McHaffie: MCU lesson 016 / Invested in the pot

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2004.

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 16: Who Care what you invested in the pot?

People sometimes have a tendency to call more often when they think that they have “invested” too much into the pot. So they feel obligated to pursue their investment. Then they continue chasing a poor decision, just because it seems right at the time. They justify this decision, thinking that they already have money out there, so they need to protect it further, whether it’s right or wrong.

Today I’m gong to teach you why what you have invested in the pot makes no difference at all in arriving at the right poker decisions. Real life works in much the same way. Many things happen in the past to influence our way of thinking, but what is most important is what is happening today, right now. That is what will shape our decisions for the present. Mike teaches that previous investments are historically interesting, but since they are obviously in the past, they have very little influence on present decisions.

Most decisions should be based on how things are right at this moment. You usually can’t predict the future, so it’s pointless to base your decisions on unforseeable future happenings. In trying to decide whether to purchase a business, past value shouldn’t be a factor.

If you’re looking to sell your business, you should consider what your business is worth right at this moment, not what is was worth years ago, what you’ve invested, or what it could be worth in the future. When an offer is made for your business, you have to keep in mind whether it’s more or less than what the business is worth?

How it relates to poker

For most people, it’s easier to visualize these concepts in everyday real life than it is in poker. But, the same thing does apply to poker. The money that you personally have invested in the pot should not reflect on whether you call a bet or fold. It is incidental.

At MCU, we learn that the pot is worth whatever is is worth, nothing more, nothing less. How much or how little of your money is in the pot is irrelevant. It shouldn’t make the decision any different to you. Once you have put money in the pot, it’s just there. It has the potential of belonging to anyone.

Now your only decision should be how much it is going to cost you to call, if the risk is actually going to be worth it, and if the pot is big enough to be worthwhile calling. Is the risk going to justify the call? Can you live with the decision? Is the outcome going to be to your liking? These are questions that come up in business or everyday life constantly.

Dealing with the present

When you weigh these questions in regard to poker, then you won’t make mistakes by calling at inappropriate times. You’ll discover that it isn’t so important who put the money in the pot, only that it is actually there. Your decisions in everyday life, as well as poker, should be based on what is there — what is presently before you and how it effects you right now. It shouldn’t be based on how anything got there. You’re dealing with the present.

What is the outcome going to be if you call? Is the pot worth it? That’s relevant. What is irrelevant is how much you have invested. If the pot isn’t worth calling, why invest more? Would you continue to throw away good money on a poor investment in everyday life? Then why continue to do so now. Consider that very seriously before making the call.

Remember, how you arrived at your decision might be interesting in evaluating other strategies in the future, but it doesn’t have a bearing on your decision right now.   — DM

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  1. Nice one, Diane! enjoyed this one. ¿Is this what in poker is usually called “pot-committed”? Best Regards from, Argentina

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