McHaffie: MCU lesson 047 / Reasons for betting


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2005.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at diane@caro.com.


Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 47: Reasons for betting

Mike suggests we ask ourselves why we bet. Is it for logical reasons or just automatically or at whim? If it’s automatic, that could be dangerous and expensive. Mike has listed seven good reasons for betting, that I’ll pass along to you now:

  1. I want my opponent to call so I can win more money.
  2. I’m hoping I can win the pot right now.
  3. It would be to my advantage to drive at least some of my opponents out of the pot.
  4. My opponent probably needs to improve, and I want him to pay for the privilege.
  5. By betting right now, I will gain an advantage on later betting rounds.
  6. This bet will help me establish a psychological image that will help me win more money in the future.
  7. I’m better off betting than checking and calling.

You might think that there should be one more reason listed above, the fact that you might posses the best hand. However, Mike says that isn’t a reason to bet a hand, because it’s merely an observation about a hand.

Cause of action

Mike says, “The strength of your hand is never a cause of action. It is only one factor in evaluating what action to take. Ultimately, all poker decisions – calling, betting, bluffing, raising, sandbagging, checking, passing – must be based on the premise that you have something to gain. Gaining should be the cause of action.”

He says that although you feel that you might hold the best hand, sometimes you’ll choose not to bet, simply because you could make more money by checking and raising, checking and calling, or setting up a trap for a future bet.

Every action that you take in poker should be made with the intention of gaining something, even if that “something” is to lose less. Mike suggests that you ask yourself, “What am I gaining by doing this?” If you are unable to answer, then you should rethink your actions.

Mike teaches that reason number three should probably be used by an experienced player, as it could be dangerous for the beginner. He says that chasing players out of pots is easier said than done. I’ve watched him attempt this one online. Most of the times he is successful, but occasionally there is the player that stubbornly hangs in there, refusing to be chased out.

Experienced players

Sometimes it’s difficult deciding whether you should limit the field or not. Maybe you’re chasing out the wrong player. Mike suggests that unless you’re going to eliminate everyone at some point without a showdown by this action, seldom attempt it.

Mike also teaches that reason number five and six are mainly for experienced players. These are considered to be psychological weapons that only the experts should attempt.

Reason number seven is important if your opponent isn’t a frequent bluffer. If he is, then it’s often better to check and call. Also, if you feel that your opponent will call with a weak hand, then it’s often better to bet. Sometimes, you should also bet if you think that your opponent will bet into you, forcing you to call, if he has you beat. Checking a medium hand in these instances would not be a wise action to take, because by betting, you still lose the times he has you beat (you would have checked and called) and by not betting, you forfeit the opportunity to win a weak call. Of course, if your opponent is aggressive and will raise liberally with small advantages, it might still be better to check.

Mike advises that if you’re not yet an experienced player, the only reasons that you need to be concerned with are the first two listed. You wish to win more money or you wish to win the pot outright.

The next time you sit at a table, stop for a moment and ask yourself why you are betting. It’s a profitable question in the long run.  — DM

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