Mike Caro poker word is Worse

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

This is part 5 of a six-part series of entries exploring life-strategy that relates to poker.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Part 4 | Part 5 (this part) | Part 6

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We’re about to examine three new concepts that you can take straight from the poker table and use for real-life success. There’s much similarity between poker and situations you face everyday beyond the cardrooms. That’s why when I founded MCU, I gave it a full title that includes more than poker. In full, MCU stands for Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. In recent columns, we’ve been focusing on that last part — life strategy.

Very briefly, here’s what we’ve discovered so far:

  1. You shouldn’t fret over each injustice, because you can predict in advance that approximately, oh say, 302 incredibly stupid, insensitive, inexplicably misfortunate things are going to happen to you each year. Most of this will be trivial stuff that temporarily irritates you. If only 290 such things occur, you’re having a good year, and yet most of us still waste precious time being agitated. Use that time productively, instead.
  2. Don’t be jealous of your friends’ successes. You might benefit when your friends advance or get lucky. If your enemies succeed, that’s bad. So always cheer for your friends, despite any natural tendency to be envious.
  3. Don’t play fancy when your luck is bad. In poker and in life, it’s difficult to get your way when your performance doesn’t seem impressive to others. When you’re winning or on a roll, others subconsciously help you along. Without that element in your favor, you need to play a quieter, more routine game. Anytime you’re running bad, consider playing tighter at the poker table and being temporarily less assertive in real life.
  4. There’s a positional advantage in poker and also one in everyday life. As long as you know you’re going to get a turn, it’s almost always better to act last.
  5. In poker or in life, it’s silly to modify your strategy toward success to get even with someone. The object is to make gains, to progress. It doesn’t matter where those gains or that progress comes from. It all counts the same. Seldom modify your best strategy to get even with any individual.
  6. You should never humiliate your opponents unless there’s no chance you’ll ever match up against them again. Whenever possible, let those you conquer save face. That way they’ll be less motivated to target you in the future.
  7. Just as you must keep your hand secret in poker, you should usually do so in real life. Unless there’s a potential gain from “showing” your real life hand, keep private information to yourself. If you look back on your life, you probably can see more times you should have protected sensitive secrets than times you benefited by sharing them. That advice sometimes doesn’t apply to those closest to you or to occasions when you can generously share information with no potential harm to yourself. But if the information has value as a secret, make sure you’re comfortable about sharing it or that you’re gaining something in exchange.

Today, we’ll visit the next three concepts that overlap our poker and everyday lives. Then, in the next entry, we’ll cover the final two. Here are today’s three real-life tips, taken from my archives. Notice that #8 contains today’s word, “worse.”

8. Never make anything worse. Sure, it sounds obvious? But guess what? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t make things worse sometimes, including myself. People get angry, and they make things worse. They lose at business or at romance, and they make things worse.

It’s because they’re feeling so miserable that those extra losses don’t seem to register. In gambling, I call this dangerous practice crossing the threshold of misery. Here’s how it works.

A player sits down at a poker table thinking that the worst that can happen is he’ll lose $500. Everything goes wrong and suddenly he’s losing $1,000. He has now crossed the threshold of misery and maximized his ability to register pain. Losing $1,114 doesn’t feel any worse than losing $1,000. That extra $114 doesn’t matter, and so he concentrates less and plays worse.

Add up

It happens all the time in life. Romance does this to you. Unexpected misfortune does this to you. Decisions that would normally matter (like that extra $114 in poker) don’t seem to matter by comparison. But these decisions all add up.

In life people who are heartbroken sometimes make the worst business decisions imaginable. Those decisions don’t seem to matter much compared to the heartbreak. And those bad decisions all add up, and eventually they will matter.

In poker, many lifelong losing players would actually be lifelong winners if they simply never made things worse. Worse out of anger, worse out of exasperation, worse out of apathy, worse out of self-pity, worse out of temper. If it doesn’t matter now, it will matter tomorrow. So from now on, promise yourself you will never make things worse.

9. What you’ve already invested doesn’t matter. Too many poker players damage their bankrolls by calculating how much they personally “invested” in the pot before making their decision about whether to bet or fold. Don’t do that.

The pot, all that money you’re competing for, is simply there. It doesn’t matter where it came from or how much of it you invested. It wouldn’t matter whether it had originally been all yours or whether the players just happened to find it forgotten on the table. The pot belongs to no one right now.

Same in life. It doesn’t matter how much money, how much time, how much effort you have invested in a project.


Say you purchased land for $200,000. One morning you wake up and it’s only worth $100,000. That same day, someone offers you $160,000.

You should accept this offer, because you’re not losing $40,000, you’re gaining $60,000. What the land used to be worth doesn’t matter, and what you’ve invested doesn’t matter. You don’t need to win on this investment.

The trick is to make winning decisions again and again and let lifelong success take care of itself. Without considering taxes, write-offs, or anything else that will complicate this example, the land is worth $100,000 now. You can get $160,000 by selling. Selling is the right decision, and it has value–in this case, $60,000.

10. Never seek sympathy. I teach gamblers never to complain about bad luck. First of all, nobody really cares. Their own exaggerated memories of personal bad luck dwarf whatever you’re complaining about.

And if you complain to opponents–such as in a poker game–they’re inspired because you’re unlucky. They’ll think you’re not a force to be reckoned with, they’ll play better, and they’ll cost you money.

It’s the same in life. There’s absolutely no reason to tell tales of misfortune. You’ll inspire life’s opponents, and you’ll lose esteem among life’s allies. So, if your luck is bad, keep it to yourself. — MC

Continue to Part 6

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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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