McHaffie: MCU lesson 056 / Lessons the hard way

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 56: Lessons learned the hard way

Sometimes in life, there are things we’d liked to have done differently, if given a second chance. So I asked Mike if there’s anything he would do differently today regarding poker.

He gave me a list of pitfalls he’d like to have avoided. He said that he allowed his ego to dictate too many times. When he was young, it was practically impossible for him to let a challenge go by.  For no reason, except ego, he’d risk his whole bankroll.

Mike suggests that you guard against gambling more than you can afford to lose. When you gamble above your bankroll, you often must rebuild it.

Don’t be embarrassed

Don’t be embarrassed to play lower-limit games. Players will sometimes think higher-limit games look more profitable and they’ll try them out. That’s okay. But then if they lose or don’t make the profits they expected, their pride prevents them from returning to smaller games.

Mike suggests finding the most profitable game at the limit your bankroll can justify. What others think shouldn’t matter. Maybe they can afford the higher limits. Maybe they’re letting their ego dictate to them, too. Playing higher limits than what you can afford can end with disastrous results.

Mike said, “Years ago I would spend months playing in honest games, building a bankroll, only to be drawn into a game where cheating was taking place and lose it all. If you think you’re in a questionable game, get out!”


FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome) was one of the diseases that affected him in his younger years. Mike would try to impress his opponents by playing fancy. Finally, he decided that profit was more important than playing to impress people. Now he warns about  FPS, because you can lose your bankroll to this “disease”.

Mike advises against spending your bankroll. Many poker players are guilty of spending portions of their bankroll, when they should be guarding it. They’ll win $50,000, spend $25,000, and lose $15,000, leaving only $10,000 to play with. If they enter a tournament with a $10,000 buy-in and don’t place in the money, where does that leave them? Yep, you guessed it, broke! No bankroll!

Mike was robbed twice at gunpoint, due solely to flashing his bankroll. He says you invite trouble if you do this. Sure, you feel pretty important to have that much cash in your hands when you’re young, and you like to impress people. But if you want to keep it, don’t flash it. It should be your little secret.

Burning money

A humorous stunt that Mike used to pull was burning money to prove that he didn’t care about it, only the game. He was hoping this would gain him a psychological advantage. He told me, with a chuckle, that if he had to burn money to prove a point he would use $20 bills now instead of $100 bills. He could achieve the same effect and be hundreds richer. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine burning a $20 bill, much less a $100 bill. I guess that’s one of the reasons he’s called “The Mad Genius.”

Back then he had a tendency to “be the Harlem Globetrotter of poker.” He enjoyed putting on “poker exhibitions,” trying to prove his superiority by doing magical things. He now wishes he could have been more conservative. Yes, right! I’ve watched him play. He still puts on a show sometimes, but I do believe he’s toned it down. He plays for profit now, not just for show.

Ah, but as he says, if he hadn’t done all those things, who would he be today? How would he be different?

The Mad Genius

I can’t imagine Mike Caro being anyone other than poker’s “Mad Genius.” You can’t give him a different image. All those learning experiences is what made him who he is today. And poker is richer for the hard-earned lessons he’s shared with us. — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU series


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