do conveys information in speech

  28. Which option would you choose if you had only one more year to live. Try that one if you are stuck 🙂

  29. There is a 100 percent probability that she has proven I don’t have erectile dysfunction

  30. some of those nerdy poker players have really good intuition though, jungleman with the Queen high calldowns. 🙂

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