Note: Originally published (2002) in Poker Digest magazine.
I just looked at my calendar and realized that this is today. I thought it might have been yesterday or some other similar day, but it isn’t. Because calendars are notoriously accurate, it’s time to write a column. I’m eager to get started, too, because this is the day that we examine more of the most important concepts that help us win in real life.
Soon we’ll be dealing with pure poker in this column. But we’re not quite done discussing the life strategy that evolves from poker decisions. We’re about to talk about the final four of my original 12 strategies for life success. These strategies – all based on powerful poker and gambling concepts — were first presented in Casino Player magazine in the early 1990s.
Soon after that, I delivered a keynote address on these same concepts to a CP players conference at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Obviously, they are very important to me personally, forming the foundation of Mike Caro’s University of Poker, Gambling, and Life Strategy – that “Life Stategy” at the end is what makes MCU special to me. And I hope you find ways to use these strategies to your advantage. We completed concept #9 last time. Let’s look at #9 through #12 today.
The final four original strategies
9. Act last. Almost no one realizes the full importance of acting last. At my poker seminars, I teach how important it is to understand your position at the table. Players must act in turn, and those who act after you enjoy an advantage because they get to see what you do before they make their decisions.
So, I teach that you should use psychology and make friends with players who act after you. They’ll then be less motivated to exploit their advantages. This works in life, too. Befriend those who have an advantage, so they will be less motivated to make it difficult on you. That’s important, and I’ll repeat it: In life, make friends with those who could do you the most damage.
And there’s more. You should usually strive to gain advantage by acting last. If you’re sure that everyone will have an equal chance to act, it’s better–with few exceptions–to wait to see what your opponents do, then adjust your strategy accordingly. In poker, we call it a positional advantage. Let’s call it the same thing in real life.
If Harry and you are vying to impress the boss, let Harry speak first. If he falls flat, you can capitalize on that by politely pointing out the weaknesses and providing a more powerful alternative. But if he soars, you can soar right along with him by just saying that you, of course, agree with many of the things Harry said, but we need to be careful about this and we need to add that. If you do this correctly, you will have come out ahead or at least held your ground in a situation you might otherwise have been outplayed. Acting last (and thereby preventing life’s opponents from acting last themselves) can afford you many such advantages.
10. Save your fancy moves for when you’re running good. In skillful gambling, when your luck is running bad, opponents often become inspired and play better. You’re no longer a force to be reckoned with in their minds. Most of your fancy plays won’t work because you’ve lost the intimidation factor, which is fundamental to many aggressive strategies.
At these times, you should become a more timid player. In life, do the same thing. Sometimes in conversations or in business, things aren’t really clicking and you’re losing ground. You can feel it happening. It’s time to play defensively. Your image is wrong for asserting yourself right now, so–if possible–just lurk and don’t take a stand yet.
Many people desperately try to prove themselves when they are at a disadvantage, but they ought to just sit silently. As a bonus, this silence often seems like strength to others. Repeating: When you’re at a disadvantage, or you’re just not in sync, don’t try to prove yourself immediately. Wait it out. Sooner or later an opportunity will come, and then you can be profound or assertive.
This is precisely what happens at the poker table. When you’re lucky, you’re in charge and you can take more risks, because opponents are intimidated and unsure. But when you’re unlucky, you’re a target and opponents are inspired and they play better. You need to let the cards bring you back to dominance at poker before your most aggressive and riskiest plays will be profitable again. And in real life you sometimes need to wait out the situation before taking charge again. Same thing. Poker and life.
11. Cheer for your friends. I want to warn you about envy. Many people don’t want their friends to succeed. In gambling, I never feel envious of friends who are winning more than I am. I want my friends to succeed so they can share their secrets, so they can tip me off to better games in the future, so they introduce me to rich novices looking for a game–all sorts of benefits.
If your enemies win, you don’t get any of these advantages. It’s the same in life. You should want your friends to succeed always. The more friends you have succeeding, the more opportunities you’ll have. It’s just plain crazy, but common, to be jealous of your friends’ successes.
12. Don’t fret over each injustice. In gambling and in life, there’s always injustice. Bet on it! Poker’s worst starting hands often win. And bad players sometimes get lucky. In life, the same. In fact, there’s so much injustice that we couldn’t possibly devote ourselves to setting everything right. It would be futile.
Listen. Next year there will probably be 246 unbelievably unjust things that will happen to you personally. Cashiers will hand you too little change. People will spread falsehoods about you. Someone will misunderstand what you say. Crooks will scam you. On and on.
And we’re guessing that this will happen 246 times next year. If it only happens 230 times, you’re having a good year! So, you can either just move on to the next thing, or you can damage you chances of success by dwelling on each injustice, talking about it, fuming over it. All that fussing, all that fuming, all that waste of mental energy really doesn’t make sense.
Why should you get aggravated, especially if you’re having a good year? So, simply, learn to overlook injustices unless you’re prepared to act on them. Yes, it’s noble to act against injustice, but it’s wasteful to dwell on personal injustices you’re not willing to act upon.
I’d be honored if you tried out some of the strategies we’ve talked about in the last four columns. Let me know if they work for you. — MC