MCU poker tip: Adjusting to wins and losses

Most of your opponents will treat you differently when you’re winning than when you’re losing. That’s because they’re conscious of luck and fear you more when you’re “running lucky.”

When this happens — when opposing players are influenced by your short-term luck — everything is as it should be in the universe, and your opponents are easier to control. When you’re winning, you can bet marginal hands for value that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Opponents are intimidated by your good luck and less likely to take full advantage of superior hands. So, you don’t get punished as severely and, thus, can bet aggressively.

But if you’re losing, you should be aware that these same opponents will be inspired by your losses and will raise aggressively or play deceptively. That’s the time to tone down your value betting.

Docile and well behaved

It’s true. When you’re winning, your foes are apt to be docile and well behaved, and this allows you to press every hand for maximum value without fearing that they’ll take maximum advantage of their good hands, too.

But, wait!

What’s the best way to adjust, depending on whether you’re running good or bad? Simple. Most of your decisions in poker will be “borderline,” meaning that the decisions aren’t especially clear.

Do this: When you’re conspicuously winning and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, bet… and between calling and raising, raise.

But when you’re conspicuously losing and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, check… and between calling and raising, call.

These adjustments work like magic, and they’re pure profit. — MC

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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.

3 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Adjusting to wins and losses”

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  1. Even when I’m winning and have a dominant image, I don’t do much raising before the flop. I call with a lot of hands and use most of my aggression after the flop. Most everyone else does a whole lot of raising and continuation betting. Do you suppose I’m missing out on much profit by choosing not to be aggressive before the flop like everyone else?

    1. Hi, Simon —

      You might be doing it right. In the modern era, most serious players are much too aggressive before the flop. But that doesn’t mean you should just call or make small raises all the time. If your intention is to trap, do it prudently. If your intention is to wait and see, don’t overuse that tactic.

      Since your hand is pretty much defined by the flop, you’re often likely to have larger edges after you see it. Getting your money in with larger edges is obviously a better investment. That’s another reason why waiting is often the answer.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. Well it’s not always a wait and see approach. If I see an opening, I might float or raise as a bluff, after assessing the flop. I think that’s more credible than raising preflop and continuation betting. Every time I try to do that, people assume that’s what I’m trying to do, so I get looked up often. I’ve probably lost more money than I’ve won trying that tactic. Makes me want to never try it again.

        I guess the rare exception is against someone with a defeated attitude, maybe at a short handed table. I just fear that I’m being too conservative in my approach?

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