Annie Duke has a remarkably diverse career. Her original ambition was to be an academic, and she was well on her way down that path to earning a PhD in cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Some might say that cognitive psychology is the ideal discipline in which to be steeped to go into poker, but it represented a significant left turn, to be sure.
Duke originally turned to poker for money and as a way to pass time as she awaited faculty appointments. She discovered that she not only enjoyed it, she had a knack for it. She would go on to win more than $4 million playing poker, including winning 2004 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship in 2010.
She saw analogies in her approach to poker and how business leaders ought to think about the decisions they make. Each are bets of sorts. Executives make a great number of decisions each day that they cannot guarantee a positive outcome to. Those who are most successful develop a better way of evaluating the bets and weighing their risk tolerance accordingly. Duke has synthesized her approach in a book called Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts. She describes her process in this interview.