Mike Caro poker word is Sad

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2011) in Poker Player newspaper.

Have you ever stopped everything you’re doing right in the middle of the day and thought, “What makes me sad about poker?” Me, too.

In fact, so many people seem to be doing it that worldwide productivity has slumped. That’s unfortunate, but it’s better to be in touch with our poker feelings than to keep producing goods and services while, deep in the core of our beings, we’re not content with our poker lives.

That’s how I see it, anyway. So, I’m devoting today’s self-interview to poker stuff that makes me sad.

Question 1: Do poker tournaments make you sad?

Of course. The whole stupid concept makes me sad.

Look. Once upon a time there were almost no poker tournaments. Along came the World Series of Poker in the 1970s. Fine. That was great, because it provided exposure and made many people think about poker in a more positive light.

But did you know the first WSOP events were winner take all? That’s right, there was no second-place money. The early fields were small with sometimes only a handful of competitors, so that made sense. But as the number of entrants grew, few players wanted to risk big buy-ins knowing that only one out of, say, 40 of them would get any money. Everyone else would lose.

So, you know what happened? Deals happened. The finalists would make secret agreements among themselves to divide the prize pool. Soon, it was decided that this out-of-sight negotiating wasn’t good for promoting poker.

Bleakest day

In response, on the bleakest, most horrifying day in the history of poker, it was decided to simply announce a proportionally awarded prize pool in advance. Everything would be open. No deals necessary.

So, first place got, say, 40 percent of the prize pool, second place 25 percent, and the remaining 35 percent was awarded down the line in diminishing portions to other close finishers. That completely ruined poker tournaments. And, yet, even today few players understand the destruction.

What that meant was that you couldn’t play your best poker game, because first place was penalized. The winner had to corral all the chips, then give most of them back to the players recently defeated. Think about that! It means there’s a reward for finishing close, but not winning! No, really think about it. Really!


It meant that the correct strategy was to avoid choosing many of your most skillful poker plays, because they were risky and threatened to get you quickly eliminated. You needed to play to survive, so you could have a great chance at second- and third-place money. Winning wasn’t the primary goal. Avoiding risk was.

And it also meant that the best poker players might not earn a long-range profit. Tighter, less skillful players would. Now, let me ask you a question. What kind of a tournament is that? Doesn’t it make you a little sad, too.

I know. You’ve heard me say this same thing before at different times, in different ways. When will I stop? I won’t, not until someone fixes the damn tournaments and let’s skill prevail. I’ve proposed reasonable methods for doing this. When they’re adopted, maybe I’ll start playing a lot of events and some other players will too – and maybe you’ll be surprised by the results.

Question 2: Does online poker make you sad?

Sure. I was arguably the first well-known poker personality to endorse online poker, back in 1998. The industry has greatly benefited poker and even spurred an increase in real-world poker activity. Why? Because people can play for very small stakes or even for free without feeling intimidated. Eventually, many of them gravitate to local casinos.

But what makes me sad about online poker is that there doesn’t seem to be enough sophisticated scrutiny involving the integrity of the games. Right now, I’m working on an automated system of surveillance (Caro’s Online Poker Solutions) that uses a unique methodology to make certain that games are safer for honest players.

But I’m sad that, although some of my close friends are cooperating, there doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of interest in this. Most operators seem to think their online games are safe from cheating and player collusion. They’re wrong; they aren’t.


I’m also sad because there are poker tools available to sophisticated players, who purchase them, that track opponents’ traits and tendencies. This tracking software gives a wholly unfair advantage and changes the nature of the game. Most sites allow this software.

I wouldn’t object if it were given freely to everyone. (Poker sites could make deals with the software vendors or develop their own versions.) But it isn’t obviously available to all. Most players don’t use it and don’t understand it. The result is that they are routinely massacred by the software’s users and don’t even know why.

I had a chance to participate in development of this type of software more than a decade ago and declined. Its use today makes me sad. Sure, it’s fair if everyone employs it equally. But everyone doesn’t. Many players don’t even know it exists.

Question 3: Do opponents make you sad?

Well, it always makes me sad when opponents lose. That’s one of the things about playing winning poker that has always haunted me. I think these feelings are somewhat irrational, but I have them nonetheless.

Question 4: What about the four-color deck? Does that make you sad?

I’ll tell you what makes me sad. After decades of promoting the four-color deck (where each suit has its own color for easy identification) and even promoting a C-Day (for Color Day) where the deck was experimentally introduced simultaneously to 65 casinos worldwide, I noticed that the World Poker Tour is going to use the deck in its televised tournaments.

Great idea. But that fact that I wasn’t consulted or included makes me sad. I guess that’s an ego thing, because I put so much time into it and suffered so much ridicule, and I’ll just have to evolve beyond those feelings. The world doesn’t revolve around me, right? I’ve heard that before, but I’m still struggling to understand it.

Question 5: Is there anything else about poker that makes you sad today?

Well, although I’m happy that I’ve become a hermit in the Ozarks, I’m sad that nobody around here plays poker. It isn’t that I’d want to sit in their games, anyway. It’s just that I’d like to see more poker happening around me, so my neighbors would have a better understanding of who I am and what I do.

I’m probably a curiosity among the people here. Maybe you could explain me to them. And while you’re at it, explain me to myself. — MC

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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.


11 thoughts on “Mike Caro poker word is Sad”

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  1. Completely wrong !!

    5million at Seminole – 22 > JJ for a double and KK lost, so who is the better player? The one who had KK who busted gets my Vote!

  2. Mike, I’m an Ozark man. I live a little ways from you (Rolla), but I would love to go to a Casino with you or invite you to some of our home games. If you ever want to visit shoot me an email and maybe we can hook up.

    1. Hi, Steve —

      I’m still using the Ozarks as a retreat from poker, but thanks for the invitation. In the text few years, after finishing major projects, I expect to take a break and return the tables in a big way.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. Mad Genius, in two years I should be finically independent at least for the most part. In which at that time I’m seriously considering using poker as my mine source of income. Do you still do any training for individuals or what would you suggest? I’ve been playing poker for about 15 months and have made pretty good strides but I know I can be so much better with the direction.

        Thank you

        1. Hi, Steve — Please check the Poker1 store after it opens (top tab). In the future, we will probably add opportunities for poker training.

          Straight Flushes,
          Mike Caro

  3. (Sorry to keep posting here, but I don’t know where else to go…)

    I did finally find some information (should have Googled it sooner.) on a blog.


    “Now Poker Stars has decided to ban all U.S. players. Any player still playing can continue it seems. If a U.S. player gets up they cannot sit back down. This will obviously cause a major crash in traffic for PokerStars. As of now Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB.com still accept U.S. players but that could change at any time. The landscape of online poker may have changed forever today.”

    I knew something major had happened when I couldn’t find a single US player anywhere in any game.

  4. I think something really has happened. I guess it’s not just myself – I cannot find any other U.S. players at all on Pokerstars. At this time there should be at least a few! “We the people…” We need to let ourselves be heard and NOT let this go.

  5. Mike, the saddest thing just happened. I can no longer play in cash games or tournaments on Pokerstars. Last night and this morning I was able to, but now I’m restricted.

    It’s a game the U.S. created, and it’s a game U.S. players totally dominate at (at least online, at the lower stakes) – and it’s a game at least 70 million or so Americans love to play. How un-American is it, for the goverment to try to say that we cannot gamble for even a $.10-$.20 game? Is this China?

    Seriously, it’s the saddest and scariest thing. Now I understand your deep sadness you speak of at times. When I just got done studying my favorite game by my favorite player, 2-7 Triple Draw by Daniel Negraneu, for a couple hours, I went to my computer to test myself in the smallest stakes, $.10-$.20, and I found I suddenly couldn’t.

    These things should perhaps be voted on by the people – by all the people, directly, not by politicians – such a thing could be done. Individuals, all of them vote. But really, this is OUR game. We invented it, and U.S. players have natural advantage, but we won’t forever, and not if our government treats us like China’s government. That is – we are FREE to do as we choose, the government has no right to tell us we cannot buy chips with our dollars, and wager them on cards. Just like they cannot keep us from buying records, or anything else. Not when upwards of 70 million Americans wish to do so. When that many Americans wish to do something and the government prevents it, it is not the free nation it is intended to be. As you say, when such a momentous and tragic event occurs, the government is no longer working as it is meant to. It’s no longer working for the people. It’s a step towards being like China.

  6. I think if I ever made any real money on the net I would retire my account after awhile to try and avoid the tracking software.I doubt it would work. So your “Caro’s Online Poker Solutions”, is that some kind of software I can download? I don’t play for very much money on the net, but I would love to participate.

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