McHaffie: MCU lesson 051 / Myths about poker

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 51: Myths about poker

Players need to beware of the advice that they are given about poker. Has the person giving the advice done lengthy research? How did he come to the conclusions? Is it merely his opinion? This applies to life also.

The list of poker myths below was a lecture that Mike gave in 1999 and has allowed me to use in my lesson today. Remember, these are only myths!

1.  No overcoming the rake. The casinos and cardrooms take a rake from each pot or they rent you the seat. For this charge, they will provide you with security, drinks and a variety of games, and trained dealers.

It takes skill to overcome rakes or seat charges. If you’re an exceptional player you’ll probably triumph over these fees. Yes, the rakes are proportionally higher in smaller games, but the opposition is weaker, so usually you can win, anyway.

2.  Jack-10 suited has been considered a powerful hold ’em hand. It isn’t true, according to Mike. He says it shouldn’t even be played against a double raise before the flop. He advises folding it in a full-handed game from early positions.

3.  “Play loose in tight games and tight in loose games.” Whenever opponents change their strategy, take advantage and make extra money. When opponents are too tight, bluff more.

When opponents are playing looser, you can often play a mediumstrong hand profitably. When opponents have loosened their standards, loosen yours — just not as much.

4.  World-class players identify cheaters easily. There are forms of card marking, card manipulation, and poker partnerships that aren’t easily noticed. Major casinos usually recognize these forms of cheating easily with their advanced technology. Despite this you should always be watchful of anything suspicious. Even professional players have been cheated. Be vigilant.

5.  “Stop loss” isn’t effective money management. “Stop loss” means once you’ve lost the amount of money you’ve determined is allowable; you’re going to quit. But, if you quit, you’ve halted the potential for winning. Mike says if the loss isn’t going to devastate you emotionally, the game is a good one, and you’re playing your best, then you should stay in. The more hours you play, the better the chances of winning.

6.  Counting chips at the table isn’t advisable. Mike says it’s ok to count your chips. Most players do. You need to know where you stand. It’s like looking at the scoreboard. It’s as instinctive for players to count their chips as it is for a compulsive smoker to reach for cigarettes in a stressful situation. But with counting chips, it’s not harmful.

7.  A nervous player is usually bluffing. According to Mike, bluffers reinforce themselves. They become stiff, barely breathing.

8. Myth: Competent players won’t usually check and call. Checking and calling is natural. It’s advisable when you’re holding a hand that’s not strong enough to bet but not really weak enough to fold or if you’re against a frequent bluffer. You’d also handle a forceful player in this manner. Checking and calling can be quite profitable.

9.  Hold ’em is a tougher game than Seven-card stud. Not quite! Mike says “Seven-card stud is much more complex, but there is more luck involved, so you’re tough decisions aren’t as consistently rewarded.”

In seven-card stud, there are many ways the cards you hold can interact with those your opponents’ hold. You have to examine your cards in conjunction with the many possible things opponents might hold and then consider what your best decision would be. In hold ’em the face-up cards can be used by all the players, and the possibilities are fewer and more straightforward.

The above were myths that started out as advice from one player to another. Consider closely the source of any advice you receive, before acting upon it.   — DM

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