McHaffie: MCU lesson 140 / Is winning important?

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 140: Is winning important to you?

The Hippie era came and went. I guess I missed it, and the details are a little nebulous to me, since I was in grade school at the time. Even in Springfield, Missouri, where I was raised, I recall tie-dyed shirts, bell bottom jeans, and a few peace signs. But I don’t remember witnessing sit-ins or hearing the radical comments common in the bigger cities.

Mike says almost everything surrounding us has been influenced by the hippie era. Even poker. Some of that influence is good, but much of it isn’t. I was brought up to respect my parents, grandparents, and elders. My family socialized together. It’s difficult for me to comprehend hippies despising their parents, or accusing their elders of “messing with their heads.” Could it have been the drugs messing with their heads?

Parents I knew merely wanted their children to attend school, get good grades, go to college, obtain a quality job, and marry someone nice, producing well-behaved little children. Some hippies even disagreed with the idea of working and accused those who did work for large corporations of “selling out” to the hated “establishment.” Oddly, many expected the government to take care of them. Sound familiar?

Competition and poker are good

Where did the hippies go? Nowhere and everywhere. They have grown up, but sometimes not in a nice way. Those hippies of yesterday are now teaching our kids. Some have mellowed and steered their lives in more conventional directions. Some haven’t. Many of those who haven’t are prevalent in Hollywood, news, education, and sometimes the government. Some of them still want government controlling almost everything, acting as better parents than the ones they hated. Mike says when they play poker, usually they play poorly.

Many still think competition is a bad thing, because that’s what they believed as hippies. They think winning at the expense of others is not a desired achievement and losing is just a sadness to be expected — and sometimes celebrated.

Life, like poker, is based on winning and losing. You get rewarded for good grades, great accomplishments, and getting maximum value from your hands. When you leave the poker table, you cash out either ahead or behind — winning or losing. I believe that when players lose due to poor play, they shouldn’t be rewarded — not even emotionally. Poker players need to accept the consequences of their losses and figure out how to improve. They need inspiration to do better, to become a winner. For children to succeed in life, they need to know right from wrong and winning from losing. Life’s goal, like poker’s goal, is to become a winner. It might not always happen, but it’s still a noble goal.

Poker pride

What happens to our pride if we aren’t interested in winning? As Mike points out, that question has everything to do with poker? When you sit down at the table, are you playing to win? Are you going to compete strongly? Or, are you going to feel sorry for your opponent and deposit a small portion of your bankroll in opposing pockets, because some opponents need it more?

Here’s some poker advice. It pays to identify opponents who still cling to hippie beliefs. Mike says you can increase your poker profit simply by imaging which opponents are “hippie lite” — ones he calls “hippie remnants” in everyday life. As a group, they are reluctant to bluff. They raise less, but call frequently. Should they choose to raise, it’s often not in a combative way, but more of a remorseful stance, dictated by the true strength of their hand. If they acquire a healthy chip stack they may begin playing mediocre hands in an unconscious attempt to even the chip count. If they manage to win, they’ll probably feel sorrow for your loss.

You can only succeed at poker if you don’t settle for losing. You must find a winning strategy and stick to it. That’s what Mike Caro teaches. He teaches that you should always play your best, all the time. Of course, if you really feel sorry for your opponents, you can always give the money back after the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you may not be so lucky, but don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. Remember, winning is not as important to some players as it is to you. So, don’t be the hippie at the poker table. — DM

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