McHaffie: MCU lesson 092 / Rewarding your opponent

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 92: Rewarding your opponent

What strategy do you use to overcome an opponent who is playing loose and raises frequently? You need to reward him!

Mike says that if you frequently fold when he raises, then you won’t be participating in pots that are specifically profitable against this type of opponent. Also, you’re letting that opponent intimidate you. In order to benefit from this opponent’s loose play, Mike says that you need to be in the pot as often as possible.

Sitting out doesn’t allow you the privilege of making a profit from his reckless play. Sitting out means you’ll be watching, instead of winning.

Weak or average hand

How do you handle this aggressive, too-frequent bluffer? You can sometimes earn extra money by raising with a weak hand on the river, instead of folding. Call this a “rebluff” or an “overbluff.” If the pot is large enough, the risk is worth it. Against a player who bluffs too often, it’s a mistake to lay down every hand – especially against a small bet in no-limit games. Raise the bet and see if he’s bluffing. If he is, then you’ve won the pot!

If he isn’t bluffing then he’s been compensated and he feels good. You’ve rewarded that opponent this one time, by letting him win extra from your raise, while still taking the best of the long-run percentages.


Mike warns against raising repeatedly against a recurrent bluffer, because then it seems obvious that you’re punishing him for his reckless play, and you don’t want him to change his technique, as you intend to profit from it. Mike says you should “capitalize on an opponent’s faults as often as you can without causing him to modify his behavior. The secret is that you can’t take advantage of your opponent’s mistake every time. Sometimes you’ve got to let that opponent succeed. You’ve got to let the mistake pay off for him.”

Reward him for his mistakes now and then, so that he’ll continue to follow his loose-and-reckless pattern. Your first impulse may be to raise with a weak hand on the river against such a rash player, but you shouldn’t always do it. The odds of stealing the pot may be in your favor right now, but your opponent’s poor decisions need to be rewarded occasionally, so he’ll continue playing loosely.

The point is: You want opponents to keep playing badly, so you can continue to capitalize. Oddly, the way to make this happen is to sacrifice some immediate money to make sure that the long-range profit continues uninterrupted. That means not taking advantage every single time. Once in a while, reward your opponent by letting the bad play succeed. This motivates him to continue the mistake.

Just call

Against an overly aggressive opponent, what should you do if your hand is strong? The desire to raise on early betting rounds is overpowering, but Mike says that often you should just call. He says it’s the “best” way to beat this opponent. He says to continue calling and then on the river, if you still think that raising is the right thing to do, then go for it.

When you raise with a strong hand and your too-aggressive opponent folds, show him your cards so that he sees he did the proper thing. Once again you’ve rewarded him for making a wise decision. He’ll feel relieved that he did the right thing that time and will be more likely to fold lesser cards in the future when you raise against his weak bets.

Mike states that this type of player will be aggressive until he meets opposition. Then he may begin backing down. You don’t want that to happen. If you sometimes reward opponents, instead of always punishing them for doing the wrong thing, you ensure that the bad behavior continues – and you can come out the winner. — DM

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