Annie Duke quotes

Who on Earth is Annie Duke?

Annie LaBarr Duke is an American professional poker player and the author of the book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts. The book deals with how to make better decisions when dealing with uncertainty.

Annie Duke books

Annie Duke quotes

“I don't know" is not a failure but a necessary step towards enlightenment.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“A poker player makes hundreds of decisions per session, all of which take place at breakneck speed. The etiquette and rules of the game discourage players from slowing down the game to deliberate, even when huge financial consequences ride on the decision. If a player takes extra time, another player can ‘call the clock’ on them. This gives the deliberating player all of seventy seconds to now make up their mind. That is an eternity in poker time.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Admitting that we don’t know has an undeservedly bad reputation. Of course, we want to encourage acquiring knowledge, but the first step is understanding what we don’t know.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“All decisions are bets.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“An expert trial lawyer will be better than a new lawyer at guessing the likelihood of success of different strategies and picking a strategy on this basis. Negotiating against an adversary whom we have previously encountered gives us a better guess at what our strategy should be. An expert in any field will have an advantage over a rookie. But neither the veteran nor the rookie can be sure what the next flip will look like. The veteran will just have a better guess.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Be a better credit-giver than your peers, more willing than others to admit mistakes, more willing to explore possible reasons for an outcome with an open mind, even, and especially, if that might cast you in a bad light or shine a good light on someone else. In this way we can feel that we are doing well by comparison because we are doing something unusual and hard that most people don’t do. That makes us feel exceptional.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Blaming others for their bad results and failing to give them credit for their good ones is under the influence of ego. Taking credit for a win lifts our personal narrative. So too does knocking down a peer by finding them at fault for a loss. That’s schadenfreude: deriving pleasure from someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude is basically the opposite of compassion.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“By treating decisions as bets, poker players explicitly recognize that they are deciding on alternative futures, each with benefits and risks.They also recognize there are no simple answers. Some things are unknown or unknowable.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“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 a much greater influence of luck.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Decisions are bets on the future, and they aren’t right or wrong based on whether they turn out well on any particular iteration. An unwanted result doesn’t make our decision wrong if we thought about the alternatives and probabilities in advance and allocated our resources accordingly.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Despite the popular wisdom that we achieve success through positive visualization, it turns out that incorporating negative visualization makes us more likely to achieve our goals.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Diversity is the foundation of productive group decision-making, but we can’t underestimate how hard it is to maintain. We all tend to gravitate toward people who are near clones of us. After all, it feels good to hear our ideas echoed back to us.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Experience can be an effective teacher. But, clearly, only some students listen to their teachers. The people who learn from experience improve, advance, and (with a little bit of luck) become experts and leaders in their fields.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Fake news works because people who already hold beliefs consistent with the story generally won’t question the evidence.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“How can we be sure that we are choosing the alternative that is best for us? What if another alternative would bring us more happiness, satisfaction, or money? The answer, of course, is we can’t be sure. Things outside our control (luck) can influence the result. The futures we imagine are merely possible. They haven’t happened yet. We can only make our best guess, given what we know and don’t know, at what the future will look like. If we’ve never lived in Des Moines, how can we possibly be sure how we will like it?”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“If we follow the example of poker players by making explicit that our decisions are bets, we can make better decisions and anticipate (and take protective measures) when irrationality is likely to keep us from acting in our best interest.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“If we misrepresent the world at the extremes of right and wrong, with no shades of grey in between, our ability to make good choices—choices about how we are supposed to be allocating our resources, what kind of decisions we are supposed to be making, and what kind of actions we are supposed to be taking—will suffer. The secret is to make peace with walking around in a world where we recognize that we are not sure and that’s okay. As we learn more about how our brains operate, we recognize that we don’t perceive the world objectively. But our goal should be to try.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Ignoring the risk and uncertainty in every decision might make us feel better in the short run, but the cost to the quality of our decision-making can be immense. If we can find ways to become more comfortable with uncertainty, we can see the world more accurately and be better for it.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Improving decision quality is about increasing our chances of good outcomes, not guaranteeing them.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“In poker, every hand and therefore every decision has immediate financial consequences. In a tournament or a high-stakes game, each decision can be worth more than the cost of an average three-bedroom house, and players have to make those decisions more quickly than we decide what to order in a restaurant. Even at lower stakes, most or all of the money a player has on the table is potentially at stake in every decision. Poker players, as a result, must become adept at in-the-moment decision-making or they won’t survive in the profession.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“In rock, paper, scissors the key is, and this is the best piece of advice that I can give you, if you do think that you recognize the pattern from your opponent, it's good to try to throw a tie as opposed to a win. A tie will very often get you a tie or a win, whereas a win will get you a win or a loss. For example, if you think that someone might throw a rock, it's good to throw rock back at them. You should be going for ties. That's actually a really good strategy to win at rock, paper, scissors. There's my rock, paper, scissors advice for you.”

Annie Duke

“Instead of altering our beliefs to fit new information, we do the opposite, altering our interpretation of that information to fit our beliefs.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Life looks more like poker, where all that uncertainty gives us the room to deceive ourselves and misinterpret the data. Poker gives us the leeway to make mistakes that we never spot because we win the hand anyway and so don’t go looking for them, or the leeway to do everything right, still lose, and treat the losing result as proof that we made a mistake. Resulting, assuming that our decision-making is good or bad based on a small set of outcomes, is a pretty reasonable strategy for learning in chess. But not in poker—or life.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Making better decisions starts with understanding this: uncertainty can work a lot of mischief.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“My number one tip is always to play tight. From my experience, most new players play about 80% of the hands they are dealt in Texas Hold 'em. In fact, the reverse should be the case: they should only play about 20% of them!”

Annie Duke

“No matter how far we get from the familiarity of betting at a poker table or in a casino, our decisions are always bets. We routinely decide among alternatives, put resources at risk, assess the likelihood of different outcomes, and consider what it is that we value. Every decision commits us to some course of action that, by definition, eliminates acting on other alternatives. Not placing a bet on something is, itself, a bet.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Our brains evolved to create certainty and order. We are uncomfortable with the idea that luck plays a significant role in our lives. We recognize the existence of luck, but we resist the idea that, despite our best efforts, things might not work out the way we want.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Our default is to believe that what we hear and read is true. Even when that information is clearly presented as being false, we are still likely to process it as true.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Our lives are too short to collect enough data from our own experience to make it easy to dig down into decision quality from the small set of results we experience. If we buy a house, fix it up a little, and sell it three years later for 50% more than we paid, does that mean we are smart at buying and selling property, or at fixing up houses? It could, but it could also mean there was a big upward trend in the market and buying almost any piece of property would have made just as much money. Or maybe buying that same house and not fixing it up at all might have resulted in the same (or even better) profit.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Our thinking can be divided into two streams, one that is fast, automatic, and largely unconscious, and another that is slow, deliberate, and judicious. The first system, the reflexive system, seems to do its thing rapidly and automatically, with or without our conscious awareness. The second system, the deliberative system... deliberates, it considers, it chews over the facts.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Outcomes don’t tell us what’s our fault and what isn’t, what we should take credit for and what we shouldn’t. Unlike in chess, we can’t simply work backward from the quality of the outcome to determine the quality of our beliefs or decisions. This makes learning from outcomes a pretty haphazard process.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Over time, those world-class poker players taught me to understand what a bet really is: a decision about an uncertain future. The implications of treating decisions as bets made it possible for me to find learning opportunities in uncertain environments. Treating decisions as bets, I discovered, helped me avoid common decision traps, learn from results in a more rational way, and keep emotions out of the process as much as possible.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“People are more willing to offer their opinion when the goal is to win a bet rather than get along with people in a room.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Poker, in contrast to chess, is a game of incomplete information. It is a game of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty over time. (Not coincidentally, that is close to the definition of game theory.) Valuable information remains hidden. There is also an element of luck in any outcome. You could make the best possible decision at every point and still lose the hand, because you don’t know what new cards will be dealt and revealed. Once the game is finished and you try to learn from the results, separating the quality of your decisions from the influence of luck is difficult.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Remember, losing feels about twice as bad as winning feels good; being wrong feels about twice as bad as being right feels good.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Self-serving bias has immediate and obvious consequences for our ability to learn from experience.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The betting elements of decisions—choice, probability, risk, etc.—are more obvious in some situations than others. Investments are clearly bets. A decision about a stock (buy, don’t buy, sell, hold, not to mention esoteric investment options) involves a choice about the best use of financial resources. Incomplete information and factors outside of our control make all our investment choices uncertain. We evaluate what we can, figure out what we think will maximize our investment money, and execute. Deciding not to invest or not to sell a stock, likewise, is a bet.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The more expert the player, the further into the future they plan.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The more objective we are, the more accurate our beliefs become. And the person who wins bets over the long run is the one with the more accurate beliefs.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The most successful investors in start-up companies have a majority of bad results. If you applied to NASA’s astronaut program or the NBC page program, both of which have drawn thousands of applicants for a handful of positions, things will go your way a minority of the time, but you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. Don’t fall in love or even date anybody if you want only positive results. The world is structured to give us lots of opportunities to feel bad about being wrong if we want to measure ourselves by outcomes. Don’t fall for it!”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The value of poker in understanding decision-making has been recognized in academics for a long time.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“The world is a pretty random place. The influence of luck makes it impossible to predict exactly how things will turn out, and all the hidden information makes it even worse.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“There are a lot more choices other than the extremes of obesity or anorexia. For most of our decisions, there will be a lot of space between unequivocal right and wrong.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“There are many reasons why wrapping our arms around uncertainty and giving it a big hug will help us become better decision-makers. Here are two of them. First, ‘I’m not sure’ is simply a more accurate representation of the world. Second, and related, when we accept that we can’t be sure, we are less likely to fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that there are exactly two things that determine how our lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck. Learning to recognize the difference between the two is what thinking in bets is all about.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“Trouble follows when we treat life decisions as if they were chess decisions. Chess contains no hidden information and very little luck. The pieces are all there for both players to see. Pieces can’t randomly appear or disappear from the board or get moved from one position to another by chance. No one rolls dice after which, if the roll goes against you, your bishop is taken off the board. If you lose at a game of chess, it must be because there were better moves that you didn’t make or didn’t see. You can theoretically go back and figure out exactly where you made mistakes.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“What good poker players and good decision-makers have in common is their comfort with the world being an uncertain and unpredictable place. They understand that they can almost never know exactly how something will turn out. They embrace that uncertainty and, instead of focusing on being sure, they try to figure out how unsure they are, making their best guess at the chances that different outcomes will occur. The accuracy of those guesses will depend on how much information they have and how experienced they are at making such guesses. This is part of the basis of all bets.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of “I’m not sure.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“When we make in-the-moment decisions (and don’t ponder the past or future), we are more likely to be irrational and impulsive. This tendency we all have to favor our present-self at the expense of our future-self is called temporal discounting.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“When we take the long view, we’re going to think in a more rational way.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“When you're moaning, all you are doing is focusing on things that were not in your control, at least you are not exploring whether they were in your control, which is bad. You're just focusing on the one piece of bad variance that happened. There's nothing productive that comes from it.”

Annie Duke

“Whenever we make a choice, we are betting on a potential future. We are betting that the future version of us that results from the decisions we make will be better off. At stake in a decision is that the return to us (measured in money, time, happiness, health, or whatever we value in that circumstance) will be greater than what we are giving up by betting against the other alternative future versions of us.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets

“You know that Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”? Turns out, if we were contemplating a thousand-mile walk, we’d be better off imagining ourselves looking back from the destination and figuring how we got there. When it comes to advance thinking, standing at the end and looking backward is much more effective than looking forward from the beginning.”

Annie Duke Thinking in Bets