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 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 136: An unfair attack
I guess I’m a little bit angry. Mike says I shouldn’t be, but I am.
Last year, Mike Caro taught me to be aware of a debating technique called “attacking the straw man.” It’s sometimes unscrupulously used to win arguments. “Straw man” arguments falsely attribute an opinion to an opponent, then refuting it in an effort to make the other person seem naïve or wrong. Doing this can sway an audience, but what’s being refuted is a position that was never advocated by the person under attack.
I never thought much about “straw men” until this week when an article on a major poker web site was brought to my attention. Immediately, I recognized the technique and my mind screamed, “Straw man argument!” Further research informed me that the origin of “to attack a straw man” comes from military training in which soldiers attack straw scarecrows dressed up as make-believe enemy troops.
In the article, the author calls Mike “the clown prince of poker” and says you shouldn’t take poker advice from him. Poker writers are entitled to voice opinions, so I have no objection to that, except it seems strange to read when comparing it to the thousands of favorable assessments of Mike’s work found on the Internet.
The writer attempts to support his opinion by talking about a hold ’em report Mike sold in the 1980s, claiming it “advised one to never raise before the flop in hold ’em games.” Then the writer argued convincingly against that.
I asked Mike about this and he assured me that he had never given such advice. He teaches that, in general, players are too aggressive before the flop. Occasionally, he even drives home his opinion by pointing out that against certain types of opponents you could still win, even if you never raised before the flop, but you would sacrifice an opportunity to make even more money. And as a training exercise, he sometimes instructs students, for one session only, to forego raising before the flop — even when raising is correct — in order to get a better understanding of the just-call tactic.
As I said, I’m still slightly angry, but at first I was horrified that someone had written a very unglamorous piece about the Mad Genius of Poker, Mike Caro. I hurriedly looked at the only two hold ’em publications Mike wrote in the 1980s — Professional Hold ’em Report and 12 Days to Hold ‘em Success. Neither advocated never raising before the flop. Here is a quote, from the hold ’em report: “Putting loose players on your right is not quite as important in hold ‘em as it is in some other games. That’s because you shouldn’t play hold ‘em with the same aggressive first-round zeal that you apply to most forms of poker. I believe you should resist the urge to raise immediately in hold ‘em, often choosing, instead, to see the flop cheaply.” As you can see for yourself, Mike doesn’t say never to raise before the flop, as reported in the article.
The article was also endeavoring to dissuade readers from seeking Mike’s poker advice. Why? The article claimed that Mike’s advice and presentations had to do mainly with “computer printouts” How many of you have been to one of Mike’s seminars? Did you see a computer printout? No, I haven’t either..
The writer also states that “about 16 years ago, [Mike Caro] was raising in the dark (clearly without looking at his hand, which was left as delivered, face-down in front of him) every hand, thereby throwing a wrench into the proceedings for the rest of us! We were trying to play poker, but how could we now?” So, I asked Mike about that. He said it was possible, but that usually opponents merely assume he’s not looking at his hand after he clearly raises blind once or twice. He added that, if that happened, he would have stopped if opponents seemed uncomfortable.
You see, when Mike is involved in a game he goes out of his way to make players feel happy. He believes that if opponents have fun losing to you, you’ll earn bigger profits.
I asked Mike what he thought about the article. He replied, “You need to get used to it. You can find a lot of instances where writers and players attribute something to me that I never said and then attack it. This guy also wrote a few semi-positive things about me, so for that I’m grateful. He’s probably a good person.”
I’ll bet it took Mike years to develop that attitude. I’m not there yet. — DM