Book (Caro on Gambling) 03. Winning attitude

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.

Caro on Gambling

Chapter 3: In search of the right winning attitude

Chapter index (pending)

Pretend I’m dead. The autopsy shows no evidence of alcohol or drugs. No foul play is suspected. You approach my body, inspired by a mysterious smile frozen on my lips. Is it a trick? You watch for subtle movement; you listen for some sign of shallow breathing.

Finally, you shake your head dismally. “I guess Mike Caro isn’t bluff­ing,” you whisper to yourself. Maybe it’s a case of poker fatigue, but who cares? Dead is dead.

Please use all your best powers of imagination. It is very important that this vision appears real. Still not convinced? You study me for a very long time, but there is no indication of life. No faint flutter of an eyelid.

Suddenly I speak. Immediately you know damn well you’re going to listen and obey. The first thing that flashes to mind is that old saying: Dead men don’t tell lies. But like many folk sayings, this one has crum­bled under recent scientific investigation. It turns out that some dead men do tell lies. In particular, dead politicians lie. Dead fishermen lie. Even dead preachers lie. But you’re aware of another recent scientific finding: Dead gamblers never lie.


That’s why you’re prepared to accept anything I say without argu­ment. I’m glad, because if you were just reading the following ideas anywhere else, you’d consider them opinion. This way you’re going to know they’re the truth and you’ll obey and profit.

So keep imagining.

The voice that comes from me is powerful and authoritative. It seeps from everywhere although my smile doesn’t budge. Clearly this is not a voice emanating normally.

My first words are: “Why do you gamble?”


Please choose your response from the following list:

(1) I gamble for the challenge.

(2) I gamble because I’m bored.

(3) I gamble to win money.

(4) I gamble to lose money.

(5) I gamble to be social.

(6) I gamble for the excitement.

(7) I gamble because it makes me happy.

(8) I gamble because I’m sick.

(9) I gamble because nobody cares.

Answer accepted

When you’ve given me your answer, I respond, “That’s pretty good. Actually, I was prepared to accept any answer you offered. You see, gambling needs no justification. If I’d asked you why you drink water, you might have said, ‘Because I’m thirsty’ or ‘To stay alive’ or ‘I’m try­ing to get wet.’ Whatever you said would have been fine with me, because you can always supply a reason although you never need one.”

You think about this for a few seconds. Although the truth looks a lit­tle vague, you are very sure these words will prove helpful. After all, they were uttered by a dead gambler.

I continue, “Instead of the answer you gave me, you should have said, `I gamble to get it over with.’ Now there’s a powerful truth! Everyone gambles to get it over with! That’s the secret. No matter what causes you to gamble — a will to win, a will to lose, the need for excitement — your true hidden motivation is always to get it over with. You must under­stand that.”

“This is beginning to make sense,” you say politely, although you’re not quite certain.


“Everyone is a compulsive gambler. Being a compulsive gambler is no worse and no better than being a compulsive breather. It is everyone’s nature to gamble. Don’t confuse being a compulsive gambler with being a compulsive loser. All the greatest professional gamblers have sooner or later decided to come to terms with their true natures.”

“But I know a lot of people who hate to gamble,” you object.

“They may have contempt for formalized games of chance, but they do gamble,” I assert. Your spine tingles because you’re hearing the wisdom of the dead. “And even though they may think they hate taking chances, they all do it.

“Everyone reaches out for risk. Everyone craves it. Some people may unconsciously seek out dangerous personal relationships. Rather than settle on a stable romance, they create an explosive situation in which they stalk a difficult reward while risking great pain. They are gamblers in the act of gambling.

“Every conscious act requires risk. Every conscious act requires decision. You put those two facts together and you realize that the secret to success in life is not to avoid gambling, but to gamble well.”


After another hour, you’re totally convinced of these truths:

(1) Every human being ever born was a compulsive gambler.

(2) Some gamblers compulsively win and some gamblers compulsively lose. Others compulsively don’t care.

(3) Humans who fear formal games of chance tend to trick themselves into gambling more heavily in their daily interactions.

(4) Your success in life is dynamically connected to the quality of your gambling decisions.

(5) People who realize they are gambling have a much better chance of winning than people who deny that they gamble.

(6) As a group, the world’s most reckless gamblers win life’s biggest pots and share life’s greatest miseries.

Some of these points you understood and some seemed obscure. Nonetheless, because these ideas all came from a dead gambler, you were glad you listened.


Finally, imagine that I left you with one command before my voice fell silent: “For one month, I want you to write a report at the end of each day. In a left-hand column, list the six most important events that hap­pened to you personally today. Then, starting at the top of the list, fill in a second column which briefly describes how that event related to gam­bling. To the right of that, mark whether the main decisions you made were ‘Conscious’ or ‘Unconscious.’

“Then, in the right most column, mark ‘Good Gamble,’ or ‘Bad Gamble.’

“By the end of the month, you will have regained permanent and critical control of your life. In everyday activity, in the casinos and at the poker tables, you will make winning decisions. Although you will still gamble to get it over with, your objective will always be profit. You will be your own best fan and your own greatest coach. Trust me; I’m dead.” — MC

Next chapter in Caro on Gambling (pending)

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. I do not know how you do it, but you just enlightened my mind ONCE AGAIN! Thank you Mr. Caro – THANK YOU!

    I am definitely going to do this new assignment. I can already tell that it is going to work because I was actually visualizing the whole time after you said to do so, HA!

    Awesome advice and I have never been bored when reading your literature. I am currently reading your most profitable hold’em advice book, taking it in one chapter and subject at a time and putting it to use weekly at the tables.

    I like to play the $30 NLH, $5 Bounty Tournament (No rebuys/add-ons) at the Eldorado in Reno a few times a week. It is about all I am really able to afford at the moment. It is a really fun and laid back tournament, at least for me. I have been playing with a lot of the other players now since 2008 when a similar tournament at The Sands (Terrible’s).

    Anyways, the bounty is $5 a head, and if you play just to survive as long as possible, you find that a lot of the other players accumulate their chips in the early rounds, but when the blinds get to be 400-800 with a 25 ante, they start to tighten up and that is when I play the best (with timid players), and end up at least making by buy-in back knocking out shorter stacks for the rest of the game.

    Usually, about 44 players show up and four places are paid and the prize pool is always at least $750, at least the lowest I have seen it. Five players, however, can agree to chop, and most do, including myself. I like to at least walk away with $150 after playing for two hours, so if the chop doesn’t yield that five-ways, then most will agree to wait until four players. No one usually looks at you funny if you don’t agree to a chop when the cut is so low. I find that $150 or more is fair.

  2. A test?

    Mike, please tell us what the pros are doing to gain all the chips during all stages of poker tourneys, what hands they never play, scratch that, what hands they will see a flop with from later positions – up against a raise. (a raise of just one player)

    1. Hi Tom, if you're still around; Full Tilt Strategy Guide, Tournament Edition is a very good, comprehensive work on tournament poker. It's a combined effort of many tournament pros. From your comment I think it'd answer a lot of questions about tournament play.

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