Political correctness hasn’t come to my campus

  • By Mike Caro | Exit

This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.

My parents, Marguerite and Peter, brought me up to be tolerant. My parents brought me up to be respectful of whatever people accomplish, whomever they are. There was never a racist utterance at my home. As an adult citizen poker player, I feel passionately, so very passionately, about everyone having the same chance to excel.

Fine. But now, at age 56, I turn to my favorite Internet forum, rec.gambling.poker, and see a discussion with the all-capital-letters title, "MIKE CARO PLAYS POKER RACE CARD!!!" It is a scathing repudiation of something I deliberately included in Caro’s Book of Tells. In that book, there’s a brief section where I discuss characteristics of different groups of people. Now I’m going to show you that section, so that you can decide for yourself if it’s racist.

NOTE: This entry was written about 2001 and the uproar over Book of Tells has faded. Nonetheless, the issues remain real. — MC

What I Wrote
From page 55 of the new edition of Caro’s Book of Tells – The Body Language of Poker ….

Chapter 1: Noncombat Tells

While the majority of tells occur during the competition for a poker pot, there is some valuable information that can be learned about our opponents when they’re not involved in a poker hand.

Poker tests our perception. It also tests our logic and our competitive instincts. In a sense, it’s a safe-and-sane form of warfare. Poker war is not just the competition for each pot, hand after hand. Poker war is bigger than just hand-to-hand combat, because there are important things happening between hands – things you should be observing

Besides the noncombat tells illustrated in this section, you should notice things about each player’s appearance that might provide clues to future poker behavior.

Specifically, well-dressed people tend to play conservatively. Not all of them, though. Many doctors and lawyers are notorious for showing up in business attire after work and playing very liberally. And any man wearing a rumpled business suit with a loosened tie is probably in a gambling mood and will play looser than he would if that same suit were recently donned and his tie were in perfect position.

Luck and Superstition

Poker authority John Fox claims that people wearing religious amulets are luck-conscious, hard to bluff, and play too many pots. Obviously, the Rev. Fox means no disrespect with that theory, and there is probably truth in it. Certainly, players displaying good-luck charms or showing superstitious behavior tend to be more liberal with their poker dollars than average players.

Here are a few of my personal observations and those of my students. Many of those students have been women and minorities, so in no sense are these comments intended as sexist, racist, or unfriendly. In fact, in these times of political sensitivity, when people have to be extremely careful about what they say and whom they accidentally offend, I should point out that I’m bad about being careful. But, in my defense, I admire people of all races, almost all religions, and women. In fact, I am married to a woman.

As a general rule, women are harder to bluff than men. Orientals are either very skillful or very luck-oriented. There’s not much in the middle. Often these tells don’t work with some Orientals. Some, not all, will even act strong when strong and weak when weak, which – as you’ll soon learn – is the reverse of what most players do, especially those from most Western cultures.

Relatively few African-American men play to win; most tend to gamble more liberally than other players. I’ve seen this become less pronounced over the years since I wrote the first edition of this book, but the tendency still dominates – giving African-Americans who choose to play poker more seriously than recreationally a key advantage. It’s their opponents’ preconceptions that facilitate the advantage. This goes doubly for women, whom male opponents don’t usually think are competent. (I once wrote a whole book about how women can take advantage of that preconception; it is called Poker for Women – A Course in Destroying Male Opponents at Poker and Beyond.)

And why did I say that most women are hard to bluff? It’s because they’re playing correctly by calling much more often than males would on the last betting round. It comes after years of being bombarded by guys trying to assert their manhood by trying to bluff women. Put simply: Guys try to bluff gals too often, and gals correctly adjust and call. This makes the gals hard to bluff. So, you can often save money by not trying. And that’s true whether you’re a man or a woman, because women try to bluff other women too often, also, and most women know this and call these same-sex wagers.

When you’re up against an unknown player, you’ll earn extra profit by assuming that he or she will play as the stereotype until you learn differently.

Let’s look at some noncombat tells …

Their Objection

In response to the original post defining me as racist, others added their further objections to my words, but many argued that these objections were exercises in political correctness that repress free speech all across the country.

One person wrote that my words could never be included in a book from any major reputable publisher today. That scares me. Why?

Well, here is part of one of my responses to this discussion that quickly grew to 140 messages in a couple of days. This response was addressed to the original poster …

But just to set the record straight for those who don’t know, there is a statement in my book leading into the generalizations. This presents the basis upon which the generalizations are presented.

In my E-mail to you, I also explained that I, too, was not sure whether I should include the generalizations at the time of the book’s first publication, 16 or so years ago, but did so at the urging of my friend, an associate editor where the book was first published. She is African-American. You had very unkind words about her and people like her. You didn’t seem very tolerant of African-Americans with views about this different from your own.

Since I was brought up to love and tolerate all people, and since I genuinely don’t harbor any bias whatsoever, I will not yield to the political correction (yes, I said "correction") that’s sweeping the country and keeping intelligent speakers of your race and mine from being heard even on major college campuses.

I agree that my words in Book of Tells are not in vogue today – but they are not racist words. The racism is in the silence that surrounds them.

Straight Flushes,
Mike Caro

Another of My Responses

And I wrote this to another poster who thought I had accidentally stumbled …

I knew exactly what I was saying and what I was doing. I did it specifically because I will NOT yield to the "political correction" police.

The original poster protested the statement long BEFORE the new edition of Caro’s Book of Tells was published, not after. I included it anyway. I like what I said. It makes sense to me.

I also know how to avoid confrontation when avoiding it is important. I’m among the top 10 masters in that area, according to David Sklansky. (Note to Card Player readers: This is an inside joke, because David has expressed on the same rec.gambling.poker forum that he thinks I’m too diplomatic.) So, I think it’s fair to assume that in this case, my words were intentional and I recognized their significance. That assumption would be factual.

The important thing here is the statement elsewhere in this thread that other publishers would not allow my wording. I agree, and that’s the saddest thing about America today. You will never know what intelligent people think, because they dare not speak it, and if they speak it, it will not be heard.

You see, the subtle evil here is that people genuinely stop having nonapproved thoughts, because they are punished for them. And the universities become places of indoctrination, and the media joins the cause, and entertainment becomes propaganda. And you dare not think. You dare not.

And eventually you have something like the Cultural Revolution in Communist China repeated in America, but it happens not through military force, but through psychological manipulation.

And I will not be a part of it.

Straight Flushes,
Mike Caro

My Campus

A couple of years ago, I founded Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. Since then, it has published books and videos, held classes and seminars, and introduced hundreds of new players to poker. It has a "campus" at Hollywood Park Casino near Los Angeles and an online campus at planetpoker.com. But it isn’t a real university. Who are we kidding?

It’s just a name that I chose to tie all of my research and teaching together. But I like the name. I like the fact that MCU has been widely cited as a "university" without much journalistic scrutiny. Who cares? You know what I care about? I care that all of this political correction that is sweeping "real" campuses has not caught on at my university. It isn’t welcome here. I’m trying to keep PC out of poker. But everywhere, important minds disagree with my thinking. They believe I should think and speak as they do.

What do you think? — 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.

14 thoughts on “Political correctness hasn’t come to my campus”

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  1. Just as Donald Trump is being demonized for speaking the truth about illegal immigration, you and anyone else that points out the differences between people and how they manifest themselves are demonized for doing so. Truth is not allowed by those who would force you to adopt their philosophies. To my mind, if you have to insist that you are correct and refuse to look at alternate realities, then you are the bigot and racist not those like Mike and Donald that point out facts that require examination. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

  2. I agree with the poster above that said racism should only be called such if the purported ‘racist’ has ill will towards the people he speaks of. simply stating facts should never be condemned nor censored. Columbus was called a heretic for believing that the world was not flat. Continue on Mike Caro, we are disciples of your poker doctrine.

    best,
    larry k

  3. Mike, if what you said is racist, then I’m a racist as well. I’ve noted similar traits in various minority groups as well as socio-economic groups. Being aware of things like this makes us better poker players and those who pretend to ignore them are therefore denying themselves opportunity. Good. Makes them poor players and I like that.

  4. Thought 1. Poker is War. Gathering intel is paramount. 
    Thought 2. Science isn't racist. You've laid out scientific reasons behind your results and observations. 
    Thought 3. Play the odds. You've cleary stated that these are not hard truths for everyone or every instance but for a majority. Poker players generally like to play the odds. 
    Thought 4. Be yourself. It takes courage to be yourself and I appreciate you doing so. If people do not like it, that is their problem. 
    Thought 5. This is useful info. thank you. 

  5. Its obvious you are just stating obvserved behaviors of easily identifiable groups. That’s what we do. We group and catagorize things and try to recognize patterns.

    You didn’t even try to go into the possible environmental, cultural, and/or evolutionary reasons one particular ethnic group might be more predisposed to playing one way or another. You probably would get a ton of grief for that. (More on that in a sec.) I do think your evaluation of female players getting played at more often, and their evolutionary adjustment to it, is spot on.

    As poker players, the faster we can identify patterns and tendancies, the sooner we can exploit them. When someone first sits down that you don’t know, you need to make some assumptions until you have played enough hands to alter your perceptions and assumptions.

    We automaticly group people by gender, age groups, similar features, skin colors, etc. We can also group by things such as sloppily dressed, buttoned up tight, athletic, overweight, wearing various different types of jewelry, kids tatted up with their pants pulled down, and underwear showing, Bikers proudly wearing their “colors”, sports fans wearing their favorite athlete or driver’s attire, etc. When I see the NASCAR fans and Bikers during “Bike week” and “Speed week” playing in the poker room in Daytona, it tells me that they are more than likely tourists, and are probably playing looser than they should, and just playing to have fun. I don’t know if that is quite as true at other times, but certain assumptions can be made. I appreciate any “poker profiling” of various groups that you can provide.

    As to not being able to be published “in a book from any major reputable publisher today”, I don’t think that is so important in this digital age. I think it’s much easier to be read and reach the masses now, more than ever before. Look at how fast ideas, both good and radical, are reaching the people in places like the middle east. I think one can say pretty much, just about anything one want’s to say, but should be aware that various people may react to what was said in ways that may or may not be expected.

    While, I do enjoy holding and reading a book. I have a couple of yours. :-) I think a reputable publisher better be thinking more about how to get good original content like yours to publish rather than censoring it, or they simply won’t be in business long. Can’t you pretty much just publish your own self on Kindle books or some digital form a lot cheaper? You probably just need a promoter more than a publisher.

    Words have power. An Author and I suppose, to a lessor extent, a publisher should be held accountable for their words, but its not like you are promoting hatred toward any particular groups. In fact you probably love them all as long as they are sitting at the table with you. :-) You were simply making observations that can serve as a guide for us to use when we lack other, more specific information, about various opponents, and I for one, appreciate it.

    Rock On Mike!

    P.S. Email us if you ever intent to come down for Bike week or anything. :-)

  6. Dear Mr. Caro,

    Oriental is not the preferred nomenclature; Asian-American, please. (Just a Lebowski reference ;)

    I am an Asian-American in the poker industry as a semi-professional player and dealer/supervisor of several cardrooms across the country. I have been immersed in this industry for almost a decade. Your book, Caro’s Book Of Tells, has been a very strong foundation for my poker knowledge.

    This article struck a nerve with me because I’ve used this article as a topic of discussion with a number of my poker colleagues and friends. I think it’s terrible that people put you under fire for political correctness. I find the statement that you’re “racist” is not even correct. Your section deals more with stereotyping in my opinion…

    People (and even some poker players) say they are “non-judgmental” or that they don’t stereotype, which is simply not true. From the moment you step foot into the cardroom, to the moment you decide to check/bet/raise, you are making judgments/stereotypes about everything… including the people you are playing against.

    The section of the book in question should be taken as such: informational, to allow the reader to make better judgments about the players they’re playing against.

    In my 10+ years in the poker industry, I have found your observations have a lot of truth. I’ve found people wearing religious amulets are more luck conscious and harder to bluff. I’ve found African-American men are more liberal gamblers. I’ve found Asian-Americans to be either very skilled or very luck-oriented.

    Within my own playing style, depending on conditions/circumstances, I’ve found that there is no middle ground for my playing style either. I am either playing very skillfully or I am playing to get lucky. I’ve used your information to help me recognize when I’m playing lucky, and how to create the appearance that I am playing lucky.

    The Poker Community should be thanking you for making the decision to include this in your book. If anything, it will help us all make more prudent decisions while playing poker, and hopefully these decisions will crossover into our daily lives as well.

    Thank you very much,
    ~Joe

    1. Hi, Joe —

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      You are right about “Asian” being preferred. But when the entry was first published (as a magazine column), “Oriental” was common and seldom deemed offensive — at least, in the publications I wrote for or in the circles I traveled. Incidentally, the Foreword to the book was written by David Hayano, an Asian anthropologist.

      Thank you for sharing your other insights.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  7. I’m a bit conflicted about the statements about African-American males. Not really because I think what you said is really racist, just that mostly it seems meaningless. You said essentially, some African-American men play poorly, people assume they are going to play poorly and the ones that don’t play as poorly as people assume have an advantage.

    To which I say, wow that is chock-full of nothingness. I am 41 years old but have been told I look much younger. If I sit down at a table with a hoodie on and a ball cap on backwards, I also can take advantage of people’s stereotypes.

    Recreational players gamble more liberally than profit seekers. Period. Doesn’t matter Black or White. If you had said Black males are stupid, then yes, you would be guilty of racism. What you actually said contained such broad generalizations as to not even be a good stereotype. I could substitute, “young”, “Indian”, “my friends” and oodles of other denominators in the place of “African-American” and it would still be true.

    On the subject of “political correctness”, most people who feel the weight of that yoke at it’s heaviest are those that want to be free to be jerks. I trust you are introspective enough to know when you are and aren’t being a jerk, so let your flag fly proudly, sir.

  8. To be a raceist in my opinion Mike, you must feel ill will towards someone simply because of their race. You are clearly not a raceist in my opinion. You are profiling people based on race and other things that you know about them – dress, posture, the way they talk etc. Poker is a game of few knowns and many unknowns. You must use what few knowns you have to deduce the many unkowns. Your ability to do just that makes you a great poker player, not a raceist.

    Love your term political correction – hope you don’t mind if I use it.

  9. I don’t see anything wrong with it.
    In my view it’s a bunch uptight people who don’t want political correction, or freedom of speech.

  10. Folks should learn to get over those ignorant racial remarks.

    its like complaining at the poker table.

    my inablility to show indifferance to a racial remarks just exposes my weakness to them. and others basically dont care much or use that information against me. even folks of the same race will use it to their advantage. you could equate this to being called a “donkey” at the table by someone who cold calls and overcalls raises regularly.

    if you dont beleive me just take a carefull look at some of the waves of actions reactions that are in the media today.

  11. It is such a shame that political correctness has swept this country, especially in our universities and our media. Where is the thinking going to be stimulated if it is not allowed ??? Sometimes those who should be stimulating act is if they were Nazis of Stalinists. Shame on them!!! Speak up America. It is your right to do so !!!

  12. Mr. Caro,
    I am an african-american. I feel conflicted as to whether I should mention that, because I don’t want people to give credibility to my opinion simply because of that fact. I completely support the comments in question. They pass no judgement but simply offer impartial observations (which can improve a player’s decision making). I believe your responses show class and intelligence, and I am sorry you have to answer to those who seek to attack rather than to understand. I know you are aware that what you said is justifable and accurate, so I am not writing to ease your conscience. I guess I just am angered at this sort of de facto censorship.

    Joseph

    1. Hi, Joseph —

      Thanks for joining our Poker1 family by making your first comment. Only your first one needs to wait for approval, so any future comments you make will be published immediately.

      Because I feel very strongly about my opinions expressed in the entry, I greatly appreciate reading your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to contribute.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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