Mike Caro poker word is Problems

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2010) in Poker Player newspaper.

During the past two weeks, I’ve delivered seminars at a World Poker Tour Boot Camp in Las Vegas and at sea during a Poker Player cruise.

In going over the tips and concepts presented, I tried to identify some that players might have problems understanding.

In this self-interview, I’ll talk about winning advice that is frequently ignored, forgotten, or poorly implemented. Ready, set, go…

Question 1: You teach that you should look for tells. Do players have any problems associated with that advice?

Yes, they often fail to spot tells, because they’re looking for too many at once. You’ll never master tells if you try to see everything. The trick is to focus on one player at a time. Really go to school on that player.

If after a half hour or so, it doesn’t seem as if the spotlighted player is going to demonstrate profitable tells, focus on someone else. You’ll discover that after hours or days of practicing to watch just one opponent, something miraculous has happened.

You’re now able to watch more than one player and you’re doing it instinctively without trying. But you’ll never get to that point if you start off by trying to scan the whole table for tells.


A second key error is that players overvalue tells. Few tells are 100 percent accurate. Mostly they should be weighed as just another factor, leading toward a decision to call, fold, check, raise, or bet, but not dictating that decision on their own.

If other factors strongly suggest that you should fold, then a tell indicating you should call will seldom be enough to change your decision. If it were a close choice, with folding being the seeming best choice, then a tell prompting you to call might be enough to switch your decision.

Remember, tells are very powerful, but they should seldom be used as absolute decision makers.


I suspect that many players forget to look for tells in the heat of the battle. They get so emotionally caught up in the action that compelling tells go unobserved.

Discipline yourself to look for tells before making a decision. If you make it part of a routine, you won’t forget.

Question 2: What do you teach about bankrolls that some players have trouble applying?

There are many problems to choose from regarding poker and money. Let’s go with this.

I urge players not to spend their bankrolls, but they do it, anyway. They misjudge the reality that bad losing streaks are inevitable, so they don’t keep adequate funding.

When you start with $1,000, win $25,000, spend $16,000, and lose $10,000, you’re still winning $15,000. But you’re broke.

Question 3: What poker tournament concept that you teach do players have the most trouble understanding?

I think it’s that you shouldn’t get desperate with a small stack late in a tournament. Remember, if you started an event with $1,000 in chips and late in the tournament you have $2,000 when the average stacks are $20,000, you’re still better off than you were at the first deal.

Not only have you doubled your chips, but most players have already gone home, so you’re closer to being in the money – if you’re not already there. You should cherish that stack, not rush to wager it in an attempt to catch up. The cards will either come or they won’t. Give them a chance.

Of course, if your stack grows so small that the blinds will eat it up almost immediately, then you’ll have to choose a hand to play quickly and take your chances. Otherwise, have patience.

By the way, the old saying that “chips have leverage” is false. If you’re heads-up at the end of a tournament with $20,000 in chips against an equally skillful opponent with $80,000, you have 20 percent of the chips and a 20 percent likelihood of winning. Your chances are proportional to the relative sizes of the stacks. Leverage doesn’t factor in, unless you let it.

Question 4: What problems do players have comprehending the nature of luck?

They’re intimidated by luck, because they believe in good and bad streaks. While lucky and unlucky streaks really do happen, they only exist looking backward – in the rearview mirror.

The next hand is always a fresh start, meaning that the streak might continue or it might not. But it’s no more likely to continue than it is to end. If those two possibilities were equal on the first deal, they’re equal now.

History has no bearing on luck. — 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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