McHaffie: MCU lesson 100 / Show or not to show

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 100: To show or not to show

Mike is one of the most unpredictable players you’ll ever watch. He’ll start a game chatting cheerfully, summing up the players, and lightening the mood. One of the things he’s likely to do to achieve this is to splash one of his weak hands. “Splash” is a word usually used when a player throws chips into the pot haphazardly. But I’ve seen Mike splash weak cards in flamboyant ways. Why does he do that? One, he enjoys showing his weak hands to get a reaction out of his opponents and two, it puts them at ease. He’s also established the fact that he’s a loose, fun player who’s here to have a good time.

Showing hands can be a profit-making endeavor. When you splash cards like Mike does, it’s hard to be taken too seriously. Laughter and joking makes losing less painful for opponents, and they tend to play more recklessly and less profitably.


Mike occasionally likes to bluff players who call too frequently. Why does he bluff liberal callers, when that’s the last type of player you should logically try to bluff? He does it when he receives a tell that the opponent is weak. This happens regularly when these addicted callers conspicuously act as if they hold strong hands. That’s when they’re pretending to be strong, but are actually weak. Then Mike will bet and usually win with equally pathetic hands. He then often shows the winning bluff.

Should you show this opponent your weak hand once he folds? Yes, if it seems like fun and games to your opponent, but not if it’s likely to make him angry. If he’s upset, there’s no sense in fanning the fire further. If he has lost good-naturedly, then showing those pathetic cards will encourage him to continue calling in the future. Most of those calling times will be when you’re holding stronger hands. Cha-Ching!

Suppose you lost the hand with those sad cards. You’ll still show them. Do anything to make liberal callers think that you frequently play puny hands. Because Mike shows his weak cards, putting his opponents at ease, loose players will call him more often than they would more serious opponents.

Building confidence

Mike says that when you’re up against tighter players you’ll want to show your stronger hands. This proves to the tight player that he made a wise choice in folding, building his confidence so that he’ll continue playing the same. This will give you a chance to bluff him again.

Mike enjoys bluffing tight players, as they think they think they’re too astute to be taken in by his antics. The tight player is sitting back, nodding to himself smugly as you manipulate the weak players, thinking he’s immune. So, when he does fall, he is totally unaware of his gullibility, since Mike doesn’t show his hand. No need to upset this tight player and bring him down a peg or two. It’s best to keep him oblivious to his downfall.

The secret is to encourage opponents to make their biggest mistakes. If they’re playing too loose, try to make them play even looser; if they’re playing too tight, make them play tighter still.


If Mike is heads-up against a big bet, and he’s unsure whether to call, he’ll occasionally splash his cards for effect and ask his opponent what he should do. How his opponent reacts determines his next move. I’ve seen Mike perform that feat and witnessed the surprised reactions. It’s definitely an attention getter, and reaps rewards for Mike.

If Mike thinks showing a hand will anger or humiliate a player, he’ll refrain from doing it. A play that causes bad feelings can negatively affect your profits and diminish the camaraderie at the table.

So, to sum it up, when playing against loose players, you’ll show your sad, scrawny hands. Against tight players you’ll want to show your strong hands. — DM

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