Mike Caro poker word is Regulations

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2007) in Poker Player newspaper.

Let’s continue this series in which I get to both ask and answer the questions. This gives me a chance to teach what I want to teach or say what I want to say without being distracted by questions that seem off-topic to me.

Although I sometimes brag that I’m skilled in giving a perfunctory answer to a reporter’s question and then steering the response in a completely different direction of my choosing, why waste the time? These are the questions I want to be asked, and these are the answers I want to provide. I can’t say for sure that this method works for everyone, but it works for me.

By the way, a belated happy Thanksgiving to you. I forgot to say it last time.

Speaking of last time, the questions dealt with poker’s rules and regulations. And since I used up “rules” as the “Mike Caro poker word” in the previous entry, we’re left with “regulations” for today — although it’s the same damn thing. We’ve journeyed through question #12 so far, and common sense dictates we move on to question #13. Here it comes…

Question #13: Hey, Mike! You’ve contributed to several poker rule books in the past. What’s your second-favorite rule among those you added to the laws that govern poker?

Did you say my second favorite. Glad you didn’t ask for my thirty- first favorite! I think my second favorite rule is one that failed.

It was my Cards and Actions Speak rule that I tried to foist upon the Bicycle Casino (then called the Bicycle Club) just before it opened near Los Angeles about 1984. They made the mistake of sending me off alone to put the rules together, so naturally I ignored their group-meeting suggestions and came back with a rulebook that read just the way I wanted it.

Anyway, my proudest change was that I incorporated a rule saying it didn’t matter what you said your cards were or what you announced in the way of calling, betting, raising, or folding. Only your cards, as placed face-up on the table, mattered in a showdown. And only chips in the pot or cards actually abandoned constituted your decision on your hand.

Harder to abuse

Couldn’t that rule be abused? Of course! But it’s actually simpler and harder to abuse than most rules to that date or since. You could abuse my rule by saying “full house” when you didn’t have one and causing an opponent to take your word for it and throw a flush away.

And you could cause players behind you to fold by barking out “raise” and then just calling. There are all kinds of dirty tricks you could try, if you’re unethical. But that’s called angle shooting, and honorable players don’t shoot angles. Besides, I think casinos should be ready to bar opponents who habitual abuse rules in unintended ways.

The problem with having declarations be binding is that it leads to miscommunication and all sorts of arguments — and even more angle shooting. If a player mumbles, “Maybe I should bet,” and an opponent hears — or pretends to hear — just the word bet, well, the floor person gets called over and has to decide.


Or maybe a player stares at an opponent and challenges him with “You bet.” Same dispute possible. And a lot of players may speak strange English. Lots of opportunity for misinterpretation there.

I say the best way to handle this is to let players get accustomed to this absolute regulation: It doesn’t matter what you say; it’s just table talk. Always wait for an opponent to put chips in the pot or to throw cards away. Period.

I can’t really remember if my rules got changed before the Bicycle Club opened or after the rulebook was distributed. I think I remember that the rulebook was in circulation for a week or so. But I’ll leave it to Bicycle Club historians to set the record straight.

Question #14: What’s the sneakiest thing you’ve ever done with poker rules?

This also involved southern California card clubs. They decided to band together and create uniform rules. They had committees with representatives from all the clubs and debated and debated. Finally, the reached a consensus and wrote their rules.

Then they made the mistake of giving the final version of the rulebook to me to check for glitches. I found a few, but while I was at it, I inserted two new rules restricting tournament settlements into the text they’d given me to edit on computer.


When the rulebook was printed, my rules were included. My guess is that nobody noticed, because everyone thought the committee must have added those at a meeting they missed.

Who knows? All I know is the rules made it through, became law, and might still be part of the rulebook — if it’s still in use anywhere.

I now publicly confess this grave wrongdoing. You can imagine what it feels like to finally get this off my conscience. There’s actually a song in the musical A Chorus Line that will give you a clue how I feel. The character Diana sings it about her high school acting class. Look it up, if you’re curious.

Question #15: All right, you kept bitching about the “second-favorite” rule question. So, go ahead. What’s your favorite contribution to poker rule books?

That’s easy. I wrote a general rule for the old Horseshoe Club in Gardena, California about 1980. It has been borrowed by many other rulebooks and reads something like: Management reserves the right to make decisions that are in the best interest of the game, even if a technical interpretation of other rules may lead to contrary decisions.

The intent was to keep unscrupulous players from using rules to unfair advantage. You see, it’s impossible to create a poker rulebook that covers all situations without inviting abuse. This overriding rule prevents angle shooters from taking extreme advantage to the discredit of the game.

A companion rule said management could award a pot to a player who was clearly entitled to it, no matter what. That prevented arguments about whether the corner of a card belonging to the winning hand touched the discards and made the hand dead. If a player obviously won a pot, that pot wasn’t going to be forfeited on a frivolous technicality.

Time to go.  — 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.


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  1. When are we going to get, binding, international rules (like golf), where we can ,with certanty, walk into a casino, and not fall foul of some stupid local poker law!

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