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 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 email@example.com.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 32: Insanity as an image
After watching Mike play live poker in New York, I found this lesson to be appropriate. In the beginning the “Mad Genius” was known as “Crazy Mike” because of the image he created. Somewhere along the way he switched titles, but the image still remains. I looked up the meanings for crazy and mad. They’re one and the same. The only thing that really changed was he became Genius instead of Mike. But Genius does fit him. He’s researched poker, gambling, statistics, and life strategies. He’s earned the Genius part of the title.
In the earlier days he was researching on how images affected poker play. His first question was “How could you get more calls when holding a winning hand?” Should you act angry, friendly, impassive, or —– insane? Mike soon discovered that insanity was the right answer. If you acted angry, it seemed to encourage your opponents and make them want to beat you. So, acting angry wasn’t the answer. But insanity could accomplish that.
I’ve watched Mike raise the blinds without looking at his cards. This maneuver unsettles his opponents, making them believe his crazy image. They’ll almost always call him. They consider that the odds are in their favor. After all, he doesn’t know what cards he’s holding. By keeping his opponents confused, they never know if he’s holding a winning hand or not. So therefore, they usually will call more often.
If you want your opponents to call less often so that you can bluff more often, you’ll need to lay the groundwork. I’ve watched Mike do this. It’s fascinating to observe how he strategically goes about it. He becomes somber and more businesslike, sometimes frowning. After his opponents have passed, he’ll reveal his strong hands thereby providing that psychological reward, encouraging tighter play. By doing this he’s hoping they’ll lay down more hands, allowing him the chance to bluff more often and possibly win more pots.
The looser the limit game among amateur or semi-skilled players the more profit you’ll usually gain in the long run. Mike has spent countless hours of research, using different images and strategies to discover that in limit games, you’ll often earn more money in looser games than in tighter games.
Mike says, “It’s usually more profitable to emphasize faults your opponents already have than to create new behavior patterns.”
He goes on to say, “Since looser games are the best, it’s obvious that you want your opponents to play as liberally as their hearts will allow. That’s where the crazy image worked for me. There’s nobody who will call as readily as a confused opponent. And there’s no way to confuse an opponent as fast as making him think you’re crazy.” I watched this work for Mike in New York. He slides into this persona as if it’s a second skin. It comes so naturally for him and works beautifully. By acting crazy and showing silly hands that would prove it, he encouraged them to giggle and play looser. The pots would grow bigger. Why, you might say. Well, he’s confused the players, loosened them up, and they become playful and teasing, and more vulnerable.
It’s quite evident to me that when you use a crazy image, you remove inhibitions. As Mike says, “They figure if you can play a hand with absolutely no chance of winning, then why should they discipline themselves to throw away a pair of sixes.”
Try an image like this through one night of play and see if it works for you. You might be surprised at how easy it is to accomplish and how much fun you have achieving it. Plus, you could go home with more money in your pockets and a smile of satisfaction on your face. There will be an amazed voice in your head that says, Wow, Mike Caro is right! Sometime insanity pays! — DM