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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 101: “Missing a bet”
“Missing a bet” is a term used when you have checked, but could have bet and possibly have made a profit. You wimped out because you were unsure of your opponent’s upcoming actions and it appeared safer to just check. Skilled players will say that you “missed a bet.”
If you eagerly bet, thinking you might miss a golden opportunity if you didn’t, as skilled players often do, then you could find yourself betting far too often.
Many times you can earn more money by merely checking instead of betting. You’re giving the other players a chance to “take advantage” with a weaker hand. Mike says you should intentionally “miss a bet” routinely when you have an opponent who likes to be in control and bets frequently. This can bring profit to you at less expense, because you’ve allowed your opponent who likes to do the betting, bet for you. As Mike likes to say, “There is built-in value in deception.”
Questions to consider
You should give careful thought to what your profit could be if you checked or bet. How safe is it going to be to bet? Are you the last to act? What action did your opponent take? Is your medium hand going to be strong enough to be profitable?
When considering what your best move is, ask yourself if there is a possibility that your opponent will call you with a better hand. What are the chances that your opponent is going to raise, and you’ll call and lose? What if you don’t call or raise, but choose to fold instead, and your opponent wins with a weaker hand than the one you just threw away? Is betting that marginal hand going to be the best decision?
Sometimes even minor hands are worrisome and can be stressful when you’re trying to determine whether they are going to be profitable to bet. Some skilled players have learned the hard way when it’s going to be to their advantage to bet those hands or not. Some have never learned at all. Maybe they could increase their profits if they were more in tune to what their opponent’s actions might be or if there was a possibility that their opponent could be setting them up.
Mike teaches that if you’re holding a moderate hand, and your opponent has shown a tell indicating he might not have the superior hand, then take the plunge and bet. But, if by observing your opponent, there’s any doubt about the strength of his hand, play it safe and check.
If you are observant and discreetly scrutinize your opponent, you often can determine what your actions should be. By being cautious and perceptive, more profit is possible.
You should be aware if your opponent is studying his cards too intently. He’s trying to scare you off. He wants you to think he is holding an impressive hand. Don’t fall for it! It’s a safe time to bet.
Another action to notice is if your opponent makes a subtle move toward his chips. He wants you to think he’s going to bet. Wrong! He’s trying to deceive you, to spook you. Take the leap and bet!
Now, suppose the player is watching you, to the extent that you think you have a piece of spinach stuck in your tooth. Well, he’s actually trying to intimidate you. He doesn’t have the cards that it’s going to take to deter you. Bet! It’s safe.
The opponent that you do want to consider dangerous is the one looking away from you, making your bet seem safe. Yes, he’s the one with the fantastic hand. He’s the one that’s going to squash you.
Warning! Mike stresses that if you don’t notice anything that indicates your opponent is likely to be weak or worried, you should play it safe and just check any moderately strong hand. Follow that simple rule and your next bet-or-check decision will be less of a guessing game. — DM