Mike Caro poker word is Patience

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.

I don’t like to talk much about patience, because I tend to fidget when I’m bored. Nevertheless, patience can be important in poker, just as Uncle George probably told you.

And today’s self-interview deals with that, possibly in ways you’re not expecting. Here’s the first question…

Question 1: Is patience the most important discipline needed to win at poker?

Absolutely not. In fact, you might not need to be patient to win at poker.

Patience can conceivably be important, true, but theoretically it also might be unnecessary. I don’t believe in sit-and-wait poker, except in unusual situations for which that turns out to be the best tactic. What I believe in is making something happen. I believe that money flows your way when you advertise and make yourself noticed.

You’ve got to be the force to be reckoned with at your table. And you’ve got to build that image even when you’re being dealt meaningless cards, even when you’re folding hand after hand.

Question 2: But if you’re folding hand after hand, you’re being patient, right?

Not necessarily. You might be just plain irritated, having no patience at all. I think what Uncle George meant is that you can’t yield to your feelings of impatience and end up playing hands you know aren’t profitable. You’ve got to wait.

Fine. But you can wait patiently or impatiently and you’re still going to end up playing only money-making hands.

So, I guess we’re talking about terminology. If the word patience means waiting, then you often need patience to win at poker. But if it means feeling okay about waiting, then you don’t need patience, because whether you feel good or bad about the wait won’t affect your profit if you play poker correctly.

If you’re impatient by nature, you’re probably thinking, “Easier said than done.” You’re right. Many players let their boredom influence their hand selection and they find themselves playing cards that lose money. They become losers, even though they have enough knowledge and skill to win.

Question 3: Is there a solution?

You bet. You’ve got to occupy your mind with things that help you win. Observe the players around you as they interact with their opponents. Look for trends; look for tells.

Take mental notes or even write stuff on paper. Count the number of players in the pot. Keep your mind busy. Observe. You’re making money when you do that; you’re preparing for confrontations to follow.

Think of it as training for the football game on Saturday. You’ll have preparation sessions beforehand. But in poker, those training sessions don’t need to be scheduled one-after-another before the game; they can come during the game. Remember, you’re always preparing for the next hand.

Question 4: Besides observation, is there any other way to use your idle time at the poker table?

Yes. You need to continually build your image.

Often this means being part of the game even when you’re not playing hands. As an example, never forget that you need to make friends with players on your left, so that they’ll be less likely to maximize their positional advantage against you.

And if you’re in a drought and haven’t played for a long time, try saying something like, “I haven’t played in 12 hands. That’s probably a record for me, but it goes to show that what everyone says isn’t true. I really can play tight sometimes.”


Okay, let’s unscramble that babble.

You’ve actually pointed out that you haven’t played any hands. You’d think that would work against you, since you want to build a loose image that invites weak calls and earns extra money.

But you’ve said something else. You’ve asserted that “what everyone says isn’t true.” You seem to be arguing that you can sometimes play sensibly, but you’ve instilled doubt in opponents, because “everyone else” believes differently.


You’ve actually made yourself seem loose by arguing that you can play tight, despite what others say. Nobody challenges the assertion that others say you’re loose – even though you might have completely made it up. That’s because you’re arguing against what they say, not directly making a point of asserting that they say it. It’s a subtle mind-manipulation trick that works every time.

The psychological value of this kind of statement is much superior to: “I usually play really loose. Ask my wife.”

Okay, I guess I’ve wandered off the topic again. My answer is that you can use time between played hands not only to observe, but to prepare an image that will earn more money for you when good cards eventually come.

Question 5: So what’s the secret to winning at poker if you’re impatient?

The secret is to recognize that the dealing of the cards isn’t the only thing going on. You have fascinating and profitable events to observe. You have an image to build. These things occupy your mind and – unfortunately – will be interrupted when you absolutely must take time out to play a hand.

Sound ridiculous? Maybe. But it’s the truth, and once you understand it and play poker with that attitude, you’ll never destroy your bankroll through lack of patience. — MC

Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Prevent

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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.


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  1. It’s a terrible feeling sitting there mucking hand after hand, thinking sooner or later you will get a hand. Theres 22 hands I consider playable hands. I should get one on average every 7.7 hands. This don’t mean I play them. It depends on position, the the bets and raises. However, I should average one each round in a 9 seat table. I recently broke my own record by going 62 hands without a playable hand. It was hard to keep patience, but I did and it turned around later and I started getting my average again. But it was hard. I wanted so bad to play 9 10 off suit and other junk hands.

  2. Hello Mike, Its been awhile since I have posted on here. I have been in a type of poker limbo this past few months. I am having some serious patience problems. All of those things you mention in the article are great and I do implement them. It dont really matter because I put myself on tilt and start playing hands I shouldnt. If you knew me personally I am easy going low key personality. Even my therapist thinks im boring lol seriously she told me that. But back to patience im struggling in this area all I do is try to study and play poker I very seldom get to play live at casinos being that there so far away and the expense of staying all night etc. Actually I have only got to play twice 1st time was a losing session and 2nd time I won. I guess what I am getting at is I have been playing 2 years reading countless books videos playing online but all I play is NL holdem. I like draw but nobody plays it. My goal is to get a great understanding in holdem before I move to another game like omaha etc. Maybe that isnt one of my best ideas but I have been committed and I have had my successes. I think another problem of mine is im not one to make friends easily im on the defensive alot so you are pretty much the only one I can speak to about poker that understands so regardles if you respond thanks for listening and im looking forward to poker1 being completed,
    David Adkins

    1. Hi, David — I think a good technique is to enter games with the expectation that it’s going to be boring. You’re not looking for amusement park adventures.

      You’re there (physically or online) to make money, and you realize that it’s just a job. In many ways, your job is routine and repetitive. Also, pretend you’ve been employed to play with someone else’s money — someone who doesn’t care about your results, only about whether you make the decisions you were hired to make. That works, too.

      Many players sit at tables hoping for excitement, but that’s the wrong way to approach poker. Expect boring and, if something else happens that’s favorable to you, consider it a bonus.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  3. wow… another great articel. Im happy I found this site. This is all great stuff and like the game within the game. Poker offers so much for people who want to be truly involved in the moment. I find I make the best decisions when im focused on the NOW! Great article and a good response by Thomas Foster!

  4. I’m a big fan of the Dog Whisperer. When a dog doesn’t like something that seems weird, he’ll often say, “yeah, he’s uncomfortable. But he’s got to experience it, so he can let go of it.” (Or something.)

    That is something I keep thinking about in people situations. (We’re “pack” animals, too …) Quitting smoking was one. This seems like another.

    The problem, as you pointed out, isn’t the impatience. It isn’t the boredom. The problem is in succumbing to the desire to avoid the boredom; and in covering that feeling up with self-destrutive habits. (Maybe self-destructive isn’t the right word, but if you deminish my stack it sure feels like you’ve deminished me!)

    So folding 20 times in a row is awful. That’s no reason to start imagining your table mates naked, or trying to figure the square root of 28. If you’re not experiencing your situation, you’re not engaged. If you’re not engaged, you can’t do your job. And if you’re not doing your job, why, exactly, are you sitting there? Perhaps you’re in a madcap scheme to donate blinds?

    Thanks for the reminder.

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