The Underrated Art of Quitting: Annie Duke’s Perspective from the Poker Table

Quitting is massively underrated, says Annie Duke, an author, psychologist, and former professional poker player who holds a bracelet from the 2004 World Series of Poker.

Her latest book is Quit: The Power of Knowing When To Walk Away. Using examples ranging from Muhammad Ali’s refusal to retire from boxing earlier in his career to the over-budget, much-delayed California high-speed rail project to catastrophic American wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, she makes the case that blind commitment to grit and stick-to-it-iveness routinely leads us down the wrong path is our careers, politics, and personal lives.

She talks about misleading mental tics like the sunk-cost fallacy, the cult of identity, and the endowment effect, and how to understand and reverse them in our personal lives, our work, and our politics. She earned her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, getting her degree in 2023 after taking a 30-year break from academia. We talk about how her experience of knowing when to quit in poker—and higher education—informed her high regard for knowing when to head for the exits.

To see a Reason interview about Duke’s previous book Thinking in Bets, go here.

Today’s sponsor:

  • BetterHelp. Are you at your best? Working with a therapist can help you get closer to the best version of you—because when you feel empowered, you’re more prepared to take on everything life throws at you. If you’re thinking of giving therapy a try, BetterHelp is a great option. It’s convenient, flexible, affordable, and entirely online. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists anytime for no additional charge. If you want to live a more empowered life, therapy can get you there.