McHaffie: MCU lesson 031 / Watching the “show”

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 31: Watching the great poker “show”

During the first two weeks in August we traveled to Atlantic City, where Mike filmed a new DVD at the Trump Taj Mahal. It was quite a learning experience for me. Not only were the tips that Mike provided on the new DVD enlightening, I also had the opportunity to observe Mike in live poker games.

He played at four different tables. It was the first time I actually got to watch him in real action as the “Mad Genius.” He is quite awesome to behold. The way that he plays to his opponents and manages them is better than watching a movie. Not only did he win every game he played, he had the players giggling as they gave him their money. I know, you’ve read about his style of play, but to see it in action is astounding. He calls it an “art form,” and I agree.

Poker psychology really is as important as Mike says it is. You’ll never be able to convince me differently after what I saw.

Enjoying the show

While on the east coast he had an opportunity to play in a private game. Everyone at the table was aware of who he was, even the college kids. They were all enjoying the show and seemed bemused watching the “Mad Genius” in action.  This is what he teaches, giggling and having a good time, but actually seeing it happening before my very eyes, and so smoothly, was awesome. I don’t think there is a poker player around that could have managed the table like Mike did, and produce such camaraderie as he did. The kids teased him, laughing with him. They mentioned reading his books and questioned him about tells. I believe Mike enjoyed it just as much as the other players did, even when he moved over to an even more serious game, where pots averaged thousands of dollars. I know I enjoyed watching him in action, practicing what he teaches me.

I found myself observing the other players and reading them. When you know what to look for, it’s occasionally easy to tell if they’re bluffing or holding a promising hand. I watched as one young man went all-in, and lost. He left the table disappointed, but returned a short time later, ready to give it another try. It wasn’t long before he was piling up the chips. Poker can frown on you one moment and smile the next.

Some of the younger players seemed easier to observe, as they hadn’t yet mastered hiding their responses. Even though they were in it for the money, they didn’t get angry or upset when they’d lose a hand, but just seemed to take it in stride. I’m sure that’s because Mike set the tone for the table. It was almost as if they were playing a video game instead of poker.

Psychological dominance

I have observed Mike playing in large tournaments, playing only the very good hands that might stand a better chance against his opponents. You take fewer risks in tournaments than in regular poker games. I noticed how different his playing was in regular games. He bluffed more, took more risks, and generally played more hands. This gave him the “psychological dominance” he talks about. It really works!

I never knew when he was bluffing. He joked about many of his hands, but you couldn’t tell whether he was serious or not. It was quite amusing when he actually told the truth about how poor his hand was, and they folded, because they wouldn’t believe him. Watching the “Mad Genius” in action in a regular poker game and not a tournament game is indeed a sight to behold and an experience that everyone should be able to experience at least once in a lifetime. — DM

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