McHaffie: MCU lesson 020 / Play your best game

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 20: Striving to play your best game — the secret

One of Mike’s favorite products among poker players was an audio called “Positive Poker.” Unfortunately it isn’t currently being distributed. The lesson on it became a part of Mike’s routine teaching, a rule to live by day to day.

He starts the audio lecture by saying he’s about to share with you the most important secret there is to winning at poker. The he goes on to reveal that secret to you. The secret is this: “Play your best game all the time.”

I mentioned this concept to you in an earlier lesson, but it is of the utmost importance. You’re probably thinking, “That’s the secret? Just play my best game ‘all the time’? Not a problem. That’s easy.” Ah, but it’s not always so easy.

It’s quite obvious that almost no one really considers the importance of that secret, so few of us actually play our best game all the time. The more you practice it, though, the closer to perfection you’ll get and the more successful you’ll be. Mike teaches that this applies to your everyday life as well as in poker.

Strive for it

I think what Mike is trying to say is, you should strive to play your best game, knowing full well you probably won’t be able to “all the time.” There are just too many factors that can figure in here. Too many things happen around you that can affect your play. What happens to your game when you’re distracted by emotional stress, when you’re not alert, or otherwise not focused?

Well, here’s another secret Mike taught me. It applies to what I’ve just told you. The secret is all about how you handle yourself at the exact moment you realize you’ve gone off track. That sliver of time is of extreme importance to you. It will determine whether you’ll lose money or win money.

You see, it’s a lot like laying tile. You have a chalk line that you have to follow to lay the tile straight. It has to be a perfect line. If you don’t lay the tile directly on that line, then they won’t be even and the room won’t square up properly. Yet, even if you’re the best tile layer, you can be distracted.

What do you do? A good tile layer will immediately correct his mistake. This applies to everyday life as well, even though the lines aren’t so clearly defined in real life or in poker. It’s so easy to be distracted, whether by little things or major happenings.

You’ll see poker players trying to play well, and then they make a mistake. That one mistake can change their strategy and impair their ability to play well for hours. What happened?

Don’t make it worse

What happened is similar to a tile layer who didn’t discover his error until he’d placed several tiles slightly off the line and decided he could just cut the other tiles to fit and hope the clients don’t notice. It wasn’t perfect, it would take to long to correct, so he quit trying to make it perfect. All he managed to do was compound the error and make the matter much worse by failing to correct it. This small failure to correct could cost him money on this job and any future jobs. He stopped caring about getting it as close to right as possible and doing his best all the time. Instead he settled for something far worse. That was stupid!

The same thing applies to poker. Just because you made a mistake, don’t make the matter worse by becoming frustrated, and dwelling on it. Don’t let that one mistake prevent you from playing your best on the remaining hands. If you strive for perfection, even though you know it’s not always possible, don’t let a small imperfection tarnish your game and affect you profits.

Treat poker as you would real life. If you stray from the straight chalk line, don’t become frustrated and make it worse. Adjust and continue to strive for perfection. — DM

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