McHaffie: MCU lesson 042 / Powerful key

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2005.

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 42: Simple, powerful key to poker succes

The latest lesson Mike has taught me is easy to apply to limit poker games. Here’s the concept behind it. You can focus on a poker decision in two primary ways.

Conservative approach

Approach 1: Begin with the assumption that you should check or fold every hand and then gather evidence to the contrary. Only if the evidence is strong enough to outweigh the argument that you should check or fold do you take an aggressive action, by betting, calling, or raising.

Liberal approach

Approach 2: Assume that you will always take assertive action if possible – raising, betting, or calling. (Sometimes the most assertive play can be checking with the intention of raising if you’re bet into, but usually it’s just a simple bet or raise.)

Once you’ve decided what the most assertive play would be, then you always take that action unless there are strong reasons to do differently. If you successfully argue against raising, then calling is the next most assertive action – and you should do that unless you can successfully find arguments to fold.

You see, whether you use approach 1 or 2, you’re always beginning with a firm action in mind, then arguing against it.

Mike says, “It’s much easier to find evidence rejecting the aggressive presumption than it is to find evidence rejecting the most conservative one. Therefore, if you choose the first, conservative approach, you usually won’t find enough evidence to make a more aggressive choice in full-handed games. For instance, you might begin with the assumption that you’re going to fold, weigh arguments to the contrary, and usually fold anyway. However, if you choose the second, liberal approach, it will be easier to find reasons not to bet, raise, or call. You often will defeat that initial choice, especially if it’s to bet or raise.”

Mike teaches that in limit poker games, where the wagering is by a single unit, on early betting rounds, and by double that amount on later betting rounds, there’s an effective way to use these two approaches.

Common weakness

He advises, “When the betting and raising is by single units, such as $10 in a $10/$20 game, you should use the first approach. You should make up your mind to check or fold, whichever the situation merits, unless you can find a powerful and convincing reason to do otherwise. In other words, you need to argue yourself out of folding or checking. This will keep you on the right track, by helping you avoid an average player’s most common weakness – entering too many pots and calling or betting too often.”

He suggests that when your betting doubles, such as $20 rounds in a $10/$20 game, you should do exactly the opposite. After you successfully argue against raising, you should prepare to call unless there is strong evidence that a fold would save you money.

You’ll usually be able to convince yourself not to raise, unless you have a strong hand under favorable circumstances. But, it will be more difficult to convince yourself that you shouldn’t call.

Folding too often

And that’s a good thing. While average players don’t fold often enough on later rounds, players trying to win, like us, strangely have a tendency to fold too often. That’s because, in our zeal to make solid decisions, we don’t adequately take into consideration that the pot is so large on late betting rounds, relative to how much it costs to call, that we’re supposed to usually call, even though we’re going to usually lose. By using the second approach on later rounds of betting, you will usually call correctly if your hand has any reasonable chance of winning.

In summary: On early rounds of betting, begin with the assumption that you’re going to check or fold. On later rounds of betting, begin with the assumption that you’re usually going to call, if bet into. Then you can alter your play if there is strong evidence to the contrary.

Mike convinced me that this system works like a charm, so I thought I’d just pass it along to you, in the hopes that you’ll profit from it.  — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU series


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