McHaffie: MCU lesson 059 / Business of 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 59: Making a business out of poker

Today’s lesson is based on one of Mike’s historic Tuesday Session lectures. It deals with treating poker as a business.

Many people approach poker like fishing or golfing. They play for fun. Others strive to make a living from it. If you’re playing to make money, then it’s time to treat poker as a business.

Mike says that when you’re ready to consider poker as a business, you need to begin by taking it seriously. No longer is it merely a fun game to play, but it’s your livelihood.  You need to concentrate on what will make it a successful business.


To provide a living, poker can’t just be an every now and then kind of thing. Many hours go into achieving a profit – often more than you first expected.

Whenever you don’t play your best game or you play in the wrong games, you waste hours of valuable playing time. Then you have to devote more time to undo the damage.

Discover the right places to play and the right games for profit. Look for the right casino (or online poker room), the right opponents (weak ones or losing ones), the right games (ones with limits you can comfortably afford and can beat), and the form of poker that you prefer in order to make a profit.


The great thing about poker as a business, that isn’t true of traditional storefronts, is that you can select your location each time you play. You can choose the casino and the people you’ll play against. If a game isn’t going as you’d hoped, then you can relocate. Changing locations can be as simple as selecting a different seat or shifting tables. Location is of the utmost importance and can have a huge bearing on your profits.

It’s also necessary to find the right times to play. “Usually, late night games are the most profitable,” Mike says, “because players are often tired and not playing their best. Many are losing and playing poorly in a desperate attempt to get even.”

Mike says you should scout out the right opponents. Your best customers are going to be the weakest players.


Pretend that your opponents are your business clients. They are going to produce the profit that your business requires. You want to be fun to play against, as we’ve discussed before. That’s the style of poker that brings the most profit. So, it’s a good idea to make opponents like you – just as you would treat customers in any business. You may want to socialize and learn you best customers’ traits, their likes and their dislikes. This gives you an advantage.

Businesses keep track of their clients and you need to do that, as well. You need to know who donated the most to your business. Usually you’ll discover that your biggest money makers are the biggest losers. Not always, though. Occasionally, they may be adequate players against others, but intimidated by you, or they’re easier for you to bluff. Discern who your biggest clients are and pursue them for the profit.


Mike urges you to keep a substantial, designated bankroll available and not to spend it. If you spend your bankroll on a regular basis, at some time you will go broke. You wouldn’t borrow money from your construction business or your law firm, so don’t borrow from your bankroll. That is your business money.

Mike also advises keeping records of your games. Yes, they come in handy for tax purposes and your accountant, but they’re also important to you. They’re necessary for you to correctly analyze your play. You need to know which games, which limits, which opponents, which casinos, and which hours are better for you. With these statistics you can devise a plan of action.

But most important, Mike says, is to play your best game all the time. Then you’ll have the potential for a thriving business. — DM

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