McHaffie: MCU lesson 089 / Beware of mistakes

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2006.

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 89: Mistakes to beware

The following poker mistakes can affect your bankroll.


If you find yourself losing and continue to lose, perhaps it’s time to quit. Tomorrow could bring a fresher perspective. Maybe you’re worrying about an argument or a bad situation at work or a speeding ticket. Any of these things can contribute toward your mind skittering about and not being able to concentrate fully on the game at hand.

Poker demands your full concentration. You could easily miss a tell. In fact, there are many mistakes that can be made when you’re mind isn’t totally on the game.

Borrowing money

It often isn’t advisable to borrow money to play in a game. The additional pressure related to the borrowed money can make it harder to win and you’ll end up owing that money. Then maybe you’ll decide to borrow more money to try to win the borrowed money back and you create a vicious cycle in which there are only losers. It’s better to find a way to save a little nest egg to get in a game.

Hunches and bankrolls

I realize some of you have a tendency to play hunches. Mike writes that “a hunch player is just out and out guessing and usually losing a lot of money.” So, playing hunches isn’t a productive way to make a profit at poker.

You need to keep a steady, sufficient bankroll. Don’t be tempted to spend any of it when you’re on a winning streak, unless you have a lot more money available than you’ll need to cover a long drought. Remember, your lucky streak can change in the blink of an eye. Then where will you be?


Another quick way to deplete your bankroll is by lending money. This is usually a very unwise move. You’re probably never going to see that money again. You’ll spend precious time worrying about when or if you’re going to be repaid and it could effect the concentration of your own game. Mike advises telling the would-be borrower, “Every time I lend money, I lose. I think it makes me play bad or something.” That should turn them away from pursuing you as their loan officer.


Now believe it or not, purchasing a gambling book can affect the profit of your play in a negative way. You could buy a book that is awful, full of poor advice or bad information. It you follow this bad information your game could actually suffer instead of improve. Furthermore, you could get over-confident from reading a book, thinking that you know it all now, and start betting foolishly. If you’re going to read a book to better your game, make sure it is a reputable book that has been given good reviews and then study it thoroughly. Read it carefully, absorb it, don’t just skim through it, otherwise you could miss some very important points.


Another mistake that players make is they continue playing in a game where they suspect cheating is taking place. If you think that there is collusion at the table you’re playing, you should leave the table immediately. You’ll often be wrong about the collusion, but by staying at the table, too much of your concentration will be wasted on the suspicion, rather than on making strong decisions. You’re on the losing end if you stay.

Too big, too small

You should never play beyond your means. When you do this you’re putting your bankroll in jeopardy. Playing in smaller games than your bankroll warrants can be just as damaging, because you won’t be motivated. You should play significant limits, but not frightening ones. If the limits aren’t important to you, it’s just one oh-well loss after another, and you won’t realize how much it has cost you until it eventually adds up.

Simply focusing on making good decisions will go a long way toward keeping your bankroll impressive and preventing costly mistakes. — DM

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