Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
CLARIFICATION: Everyone should have the right to free speech. That isn’t the same as being qualified to express opinions. Speech is a universal human right. Everyone also must be able to express “opinions” legally, but not always ethically.
Poker players have opinions about rules, tactics, opponents, and more. Sometimes they let you know what they think and sometimes they don’t. I’m going to share some of my opinions with you today as this series of self-interviews continues.
Question 1: Everyone is entitled to an opinion, right?
Wrong. One of the great lies woven into our culture is the notion that everyone is entitled to an opinion. Why would that be? The very word “opinion” should have stature. It should convey that careful thought has been given, that all available evidence has been weighed, and that a conclusion has been reached.
In a court of law, a verdict is really just another word for an opinion. Suppose you’re on trial for murder and you didn’t do it. Most of us will face that situation sooner or later. Further suppose that the jury giggles, watches television, reads, and pays no attention to your trial.
Four minutes following the final lawyer summaries, they return with a guilty verdict. The press interviews the jury afterward and they say stuff like “He looked like he did it,” and “He reminds me of my uncle who had a bad temper.”
As you’re dragged off to prison, pending your execution, do you think that “Well, I don’t agree, but everyone’s entitled to an opinion,” will be the words you’re most likely to utter?
Whether we’re talking about cars, politics, or poker tactics, there should be no opinions until something is carefully examined. One of the things I like to blurt out, when someone says something like, “Jack believes that you should raise” is “Yes, but Jack isn’t entitled to an opinion.” My words have shock value, but they state an important truth.
And, you’re right, what I’ve just stated is only my opinion. But it’s one that I’m entitled to express, because I’ve carefully thought about it. Right?
Question 2: The poker community seems to consider you highly opinionated. Is that a good thing?
Your question is ambiguous. If you’re asking whether it’s a good thing that people think I’m opinionated, then I don’t know. I simply don’t have an opinion. Their perception is wrong, even though it might sometimes work in my favor and sometimes against me when people think that way.
If you mean: Is being highly opinionated a good thing, then no. It’s a bad thing, and that’s why I’m not opinionated. I say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” routinely. But when you read my books or columns or listen to my lectures, you’re bombarded with my opinions. That’s because I focus on the stuff I’ve actually analyzed.
The word “opinionated,” in my mind, applies to someone who needlessly forms and expresses opinions about too many things — favorite foods, how a poker hand should have been played, most-pleasing colors, traits of other people, best breeds of dogs. Ask them anything and they’ll tell you, even if they hadn’t thought about the question until that very moment. I try not to do that.
Question 3: What’s your opinion of poker ranking systems that honor the best players of the year?
They suck. They’re based on the number of money finishes, but they ignore how many events were actually entered. Look, I don’t have the time or the desire to hop from hotel to hotel playing 300 events a year. I play very few tournaments — sometimes none in a whole year.
What irritates me is that when people look me up on the Web, they see these cute little box scores that show how many times I’ve finished in the money and how much I’ve won total. If you compare that to others on the basis of average performance per event entered, I’d rank highly.
But that isn’t done. My results for say, 30 events, are compared to pros who’ve entered 2,000 events in the same time span. Clearly, pros like me would rather have our results unreported.
What’s the solution? Just use the Mike Caro Tournament Ranking Method. It’s based on players having to belong to a governing body that administers the rankings and tournaments that subscribe.
Then the players have to be logged into any tournaments they participate in. Then we know how many they played and what their average results were. Obviously, you’d need to participate in a minimum number of events to qualify, but at least we’d end up with a player of the year that makes more sense.
Question 4: How should poker players form their opinions about strategy and tactics?
By trying not to form opinions. You’ll be much more successful as a decision maker if you leave conclusions unresolved. Once you close the book on something, you’re married to that opinion.
If you haven’t carefully analyzed the situation beforehand, you’re stuck with using tactics that may be completely wrong. Don’t form opinions about how to play hands until you’re sure you’re right. For most poker situations, when asked how to play a hand, you should probably say, “I’m not sure yet.”
Question 5: In your opinion, will hold ’em remain the dominant form of poker 50 years from now?
I don’t know, and I don’t care to guess.
Well, I could speculate. It seems unlikely to me that hold ’em — and particularly no-limit hold ’em — will maintain its dominance. The most likely happening is that, half a century from now, an entirely new form of poker will take hold and dominate the scene, only to be replaced by another form after that.
Those are some of my opinions. I’m always honored to hear yours. But one thing I’ve learned about poker and life is it’s more profitable to avoid forming opinions about things that you haven’t examined. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Cheat