McHaffie: MCU lesson 135 / A seminar for Luke

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 135: A seminar for Luke

Mike gave a seminar for the 2nd Annual Lucky Streamer Texas Hold ‘em Tournament in Springfield, Missouri. The event benefited the Lucas Brett Stringer Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Luke, a fan of Mike’s and a poker follower, passed away on May 22, 2006, short of his 21st birthday, from complications associated with diabetes.

Gathered at the Twin Oaks Country Club were eager Ozarks poker enthusiasts ready to do their part for charity while also learning valuable poker lessons from Mike. They listened raptly, hoping to become winners in the tournament that followed. The champion also had the opportunity to play heads-up against the “Mad Genius of Poker.”


Mike pointed out that “decisions really do matter and you must always strive to play your very best.” He stated that the object of poker wasn’t to win pots, but instead to make the right decisions always.

Mike explained that there will be occasions when you will encounter a poker bully and the best way to handle such an imposing opponent is to call more and bet and raise less.

The best time to bluff is when a player has just taken a seat or has just gotten even. These adversaries play more predictably.

Right or left?

Choosing a seat is important, if you get the opportunity. It’s best to place the pathetic or looser players to your right as well as the accomplished or dominant players. Players who are nursing a small pile of chips or are unadventurous belong to your left — because they won’t use their positional advantage to do great damage.

There are two forms of tells, acted and involuntary. Acted tells happen when an opponent is pretending to be strong when weak or vice versa.


If an opponent is looking nonchalantly away when it’s your decision time, then you’re in dangerous territory. He probably has a good hand. If an opponent seems to be staring you down, there’s less need for concern, as he probably isn’t a threat.

Mike demonstrated the sad sigh and shrug (a sign of strength) to everyone’s amusement. Ah, but then they had to practice it! Although the person making the sad sound wants you to perceive that he has a poor hand, he actually holds an impressive one and is hoping to trick you. So, don’t be fooled!

Value betting into opponents who are unpredictable isn’t wise. Furthermore, if you posses a pathetic pile of chips, you should refrain from value betting as you aren’t likely to impress anyone. Nope, instead your opponents will be more inclined to thrash you, since they’re inspired by your previous losses.


When your opponent takes longer than usual scrutinizing cards, you usually can rest assured that he isn’t a threat. But, if he glances at the cards, then promptly slaps them back down, beware. He has an impressive hand and is secretly grinning like the Cheshire cat.

If you want your opponent to call, do anything to bring that action about. Shift in your chair, take a drink, straighten your chips, start humming, etc. Your opponent wants to call, he just needs an excuse!

The flop

One of my favorite pieces of advice that Mike imparts to his students, and I observed him practicing it later in the heads-up match, was to watch your opponents watch the flop. You’ll have plenty of time to look, but for now, observe your opponents’ reactions. Many times their responses will assist you in your decisions.

Final affirmation

Mike finished his seminar in his usual fashion, with the audience repeating his Final Affirmation. “I am a lucky player. A powerful winning force surrounds me.” He is quick to assure them that he isn’t superstitious, but maybe this will give them confidence to stop complaining about bad cards and “go win!”

Craig Welko was the 1st place champion that evening, also winning the opportunity to play Heads-up against Mike. Although Craig played an impressive game and was a challenging opponent, the Mad Genius of Poker won the match. Maybe next time? — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU series


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