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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 54: Some tips about betting
The excitement of playing poker doesn’t encourage players to fold their hands. No, they’re hoping to play, and if they think they have a reason to call, they will. It doesn’t need to be a good reason, either. Sometimes, just the excitement itself will do. Calling gives players the chance to gain the proceeds from the pot; folding doesn’t.
Most of your opponents have a tendency to call more than they should, and this is their biggest mistake. You should persuade them to repeat this mistake as much as possible. They’re often calling with weak hands and this can work to your advantage. You seldom want to discourage a player from calling who may have a weaker hand than you, as that can take profit from your purse or wallet.
You will almost always gain more profit when weak opponents call more than they should than if they play too conservatively. If you take advantage of players who call too often rather than playing that same game yourself, you can expect to win more than anyone else at the table.
You can do almost anything to get your opponents to call, if that’s what you want. Move your chips around; take a drink of your soda, cough, hum, whistle, or wiggle in your seat. Anything. When you want them to call, just do something, quickly. You’ll be surprised how often that works. Mike says this works because players think almost anything you do looks suspicious. Those opponents are just looking for reasons to call and you should provide them.
Mike tells us, “This strategy won’t always work. If your opponent has a very weak hand, nothing you do is likely to win the call. And if your opponent has a better hand than yours, then your actions will just encourage him to call and beat you.” He says, “There’s a whole herd of hands in the middle where your opponents can be easily influenced by what you do. And that’s where the profit is. When you want a call, do something.” And if you don’t want a call, do nothing, Mike advises.
You can even sway your opponent’s decisions by talking. Mike suggests saying, “I don’t think I’m bluffing this time.” You are putting a sliver of doubt into their heads about what you are doing, and they’ll probably call just to find out the truth. You shouldn’t blurt something out that’s ridiculous and hard to believe. What you say needs to fit your personality or image. Be believable.
Betting medium hands
If your opponents aren’t sure whether you’re bluffing or have a super-strong hand, it can enable you to bet medium hands without worrying about them raising you. It’s very important if you can bet, without being concerned about being raised. Ordinarily you would probably just check, but if you don’t have to be concerned about a raise, you can make daring wagers. So, sometimes Mike tells them, “I either have a full house or I’m bluffing,” when he actually has only two small pair. This allows him to make the daring bet profitably without fearing a raise from two bigger pair or three of a kind.
Mike explains that one of the most important aspects of poker is being fun to play with. If your opponents enjoy playing against you, then they don’t find calling you (and possibly losing to you) as distressful. You can profit by playing medium hands against weak hands.
You will, however, come up against opponents who just don’t call very often. When that happens, you’ll need to bluff more often. Mike advises against betting medium-strong hands aggressively under that circumstance.
MCU is a virtual warehouse of when-to-bet and how-to-bet tips. In the future, we’ll discuss more of them. — DM