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Liv Boeree Shares Decision-Making Strategies for Life and Poker

Liv Boeree
  • In her latest TED Talk, @Liv_Boeree discusses the role of luck, quantification & intuition in decision-making.

Poker players often say, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” but do they really mean it? Most likely, they are referring to a possibly poor play that worked out for them, which just points to the short-term luck factor that permeates the game of poker. But if you ask the best in the world, they’ll surely take some bad luck short term over giving up their long-term skill advantage.

But how can we have a realistic assessment of our skill? How can we predict future outcomes? And how much should we rely on our intuition, in poker and in life? These are some of the questions that PokerStars Team Pro Liv Boeree tackles in her latest TED Talk entitled, “3 Lessons on Decision-Making from a Poker Champion.”


Boeree discusses the topic of luck, explaining that in health, wealth and relationships, as with poker, not everything is in our control.

"Our egos love to downplay the luck factor when we’re winning.”

“Like poker, life is also a game of skill and luck,” Boeree explained.

“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.”

An example of this point from poker, as Boeree points out in the talk, is when players win a big tournament and overestimate the skill factor in the win, which can lead to overconfidence in one’s skill level. In life also, realizing and acknowledging the role of luck in life successes will give people a more realistic assessment of their own ability and skill.


The second factor Boeree discusses is quantification. As she points out, not just in poker but also in life, the likelihood of various outcomes can and should be expressed in probabilities, rather than in vague assessments like “maybe” or “probably.”

“Poker is a game of probabilities and precision,” said Boeree. “And so you have to train yourself to think in numbers.”

By speaking in more specific numbers and probabilities, you can remove the potentially wide range of interpretations that result from vague probabilistic language.


According to Boeree, the game of poker has changed such that players can no longer rely on pure intuition to rise to the top, but rather the best players in the game now rely heavily on slow, careful analysis.

“And that’s because our intuitions aren’t nearly as perfect as we’d like to believe.” She added: “In reality, our gut is extremely vulnerable to all kinds of wishful thinking and biases.”

"Our intuitions aren’t nearly as perfect as we’d like to believe.”

For this reason, Boeree suggests that when it comes to decision-making, especially in areas people don’t have a lot of experience with, it’s important to consider your gut, but rely on careful analysis to form a decision.

You can watch Boeree's TED Talk here, and see her revised motivational memes that follow from the talk below.

Boeree has discussed similar topics at TED before, focusing primarily on statistical thinking and how it can be used not just in poker, but to inform better decision-making and mediate expectations for humans in the real world.

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