McHaffie: MCU lesson 093 / Humming

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 93: Humming can be a good thing

I’m easily annoyed by humming and whistling. I remember driving to work with a passenger who would whistle or hum the entire hour-long ride. It was like fingernails on a chalk board. I eventually ended the association and began driving by myself — no rider, no annoyances.

So, imagine my surprise when I read one of Mike’s columns and discovered that humming isn’t an annoying noise, but a good and profitable sound. Yes, that is what I read, profitable. Humming is a tell. Wow!

Mike wrote that years ago he played with a gentleman who hummed, mostly show tunes. Well, I guess you could sit there and try to identify which tunes he was humming. Mike thought it was “charming,” although the other players found it annoying. I would have found another table. I mean laughter is fine, as well as chatting, but humming, no way!

This gentleman would begin the game in deep concentration, proud of his ability as a poker player and believe it or not, he thought he could read his opponent’s tells. Poor guy didn’t seem to realize that he had a blatant tell that he was advertising around the table.


The gentleman’s attention span was short, and soon he’d be easily distracted by things happening around the room or other random thoughts. He seemed to find it hard to sit still and concentrate on his opponents or what was taking place at the table. This boredom would soon result in him humming. If he wasn’t involved in a hand, he’d hum quietly.

Ah, but if he had a good hand, with strong possibilities, the humming would grow in volume and intensity, a joyful sound. Mike stated that such happy humming was a sign that he was content with his hand and was pleased with how things were moving along. So, opponents beware! This was a sign that he held a significant hand.

Now, if there were a crack in the humming, a rhythmic suspension, then it was a sign that he was under stress, that there was some doubt, maybe dissatisfaction in the flop. The humming was no longer cheerful, instead it was sadder. Now, if the cards had made him happy, the humming would’ve reflected his pleasure. But that wasn’t the case.

The distinct tempo of the man’s humming was a precise interpretation of his feelings. The humming was a profitable tell.

Mike wrote that what was even more telling and more profitable about this humming was the fact that you could hear when he was bluffing. Yes, that’s right. The humming would falter in it’s cadence. It’s like he was forgetting the tune. Then if you started to call his bluff, the humming ceased. Ah, ha, got you! Now you knew you could call and win. No humming, he was worried. He didn’t want you to call. Sorry buddy, this one’s mine.


Mike said that he could be holding a weak hand and still raise if this opponent bet and the accompanying humming faded. Usually the hummer would choose to fold.

In many of Mike’s seminars he has taught that players will actually cease breathing and barely move when they are bluffing for fear any movement on their part will instigate a call. They don’t want you to suspect what they are attempting to do. They aren’t confident in their abilities to pull off this maneuver, so they become like a mannequin.

Mike writes that humming is much the same. When your opponent is a hummer and he suddenly ceases his performance, then you can suspect that he is bluffing and he is worried about being called.

So, when you are preparing to sit down at a table to play poker and you hear humming, don’t look upon it as an annoying sound to run from, but as a profitable sound that could net you a healthier bankroll. — DM

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