McHaffie: MCU lesson 008 / Money management

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 8: Money management

Mike teaches poker students not to spend their bankrolls. That hit home, because I know a guy, Rick, who is a carpenter and he plays poker for sport. He told me about when he first started playing. “First I set aside a couple hundred dollars that I considered to be my bankroll. I was determined to treat poker like a business”

Then one day, a power saw that he depended on broke and he needed money to replace it. So, he took his poker winnings and bought a new saw to replace the broken one, confident he could win back the money quickly, as he had been winning regularly. However, it didn’t work. He hit a losing streak and didn’t have the money to keep playing.

Though he had the saw, he had no bankroll for poker. Normally, he would never have taken his household money or his business money to play poker with, so he should not have taken his poker money to buy other items, if he really intended to be serious about surviving at poker. Keep your bankroll totally separate. Rick couldn’t count on winning in the weeks ahead. Maybe you win, maybe you lose, but you just never know for sure.

Your bankroll

Mike’s warning about “spending your bankroll” applies often. Players seldom consider that long dry streak. You’ll have days where cards will fall bad. In fact, you’ll have weeks when they’ll fall bad, and maybe months when they’ll fall bad. Try to keep more in your bankroll than you would normally use, just for safety measures.

Protecting your bankroll is the most important issue for an accomplished player who wants to win consistently. Mike says that “money you can’t lose is exactly the same as money you win.” That does make sense, doesn’t it? Whether you didn’t lose it or you won it, it’s still money you have in your purse that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Players have an inclination to play differently when they’re losing than when they’re winning. This results in bankroll failure. When a player is losing, and his losses drop below what he considers permissible, he will usually get frustrated. From that moment on, continuing to lose doesn’t seem to affect him quite the same. He’s feeling picked on and he quits caring. He’s crossed the danger line (Mike calls this “Caro’s Threshold of Misery,”) where he’ll compound his losses.

The wrong attitude

Players have a tendency to treat poker sessions as a win-lose situation. Poker should not be considered in that perspective. It’s the wrong attitude to take into a game. You should start every game with a winning attitude. Each game is a fresh game. You’re not below or above anything; it’s a fresh start. You need to make correct, sensible decisions in order to win and to enlarge your bankroll.

Remember: Consider each hand dealt to you a fresh start, in which you’re neither losing nor winning, and during which you must make quality decisions. You should play intelligently and not risk your bankroll on impetuous decisions. Some players will quit playing intelligently once they’re losing. They take unnecessary risks. Also, some players will quit playing intelligently once they’re winning. You gain the advantage when you play intelligently always.

Keep in mind, whether you’re winning or losing, always make the best decisions. If you play sensibly and make good decisions, then your bankroll will remain intact.  — DM

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