McHaffie: MCU lesson 123 / Upon reflection

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2008.

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 123: Upon reflection

It seems mind-boggling to me that I’ve written 123 columns for Poker Player already. Upon reflection, since joining the poker community several years ago, I’ve become able to evaluate Mike’s teachings and identify ones that are especially important to me personally. Here are some of my favorite tips and lessons.


One of the lessons that Mike stresses time and again is that you shouldn’t be spending your bankroll frivolously on items you think you need or want. You have to protect your bankroll, since it’s the only thing that allows you to join games and continue playing. If you spend portions of your bankroll and then encounter a losing streak, you’re back to square one, trying to rebuild. You may have won money, but you have no bankroll to prove it. This may not be a big deal when your bankroll is $200, but it’s more significant if your bankroll is $20,000.


You can let an opponent hang himself by his actions. Let me explain. You’re holding a strong hand, facing an opponent in a limit hold ‘em game who is forceful, unpredictable, and trying to control the game. You’re wisest move here is to check and allow him do the betting for you. In this way, you’re giving him the opportunity to hang himself. You don’t want frighten him away by raising, should he be holding a weaker hand.


When you feel the urge to bet, you should stop and consider why you are betting. Are you betting automatically because you think you have a great hand, or does logic play a role in your decision? Mike advises against automatic betting because it’s just too dangerous to your bankroll. The fact that you’re holding a strong hand is obviously a factor in determining whether you’ll bet, but that shouldn’t be the cause of the bet. Benefiting should be the cause of the bet.

Yes, you may hold a fantastic hand, but betting may not be the ideal decision. It’s possible you’d make more money by checking and raising or checking and calling thereby setting a trap for a future bet. It’s necessary to consider your actions in poker, to assure they will result in a gain for you, even if “gain” just means losing less.

Limiting the field

Also, by betting or raising you could be chasing out players that you want involved in the pot. That’s right; there are opponents that you want to remain in the pot. The players holding the weak hands aren’t the ones you want to be eliminating, as they’re the ones who will bring you the most profit. So, when it comes to limiting the field, be choosy about who you chase away.


In reviewing my past lessons, another topic I consider important is Caro’s Threshold of Misery. Whether in life or in poker, there’s only so much pain and misery that you can endure before reaching the point where no matter how horrible it gets, it isn’t going to feel any worse. Once you’ve reached that point, you cease to care, feel, or to make wise decisions. At some point in the future, those unfortunate decisions will come back to haunt you and they could have a devastating effect on your poker career or your personal life. It is absolutely necessary to make quality decisions all of the time, regardless of how your luck is running and regardless whether you feel it’s worth the effort at the time.


Of course, we can’t leave out Tells. When I first went to work for Mike, we had to switch over his car tags and driver’s license to Missouri. While we were at the license bureau the man behind the counter recognized Mike and requested his Book of Poker Tells. He explained that he was also a police officer and wanted to be able to recognize tells from the people he arrested. It was then I realized how important Tells are in real life, not just in poker.

It is imperative that you monitor your opponent’s movements and behavior to recognize tells. If you observe an opponent crossing his arms, it’s a defensive gesture and usually means he’s holding a weak hand. A heavy sigh indicates your opponent’s hand isn’t as bad as he’d like you to think. If your opponent is engrossed in studying his hand, it’s probably a sad hand. If a player seems uninterested in the pot, you can probably count on him having a great hand.

Finally, the absolutely most important thing that Mike teaches is to “Strive to play your best game all of the time.” — DM

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