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 139: Mistakes made by many
I was speaking with Mike recently about mistakes that serious players frequently make.
An error in logic that players occasionally exhibit comes from thinking about the current size of the pot in relation to the bet, when there are remaining rounds to be played. Sometimes estimating the correct odds can be difficult, because they aren’t what they seem to be at the moment. When there are more cards to come, you can’t know whether your odds are good or bad just by weighing the size of the pot and the size of the wager. You need to also consider what might happen on remaining betting rounds. Only then can you decide whether the odds are favorable now.
An example would be a hand where, after seeing the flop, you have three suited cards and three cards in sequence Your hopes rise slightly, realizing that you now have a possibility of connecting for a flush or straight draw on the turn — and possibly both.. You’ll need two more cards in the same suit or running cards to complete the sequence. It’s a bit of a long shot, but if the next card is favorable, you might have good odds to continue to the river. Or maybe not! A small bet might seem worth a call now. You have visions of hitting a suited card on the turn, which leaves you one more suited card needed for a flush on the river.
But, a shrewd opponent may do the unthinkable, in your mind, and bet too much for you to be able to profitably call. It is necessary to look ahead at this point. The pot odds that seem adequate to make the current call may not actually be good enough when you consider what might happen if the next card helps you. It isn’t just whether a mediocre, testing bet is worthy of a call, but you need to consider whether you’ll be permitted to complete the hand if you do improve it.
So, in summary: A frequent mistake is to look only at what the bet is going to cost them at that moment, and fail to consider what future bets will cost. This oversight can harm your bankroll.
Another mistake players sometimes make is they put too much emphasis on tells. Unfortunately, Mike says, there are few tells that are 100% accurate.
Most tells are merely vague suggestions of how strong or weak an opponent’s hand is likely to be. Tells seldom dictate absolute answers and should be used only as indications. Putting too much value on most tells can be a costly mistake to your wallet.
If it’s a close decision and you’re trying to decide whether to call or fold, a weak tell can be a deciding factor. If the tell gives you an indication to fold, you should probably go with it. But if it’s not a close decision, don’t be swayed so easily. In that case, you need an overpowering and very reliable tell to make you change your mind.
Another mistake dealing with tells happens because most players are hoping to find a reason to bet. So, they are looking for tells that indicate they should call or bet. They’ll even go so far as to invent tells that persuade them this is the action they should take. When they are this gung-ho about trying to find a tell showing them they should call or bet, they neglect to look for tells that signify they should simply fold. This can prove to be a costly error for them. When using tells to make an informed decision, it’s imperative that you use them correctly.
Today I have listed three examples of major mistakes Mike believes are made by players who otherwise take poker seriously. While there are many more, try to keep these in mind the next time you play poker. — DM