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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 12: Profit from “Caro’s Law of Loose Wiring”
Mike says that people in everyday life or in poker are subject to making decisions at whim.
Before we continue, we need to read Caro’s Law of Loose Wiring:
“If choices are not clearly connected to their benefits, people usually interact in ways that make outcomes unpredictable. Even if choices are clearly connected to their benefits, people sometimes act in ways that make outcomes unpredictable.”
We have a tendency to try to imagine how our families, friends, and even our enemies will act based on how well we know them and how they’ve reacted in the past. What we fail to realize sometimes, is that their decisions are not always straightforward. It isn’t always clear what the benefit to a decision might be, so we then make a spur of the moment one.
Then we complicate matters further. Anyone acting after we do has been surprised by our decision and it changes theirs. Everyone thereafter is faced with different decisions. Whether in poker or everyday life, this can result in almost any outcome. These decisions can be the cause of love or hate, success or failure, yes, even peace or war.
There is no place where this is more obvious than in poker.
If players have a very strong hand or a very weak hand, their decisions can be obvious. If the outcome is clear, players usually will act in a predictable manner. If their hand is borderline and they are hesitating about what to do, then they can be influenced in their decision. Therefore, they can be easily manipulated.
Mike teaches an example where one pot is huge and another pot small. He explains that these two imaginary games were played with the same people, holding the same cards, and the same money, yet the outcome was entirely different. It’s because choices aren’t always clear to us, and the benefits remain fuzzy. This applies to poker, as well as real life. So, if a player who could have folded changes his mind and decides to play, maybe the next player who would have played decides to fold, instead. Then everyone is faced with a new scenario and different decisions.
Many of those decisions were made at whim, decided at the last moment. Players are unsure, ready to tip in either way. And you might tip them just by moving around impatiently in your seat. They might become suspicious and decide to call. What if you sit very still? They could decide to fold. They are so insecure that you have the power.
When one player acts on whim, it sometimes has a domino effect, and other players will also act on whim. Many times just a comment can determine how an opponent will act. Maybe an opponent is thinking about a phone call from his mom, or an argument with his wife, and he suddenly makes a decision, and it’s purely on impulse, without logic, just a whim. That can determine how the next player will act, and continues on down the line.
It’s difficult to predict how opponents will play a hand. They probably even surprise themselves sometimes.
Most poker players, whether they’re newcomers or professionals, are often unpredictable. You don’t know from moment to moment what they’re moves are going to be, or what could set them off. A glance, a smile, a joke, clicking your tongue, whistling, sniffing, anything can shift their concentration, change their attitude, even anger them. With a poker player anything is possible.
So, to sum it all up, poker pots are often built on whims. Players can be unpredictable. Their actions often can be the result of others’ actions at the table.
Mike says that opponents are easily swayed by specific things you say and do. In the future, I’ll share those secrets with you, too. — DM