Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. This entry was part of the book Caro on Gambling, first published in 1984. Mike Caro has made exclusive modifications, enhancements, and edits to some of these Poker1 entries, while leaving the book’s original content mostly intact.
Chapter 1 was also his first column on gambling, published a few years earlier in Gambling Times magazine.
Caro on Gambling
Chapter 1: Plodders vs. adventurers
Chapter index (pending)
I hate money management. But wait! That’s no way to begin a book on scientific gambling. After all, experts agree that money management is vital to a stable and secure bankroll. Sorry, I just blurted it out before I could stop myself, and now it’s too late to take it back.
At least let me assure you that, in the pages ahead, we’re going to tackle some really important stuff.
Fine. But, read the opening line again. Doesn’t that strike you as a wildly irresponsible statement, coming from a presumed authority on poker tactics and probability?
Okay. Let me explain. Maybe you remember seeing posters in your high school hallways that read, “Sex!” and then in smaller print, “Now that we’ve got your attention, don’t forget to tell your parents about the P.T.A. meeting this Friday . . . ” That advertising technique is tested and proven. Start off with something to win their attention. Next, bombard them with the real message.
But isn’t that a dirty trick, far beneath the dignity of this book? Good question.
Anyway, now that all the ploys have been played, now that all the advertising techniques have been tried, now that we’ve gotten all the fun and frivolity out of the way, what’s the real subject of this chapter?
I already told you — Money Management — I hate it!
I can’t even stand the way it’s spelled. Why should a fifteen-letter term waste 40% of itself on M’s and N’s? But that’s just a minor grievance.
What really makes me mad is the way advocates of Double M go around preaching. They rely heavily on an almost spiritual concept called “stop loss” to protect them. They’ll admonish you to risk only a specified percentage of your bankroll each day.
To risk less is acceptable, but to risk more is grave transgression. Not content simply to claim that this magic maximum percentage was whispered by a prophet in the men’s room, they argue that mathematicians have proven that theirs is the most profitable long-range approach for us all.
I’d like to respectfully point out the stupidity of this advice.
First. One valid reason to apply a stop loss is to prevent yourself from losing more than you’re psychologically able to handle. Another is to safeguard yourself from devastating losses in situations where you may have miscalculated your profit potential.
Conversely, it would be inexcusable to use a stop loss in a poker game where you know your hourly expectancy is $50, you feel alert, you want to play, and you can emotionally tolerate a big loss. If under those circumstances, you quit three hours early because you’ve reached a pre-established loss limit, the average cost is $150.
I call this “the column that accidentally destroyed a thousand bankrolls.”
It was the first piece I ever wrote for Gambling Times magazine, in 1984. It also became the first chapter in my book Caro on Gambling.
The problem was, many previously successful plodders decided it was better to be adventurers and overplayed their parts. That wasn’t my intention. There’s nothing wrong with plodding. — MC
Second. There is no maximum mathematically correct percentage of your bankroll you should be willing to risk on a given day. The more you wager relative to the size of your bankroll, the better your chances are of achieving sudden riches, and the more likely you are to go broke in the attempt.
We’ll leave discussions of the Kelly criterion and such for another day. For now, just remember that when you risk less, you’re more secure, but you can’t win as much. So there you have it, the simple truth. The amount of money you should bet is not governed by any universal formula. It is determined by you, your spirit, your courage, how much you value security and how well you can tolerate the pain of losing.
There seem to exist two main categories of professional gamblers. Those who plod along securely, accumulating their bankrolls methodically, and those who treat gambling as an adventure. Both groups have mastered techniques which afford them a winning edge.
The plodders prize security above all else. For them I recommend a solid system of money management.
The adventurers are willing to risk great agony in the pursuit of giant rewards. They tend to prance about the ladder of success, fearing less the sensation of a great fall than the humility of hanging idle. Here are the heroes in Western movies, ready to wager the ranch on the turn of a card.
Let’s be honest. You and I both admire the adventurers more than the plodders.
Just about every world-class poker player I’ve ever known is an adventurer. Occasionally they may mumble something about money management but they don’t use it very effectively. It goes against their nature. They’re too daring, too courageous and, maybe, too reckless. Sure, sometimes they go broke, but not very often, and they can handle the pain when it happens.
Imagine a no-limit, heads-up poker contest between a plodder and an adventurer. Let’s say they both have equal technical skills. Want a word of advice? Don’t bet on the plodder. He has no heart.
Usually, plodders won’t play against strong opposition, anyway. Challenge them and you’re apt to hear, “There’s a hundred soft spots around town. Why should I play against you?”Adventurers don’t think that way. You’ll see two world champions, Doyle Brunson and Bobby Baldwin — the best of friends away from the table — battling head-tohead for big stakes.
Why? Simple. That’s how you get to be the best. You can’t be a great prizefighter by beating up kids on the playground. Sooner or later you’ve got to fight a guy who’s likely to smash your face in. Adventurers welcome the opportunity to meet tough opponents. Plodders run and hide.
So thoroughly have plodders saturated gambling literature with their Double M fetish that a carefree gambler can’t risk much of his bankroll without feeling guilty.
If you ever find yourself churning in misery after a terrible loss, you have a friend. You’ll get no lectures here, only sympathy. If you’re an adventurer, come out of hiding. Spread the word: The tyranny of Double M is over. Mike Caro thinks you’re a hero! — MC
Next chapter in Caro on Gambling (pending)