McHaffie: MCU lesson 129 / Favorite points

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 129: Favorite points

Recently I was assisting Mike in updating his book Caro’s Fundamental Secrets of Winning Poker, which will be out soon as Caro’s Secrets of Winning Poker. I realized that Fundamental Secrets was the first book that I read upon entering the poker community. As well as being very educational, it was a fun read. I’d like to summarize a few of the points that I considered most helpful to me.


One of the first things that Mike taught me was that you must play your best game all of the time. Although you may be having an off day, that’s no excuse to falter in your goal to play your best. That is, unfortunately, why so many players don’t win consistently. They allow their emotions, their moods or their cards to determine how they are playing. This can be very damaging to their bankrolls. This is because at some point they can get so depressed that it no longer matters how much they lose. This, Mike refers to, as crossing Caro’s Threshold of Misery. You can’t allow this to happen to you. The need to make good decisions all of the time is vitally important.


Many players go into a game with the misconception that they are there to win pots. Nope, wrong, they are there to make correct decisions. If they set out to be the winner of the most pots, they are also going to be a great loser of money. That’s right! So, if they’ve decided to play as many hands as they can, to attempt to take the pot away from their opponents every time, they are quickly going to deplete their bankroll. Not a wise move! If you play your hands, you’re likely to win the most pots possible, but you definitely aren’t playing your best game.


If you’re considering bluffing, consider that the players that are the most profitable to bluff are those just joining the game or who has been behind in chips and now gotten even. These players have a “fresh start” attitude, and it will take a while for them to unravel.

If you’re opponent is chatting away and bets without breaking stride in the conversation, he is betting a serious hand, while an opponent who ceases the chatter will often be bluffing. An even more blatant bluffing tell is when an opponent’s conversation no longer makes sense. It’s pretty safe to call in that instance.


Some players get overconfident as they acquire skills and decide they need to show off by getting creative. Mike calls this “Fancy Play Syndrome” or FPS. This isn’t apt to be productive if intended to trick weak players. They aren’t going to “get it”, and they aren’t refined enough to understand what these players are attempting to do or what they “should have done” in response.

An important hold ‘em strategy that you need to remember is if the player that is in the small blind re-raises an opponent in early position, there is a good chance that the small blind is holding fantastic cards. So, beware!


Now, anyone that has been to one of Mike’s seminars knows how important Tells are to the game. I first realized the importance when we were at the license bureau in 2003 and the man behind the counter recognized Mike and requested a copy of Caro’s Book of Tells. It seems he was a mayor and a police officer and it was important for him to be able to “read” the people he arrested. Tells are an important part of your poker arsenal. Even if you aren’t involved in a hand you can still observe your opponents, discreetly. Do not let on when you do spot a tell. Save the information for later use.


If you notice a player appearing to be oblivious to the fact that you’re about to bet, that’s an act. Don’t be deceived by his apparent lack of interest. Instead, reconsider your bet, because this player is planning on pouncing.

If a player sadly bets, don’t be fooled, as he’s secretly laughing inside at how he’s about to fool you into making a bad call.

These are important tips, but the single most important thing to remember is to play your best game all of the time! — DM

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