McHaffie: MCU lesson 002 / Object isn’t to win pots

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2003.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 2: The object of poker isn’t to win pots

Wow! I’ve finally been to a casino and played poker! I’ve only been to a casino one time before, in Kansas City, Missouri, 200 miles from my farm. At that time, I played slot machines, because I didn’t know anything about poker. I hadn’t learned the lesson I shared with you last time, about the games you can beat and the games you can’t.

I guess I imagined poker being played in a dim, back room full of cigar smoke, with crabby old men, drinking heavily and betting loudly while sitting around rickety tables piled full of beer bottles. Imagine my surprise when Phyllis Caro took me on a tour of the poker world she reigns over at Hollywood Park Casino. It was brightly lit, with large, oval, purple tables, and players from all walks of life were sitting in comfortable chairs. There wasn’t a pall of smoke hanging over the room or beer bottles, as I’d envisioned. I could hear the clink of chips and laughter, and I could feel the excitement. This casino was very different from the one in KC. This one didn’t have slot machines, only poker tables. Awesome! My heart beat fast in anticipation of playing.

Practice holding cards


I joined a table of 10 men and women of various ages to play a game of $2/$4 hold ’em. Here I was, actually holding the cards and handling the chips. You see, I hadn’t done this before. I’ve only played online poker. You don’t actually face real, live opponents online, just avatars. You don’t really touch the chips or handle real cards. This was totally different, and much more thrilling. Everyone should practice holding cards and handling chips before playing for the first time.

Another thing, when you receive your cards, wait until the second one is dealt, then hold them close together and cup your hands protectively around them, barely raising them to see what cards you were dealt. Memorize them, the suit and the rank. Then you shouldn’t have to look at them again.

After playing, I wandered around, watching other tables. I noticed one man playing almost every hand. He would mostly call, very seldom raise, but he almost never folded. As my second lesson at Mike Caro University, Mike explained that if you never passed and you called every bet, it would be possible to win more pots than anyone, but you’d run out of money fast. You couldn’t win enough pots to equal the losses. So those who win the most pots also lose the most money. That sure makes you think, doesn’t it?

Don’t try to win pots

Well, certainly I’d like to win the most pots, but I don’t like the idea of losing more money. I don’t want to lose hands. I want to know which hands are the better ones to play. The man I was watching wasn’t interested in that. He was actually winning pots and still losing money. He was trying to win too often, when he should have been considering making quality decisions in order to win money. Had he only played his best hands, and bet accordingly, he likely would be winning, not failing.

That’s it! If he had only played his best hands, then he probably would have more chips and more money. Just because you play your best hands doesn’t mean you’ll win every time, but it means you’ll win more often. You should make a deal with yourself that you won’t play 50 percent as good as you can, or 75 percent as good as you can, but 100 percent as good as you can, all the time.

So there is a lesson for all of us. The object of poker is to invest your money wisely, make quality decisions, and don’t try to win all the pots. — DM

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