McHaffie: MCU lesson 097 / Intimidate

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.

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 97: The proper way to intimidate

There are different forms of intimidation. Some players think that by being loud, obnoxious bullies with forceful, aggressive images they can successfully intimidate opponents. Their goal is to profit from mistakes caused by upsetting their victims.

These intimidators fail to realize something. By making the game so unpleasant, opponents are either sitting out pots they might otherwise be involved in or choosing to play elsewhere.

Because of this intimidator’s attitude and the image he is portraying, he is driving out the money. Weak players that frequently make errors in judgment are the ones that he should want to befriend, not drive away.


He thinks that by insulting their plays in a nasty, humiliating way that he will upset them, thereby reaping more profit. Yes, he has them trembling in their seats. They are probably thinking about a pack of cigarettes or a really stiff drink to help escape from this horrible creature from the darkest pits of hell.

What do you think the targets of this type of intimidation are eventually going to do? Well, I certainly wouldn’t continue to sit there and I can’t imagine that anyone else would either – given a choice. No, they will eventually leave the table and search out a more pleasant atmosphere at a different one. They are going to play at a table where they won’t be subjected to the demeaning actions that they endured previously.

The intimidator probably isn’t aware that he just drove away his profit. The remaining, more experienced players at the table are probably less affected by his attitude. They may even be using it to their advantage. But, they are usually not the ones that are going to bring the intimidator profit. His main profit just got up and walked away.

There isn’t any need to tolerate this type of player when there are other tables and other games to choose from. So, if you’re one of these types of intimidators, think again about what you are doing, what you are trying to achieve, and what it costs.


You can also choose to be a different type of intimidator, the kind like Mike. He intimidates in a way that goes mainly unnoticed. Why? His opponents don’t mind losing to him because he doesn’t ridicule them when they make mistakes. He just remarks that he’s played those same types of hands before and sometimes they will work for him.

He isn’t going to make opponents feel bad, especially the weak players. Those are the ones he particularly wants involved in his pots. Those are the ones that are going to bring him profit by their errors. Not only does he profit along with everyone else, because the weakest opponents make frequent mistakes and play too many hands, he also profits more than anyone else at the table. The reason is that these weak players will go out of their way to play more hands specifically against him. Why? It’s because he’s making the game enjoyable to them. Yes, even losing is now fun.

The game is no longer like a trip to the dentist. And making a silly play isn’t going to be like having a tooth pulled without the Novocain. It isn’t going to garner them a sarcastic, vicious remark. Instead, they are going to be reassured, made to feel that others have made the same play, too, but sometimes with better results


Intimidation by puzzlement and perplexity is better than by obnoxiousness and cruelty. You don’t want weaker players to feel foolish and stupid. You want them to be comfortable and content while mysteriously intimidated.

The best way to intimidate is by keeping your opponents unaware of what is actually happening. When you do the unexpected, you’re fun to play with, and you don’t ridicule them, they will continue to line your pockets with the profits from their mistakes. — DM

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