Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I want to tell you a secret.

It's no fun being a writer.

There's mental torture. There's the constant fear of madness. There's the sheer excess of words in your life that echo around your head and invade your being.

Somewhere deep inside, there's often a heuristic hemorrhoid that nags you to do something else.

I have no idea if Maria Konnikova has ever experienced this.

We encountered this ever-entertaining New Yorker writer a couple of years ago, after she wrote a fine book about how to spot a con man.

It seems, though, she might have begun to embrace a certain con-ery -- or even Connery -- herself.

She was a complete neophyte, claiming not to know how many cards are in a poker deck.

She was a complete neophyte.

My painfully irregular reading of Poker News tells me that Konnikova has started doing very well.

As in, she's winning whole tournaments. 

In January's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure -- which sounds like a reality TV show, but is actually a real-life tournament -- Konnikova won the three-day $1,650 PCA National.

No, she didn't win $1.650. She won $84,500.

I really must include Poker News's pulsating description of the final.

Konnikova entered heads-up play against Alexander Ziskin with a three-to-one chip lead and it didn't take long for her to finish things off. After a few quick hands of Konnikova raising and taking down the blinds, she got her opponent all in on the turn and drawing to just nine outs. Ziskin was unable to connect with the river and Konnikova raised her arms in victory.

You see? She's become one of them, hasn't she?

She's got a victory gesture.

I wonder if she celebrated her book advance the same way.

I wonder whether the book advance was as large as her poker winnings.

I should add that it isn't as if she's just walking into tournaments, not even knowing where to sit or what to say.

She's had coaching from Erik Seidel, something of a legend in the sport.

He's won eight World Series of Poker bracelets -- what a lovely though that they win fetching jewelry -- and a World Poker Tour title.

Some, too, might point out that she's a trained psychologist. 

Oh, so what? Competing in a hard-nosed tournament takes a lot more than some sort of academic discipline.

I asked Konnikova whether she worried that the lure of lovely lucre would permanently turn her away from writing.

"No, not at all," she told me. "I love writing more than anything in the world -- it's been my lifelong passion. I can imagine doing both, but never ever would I dream of giving up writing."

She put a smiley face at the end of her message. I worry that she's on the precipice of irresistible, radical change.

By admitting she could imagine both writing and being a professional poker player, she's admitting she now may have something else she wouldn't dream of giving up -- the sheer joy of winning a lot of money in a dark room, surrounded by men of extremely limited sartorial elegance.

Oh, did I mention publication of her book has been put back until next year? You see, she also finished second in an Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau event.

How much did she pocket? Why, $57,519.

Konnikova insists, though, she's not about to sell out to the glory of sporting success.

"No, it doesn't have as much to do with victory, to be honest. It has to do with enjoying it and feeling intellectually and emotionally challenged by it. I feel like I've grown a lot as a person throughout this process; as long as that keeps being the case, why not keep playing?" she told me. 

I want to believe her. I do.

Life can send you in directions that you thought impossible. Or even insane.

You can be powerless to resist its mischief and its guile. 

Especially when there's a lot of money involved.

Then again, is poker so different from writing?

You sit there for hours on end, your mind seeking the next move, fearful that days and days of sitting will net you nothing other than a chasm of disappointment that becomes a burial ground for your soul.

I need saving. What should I write a book about?

Published on: May 3, 2018
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