Tuesday Sessions 31: Motivational tips save bankrolls

Index to Tuesday Sessions

This lecture took place on April 27, 1999 and was the 31st in the series. The columns based on these lectures first appeared in Card Player Magazine.

Silver, Our Beloved Poker Parrot, Passes On — Plus Some Bankroll Salvation

We’re sad. Pets are pets and people are people, I guess. Pets die. People get over the hurt after awhile. I’ve done it lots of times. But Silver was so special. And he touched many of your lives as the “Poker Parrot” – an African Grey who was the official mascot of Mike Caro University of Poker. He even had a poker book dedicated to him and made an appearance in a poker video.

I’m a skeptic. I’d always believed that many people interpreted animal behavior in a way that portrayed pets as having more human emotion and intelligence than seemed justified. But then I bought my wife Phyllis a parrot 11 years ago for our fifth anniversary. I knew little about pets and almost nothing about parrots at the time. So, it was just a happy accident that I brought home an African Grey parrot and later learned about ongoing scientific studies that ranked them among the smartest non-humans on earth. Unlike most other parrots, Greys don’t just mimic words you teach them. They learn words on their own and make up sentences, which they use in context.

Silver would say to my wife, “Mommy, I want to take a shower now,” or “I want my breakfast,” or “I want to go upstairs now.” He would never say these things at inappropriate times or just to hear himself speak. In fact, he pieced together so many sentences, I can’t remember them all. But after he fell sick and lost strength two weeks ago, the only two things he could remember to say were, “I love you,” and “I wanna go to sleep now.”

If correctly cared for, Greys can live to be 50 to 70 years old. Nobody seems to know for sure. Although under the care of one of the best specialists in the world, Silver died peacefully at the age of just 12, on our pillow at 8 a.m., Saturday, January 29, 2000. He remains the MCU mascot. And he remains in Phyllis’ heart. Mine, too.

About five months ago, Silver attended the graduation ceremonies for our MCU Introduction to Poker course at Hollywood Park. When our chief administrator, Debbie Parks, began to speak, Silver seemed shocked by the shattered silence, and shouted, “Be quiet.” The room was washed in laughter. In a perverse way, this made me proud.

Like many things I buy on whim, Silver was paid for in cash out of a poker winning. But, unless you have an abundant bankroll, you should be careful when you spend pieces of it capriciously. We’ll talk about that and more today. The following is taken from the 31st in my serious of Tuesday Session classroom lectures at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. The lecture was held on April 27, 1999. The following is from the handout that accompanied the lecture and has been specially enhanced for Card Player – although, because of the space consumed by the previous tribute to Silver, fewer additions were made than usual. The title of my talk was…

Motivational Tips That Save Your Bankroll

1. Your luck is not guaranteed to break even, not in your lifetime. The trick is to do better with your luck than others would do with the same luck. Life isn’t fair. Some people spend years in hospitals or get struck by lightening. Others stumble upon unforeseen riches. Poker isn’t fair, either. Don’t expect it to be.

2. Luck isn’t only in the cards. If you’re a regular player, you probably will get about your expected allotment of flushes this year. But you might not get them at the right times, and they might not win. There is more bankroll fluctuation due to the few key situations you encounter than to the simple strength of the hands you are dealt.

But, the biggest luck factor in poker is whether you happen upon the best games and whether you are there on the few really great times when players come to unload bushels of money. And, just how lucky will you be in those rare games, even if you are fortunate enough to get a seat? Also, if you jump around between limits, it matters whether you win your best pots in smaller limits or in bigger limits. Because of these layers of luck, poker is more volatile than many assume. Over time, your results will be more influenced by fluctuations in game conditions than by fluctuations in cards.

3. An easy way to stick to your game plan. If you must “decide” not to play A-10 in hold ’em from an early position every time you encounter it, you might choose right most of the time. But sometimes – under the pressure of the moment – you’ll decide wrong. This can’t happen if you divide yourself into two persons – one gives commands and stays home. The other follows orders and goes out to play poker. If you want to change your game plan, you need to go home for permission. Then you can’t make the wrong choice, because you have no choice.

You need to give yourself some flexibility to adapt to conditions. You might want to play that A-10 against an opponent who clearly is entering pots with inferior hands or one that you can easily outplay. But, unless those pre-specified conditions arise, you must obey your commands – the ones you gave yourself before you left home and locked your door behind you.

4. There will come a time when it matters. Sometimes things at poker or away from poker look so gloomy that seemingly nothing could make it worse and you feel as if “it doesn’t matter” right now. But there will come a time when it will matter. Play for that time.

5. Do your job when you’re playing poker. Whether you win or lose is none of your business! Making sure the cards break even is a tough job. Let someone else do it.

I sometimes seat a student on the floor and have him or her cut out pictures from magazines representing eight players in a game. Then I have the student deal starting hands one at a time and decide which player to give them to. The student must try to remember who was left out of good hands recently. After awhile, this task gets very tiring. Then I ask, “Is this the job you want in poker?” Of course, the point is that seeing that the hands are fairly distributed isn’t a job you want to have. Let someone else do it. You just stick to your job – making the right decisions at the poker table.

6. Keep an adequate bankroll. Most people underestimate the size they need for comfort. They tend to spend portions prematurely that they think are excessive. This often means they can start with, say, $3,000, win $17,000, spend $10,000 they think is unnecessary, lose $10,000 and end up flat broke and begging. Everyone views them as losers. But, actually, we’ve just looked at a $7,000 win example, and a player who could have expanded his bankroll from $3,000 to $10,000 had he not spent the profit. You’d be surprised how many players fail because they spend their winnings excessively.

7. There’s a difference between important decisions and important consequences. Sometimes things that will have important consequences can’t be influenced by you, and that’s when you should spend your time with important decisions – the ones you can influence. Luck has important consequences, but you can’t do anything about it, so there are never important decisions involving pure luck. Spend your time deciding something else. If choosing one door at random means you die and choosing the other door means you live, you shouldn’t waste any time choosing a door. Instead, you should use your mental energy making a decision that might help you if you do live. The first type of choice has important consequences – life and death, in this case. But it is not an important decision. Just choose a door and be done with it.

8. If you think there might be cheating, leave the game. It isn’t necessary that you’re right (and you usually won’t be). The mere fact that you’ll be wasting your mental resources worrying about cheating instead of strategy is enough to make you play worse. Leave.

9. Don’t let time dictate bad play. Most people play unprofitable hands simply because they hate waiting for the next deal. If players received new starting hands as soon as they folded, most would show discipline. The trick is to learn the art of feeling bad when the winds of probability are blowing the wrong way during the hand. Once you motivate yourself to despise being in a pot with wind in your face, rather than at your back, you’ll feel good about folding. When you decide not to play bad hands that would otherwise need to fight the winds of probability, just envision that you’re sitting out a storm under shelter. You’ll feel good about waiting. – MC

Next Tuesday Session

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. Great advice Mike. I don’t get to the brick and mortar often but when I do I want to play. Patience is a virtue I must learn or I get impatient and burn my bankroll.

    I love your advice articles. Keep them coming.

  2. How does someone cheat in a poker game? I cannot think about how someone from a live game COULD cheat or even would cheat.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Tae Kim —

      If you’re lost in the online world of poker, like many players today, you might not be familiar with brick-and-mortar poker rooms. I urge you to visit these games soon, because the poker experience can be enhanced with the psychological elements of face-to-face play.

      A common form of cheating, both online and in the real world, is partnerships, in which players act as a team against honest opponents who are acting ethically in their own best interests. Partnerships are among the most sinister forms of cheating.

      Marked cards, reflecting devices, and even hidden cameras are included in the many other ways of cheating at physical casinos. Real-world surveillance uses sophisticated methods to prevent it. Rarely, dealers have cheated on behalf of favored players.

      You should always be vigilant when you play, and advise fellow players and management of any irregularities.

      Thanks for joining the Poker1 family.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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