Book (Caro on Gambling) 01. Plodders


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. This entry was part of the book Caro on Gambling, first published in 1984. Mike Caro has made exclusive modifications, enhancements, and edits to some of these Poker1 entries, while leaving the book’s original content mostly intact.

Chapter 1 was also his first column on gambling, published a few years earlier in Gambling Times magazine.


Caro on Gambling

Chapter 1: Plodders vs. adventurers

Chapter index (pending)

I hate money management. But wait! That’s no way to begin a book on scientific gambling. After all, experts agree that money management is vital to a stable and secure bankroll. Sorry, I just blurted it out before I could stop myself, and now it’s too late to take it back.

At least let me assure you that, in the pages ahead, we’re going to tackle some really important stuff.

Fine. But, read the opening line again. Doesn’t that strike you as a wildly irresponsible statement, coming from a presumed authority on poker tactics and probability?

Explanation

Okay. Let me explain. Maybe you remember seeing posters in your high school hallways that read, “Sex!” and then in smaller print, “Now that we’ve got your attention, don’t forget to tell your parents about the P.T.A. meeting this Friday . . . ” That advertising technique is tested and proven. Start off with something to win their attention. Next, bom­bard them with the real message.

But isn’t that a dirty trick, far beneath the dignity of this book? Good question.

Anyway, now that all the ploys have been played, now that all the advertising techniques have been tried, now that we’ve gotten all the fun and frivolity out of the way, what’s the real subject of this chapter?

I already told you — Money Management — I hate it!

I can’t even stand the way it’s spelled. Why should a fifteen-letter term waste 40% of itself on M’s and N’s? But that’s just a minor grievance.

Double M

What really makes me mad is the way advocates of Double M go around preaching. They rely heavily on an almost spiritual concept called “stop loss” to protect them. They’ll admonish you to risk only a specified percentage of your bankroll each day.

To risk less is acceptable, but to risk more is grave transgression. Not content simply to claim that this magic maximum percentage was whispered by a prophet in the men’s room, they argue that mathematicians have proven that theirs is the most profitable long-range approach for us all.

I’d like to respectfully point out the stupidity of this advice.

Inexcusable

First. One valid reason to apply a stop loss is to prevent yourself from losing more than you’re psychologically able to handle. Another is to safeguard yourself from devastating losses in situations where you may have miscalculated your profit potential.

Conversely, it would be inex­cusable to use a stop loss in a poker game where you know your hourly expectancy is $50, you feel alert, you want to play, and you can emo­tionally tolerate a big loss. If under those circumstances, you quit three hours early because you’ve reached a pre-established loss limit, the average cost is $150.

I call this “the column that accidentally destroyed a thousand bankrolls.”

It was the first piece I ever wrote for Gambling Times magazine, in 1984. It also became the first chapter in my book Caro on Gambling.

The problem was, many previously successful plodders decided it was better to be adventurers and overplayed their parts. That wasn’t my intention. There’s nothing wrong with plodding. — MC

Second. There is no maximum mathematically correct percentage of your bankroll you should be willing to risk on a given day. The more you wager relative to the size of your bankroll, the better your chances are of achieving sudden riches, and the more likely you are to go broke in the at­tempt.

We’ll leave discussions of the Kelly criterion and such for another day. For now, just remember that when you risk less, you’re more secure, but you can’t win as much. So there you have it, the simple truth. The amount of money you should bet is not governed by any universal formula. It is determined by you, your spirit, your courage, how much you value security and how well you can tolerate the pain of losing.

Two categories

There seem to exist two main categories of professional gamblers. Those who plod along securely, accumulating their bankrolls methodically, and those who treat gambling as an adventure. Both groups have mastered techniques which afford them a winning edge.

The plodders prize security above all else. For them I recommend a solid system of money management.

The adventurers are willing to risk great agony in the pursuit of giant rewards. They tend to prance about the ladder of success, fearing less the sensation of a great fall than the humility of hanging idle. Here are the heroes in Western movies, ready to wager the ranch on the turn of a card.

Let’s be honest. You and I both admire the adventurers more than the plodders.

Just about every world-class poker player I’ve ever known is an adventurer. Occasionally they may mumble something about money management but they don’t use it very effectively. It goes against their nature. They’re too daring, too courageous and, maybe, too reckless. Sure, sometimes they go broke, but not very often, and they can handle the pain when it happens.

Don’t bet

Imagine a no-limit, heads-up poker contest between a plodder and an adventurer. Let’s say they both have equal technical skills. Want a word of advice? Don’t bet on the plodder. He has no heart.

Usually, plodders won’t play against strong opposition, anyway. Challenge them and you’re apt to hear, “There’s a hundred soft spots around town. Why should I play against you?”Adventurers don’t think that way. You’ll see two world champions, Doyle Brunson and Bobby Baldwin — the best of friends away from the table — battling head-to­head for big stakes.

Why? Simple. That’s how you get to be the best. You can’t be a great prizefighter by beating up kids on the playground. Sooner or later you’ve got to fight a guy who’s likely to smash your face in. Adventurers welcome the opportunity to meet tough opponents. Plodders run and hide.

So thoroughly have plodders saturated gambling literature with their Double M fetish that a carefree gambler can’t risk much of his bankroll without feeling guilty.

If you ever find yourself churning in misery after a terrible loss, you have a friend. You’ll get no lectures here, only sympathy. If you’re an adventurer, come out of hiding. Spread the word: The tyranny of Dou­ble M is over. Mike Caro thinks you’re a hero! — MC

Next chapter in Caro on Gambling (pending)

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

8 thoughts on “Book (Caro on Gambling) 01. Plodders”

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  1. Mike, I figured it out and I wanted to say thank you. I’m a established softball player. I get tons of calls from people wanting me to play. I’ve lost my love for the game that is why I’ve picked up poker (my new love). But anyway when I first started playing softball I was horrible, I mean horrible. I wouldn’t have let me play on a team if I was a coach looking for a player. But I finally found somebody who actually cared if I was any good or not and adopted their game and like I said I became pretty successful at it and still am (when I decide to play) But this is the same with poker. I was pretty horrible and couldn’t find any real insight on what was going on. Until I found your books, your website and your seminars on DVD. I get what you are doing because you are actually doing it from your heart. You actually want us to win and play well. Unlike other books I’ve bought I just couldn’t grasp what they were trying to sell. I believe this because they really don’t have the passion that you have for the game and for helping others. I’m sure you enjoy the profits that you make from all of these things but I also feel you get just as much and probably more enjoyment knowing that you are helping people. It’s kinda like what you say to do to people at the poker table, make them glad to give you their money. Thanks a million Mike. P.S. I can’t wait for your store to open to see what else I can put to use.

  2. Hey Mike, long time.
    Glad you opted for some color. :)

    Regarding this article, I’d like to add that poker is a game of money management – both at the poker table and away from it. Like any other risk/reward endeavor from stock or commodities trading to planing for retirement, poker should be seen as a money making endeavor.

    But there are different paths that lead to that same goal. Some take the slow road, some take the “get rich quick” route, or any path in between. But the ultimate goal, is making money. As long as a player knows their own strengths and weaknesses they will have a good idea which path is right for them. Depending on playing style, personality, brains, etc., sticking to their path is probably best, and straying from it will most often lead to disaster.

    Cheers

  3. Hi Mike,
    Stop lose limits and the magic maximum percentage of your bankroll are essential to your long term profit. The reason is one of poker's biggest secrets. It's blasphamy to even mention this secret in public. Cheating is unfortunately a significant threat to a professionals bankroll. Stop lose limits and only risking only a small percentage of your bankroll are some of the best defenses against cheating.
    Bill

  4. First time I ever feel like I need to reply. I mean, it’s true. I understand your point. Now if i had 1,000 dolars and I could play against you or someone else, who I choose really depends on the weight of the thousand buck on my bankroll. If I only have that 1k as my bankroll why would I play against you (not knowing my chances to win, although i doubt my chances are good) when i can play against someone a lot weaker than me? Now lets say I had 100K as a bankroll or at least a decent amount, at least 20k, that would also depend on my skills. Sure i would play against you because my bankroll could afford loosing 1k to you. Now if we were both the same level it would also depend on the bankroll because the point is to make money, you play the games that are most profitable. And you wrote that one day. Back to the article, i think you exagerated waaaaaaaaay too much the poddlers or however you call us. Lol. Hope you get my point, i. wrote a little sloppy.

    1. Hi, Cesar —

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for joining our Poker1 family by making your first comment here.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  5. You said: Usually, plodders won’t play against strong opposition, anyway. Challenge them and you’re apt to hear, “There’s a hundred soft spots around town. Why should I play against you?”Adventurers don’t think that way. You’ll see two world champions, Doyle Brunson and Bobby Baldwin — the best of friends away from the table — battling head-to­head for big stakes.

    You’ve also said: Beating strong opponents wins a lot of respect and a little money. Beating weak opponents wins a little respect and a lot of money.

    Sklansky, Theory of Poker said “The object of the game is to make money.”

    Now, I personally, seem to be in a constant tug o’ war between my risk-taking, gambly, freakin’ hate MM self and my “plod along and build a bankroll waiting for bad players to throw money at me” self. I play big tournaments in the hope of playing against great players, but I choose weak cash tables to make money happen in a reasonably (for poker) “safe” way. You can’t spend respect at the grocery store, so I’m not that fussed about it. But I also have to account for my own nature which likes the risk-taking.

    I have a lot of variance. ; )

    Anyway – could you please address what looks like the dichotomy in your own statements? I could use more perspective, I think.

    Thanks,

    maggie

    1. Hi, Maggie —

      (I’m not sure when you abandoned “Lis~” and adopted “Maggie,” but either name associated with your “Listening” handle makes me happy.)

      I tend to be more of a plodder, myself, than I once was. And, as I’ve previously stated, that’s usually the right path to long-term profit. The observation that plodders, as a group, tend to shy away from playing stronger opponents is just that, an observation. It certainly isn’t a criticism, because you should seek opponents weaker than yourself. That’s where your money comes from.

      Occasionally, it’s okay to hone your skills against tougher opposition, but don’t overdo it or put your bankroll in jeopardy trying to be a hero.

      The main difference between plodders and adventurers is expressed in the line above (which is actually quoted from a play I wrote in the ninth grade, believe it or not): Adventures “tend to prance about the ladder of success, fearing less the sensation of a great fall than the humility of hanging idle.” Plodders prize security above the pursuit of sudden success.

      Neither way is right; neither is wrong. The point of this entry is that “money management” becomes preachy sometimes, and it’s really up to the gambler to decide how much risk to take when the odds are favorable.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. When you read a lot of someone’s writing it’s hard to not start thinking of them as someone you know, a friend, so there’s a natural progression, I guess, from my online handle (Lis~ short for Listening) to my non-cyber world name: “maggie.” You, Mr. Caro, can call me pretty much anything you like.

        Thanks for the response, things are back in focus again. Love the line from your play – it also reminds me of something I think Michaelangelo of all people said – paraphrasing – “The danger is not that you set your goals too high and fail to meet them, but that you set them too low and do.” Or sumpin like that.

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