McHaffie: MCU lesson 153 / 2009 Seminars, Part 2

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2009.

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 153: 2009 Caro and Brunson Seminars, Part 2

The Power Poker Seminars, at the Rio, presented by Mike Caro and Doyle Brunson continued on June 27th. The topic was “Psychology, Tells, and Manipulation.”

A Quote

Mike pointed out that once you have learned the basic skills of poker; using psychology against your opponents was the next step toward increasing your bankroll. He went on to give us his quote of from 1997, “In poker, psychology is the land where money grows!” I have often watched him use psychology against his opponents with ease and great results.

Another psychology tip that he covered was how important it is to watch for tables where the players are having a good time, laughing, visiting and enjoying the game. Those are the tables where you’ll profit the most. You want to avoid the quiet, somber tables of conservative players who take poker far too seriously. No merriment there. No profit, either!

Acting or not

There are two kinds of tells that you need to be aware of, acted and non-acted. Some players will go into acting mode, hoping to fool you. An acted tell happens when a player is attempting to make you think he has a strong hand when he’s actually holding puny cards or vice versa. Meanwhile others are totally unconscious of what they are doing. An example is that someone chewing gum will cease chewing if he is trying to bluff you. If you make a move to call and he continues to chew, he possesses a strong hand.


Here are some dangers to watch out for:

Should you witness a player whose hand is suddenly shaking while making a bet, reconsider your actions, as this player is not bluffing and not acting. He has a serious hand, and the shaking is due to a sudden release of tension once a huge hand is recognized, not due to nervousness about bluffing!

If the player that you are involved with is not looking at you, but away from you, watch out! He’s waiting to take your money.

Now, if your opponent shrugs or sighs sadly while making a bet, beat a hasty retreat. His cards are anything but miserable. He is acting sad, but isn’t!

Once again Mike asked for audience participation as he impressed upon them the significance of the sound of a particular tell. That sound, pokerclack, is made beginning with the tongue against the roof of your mouth and it’s a sad sound, indicating a strong hand.

The players on your left are capable of inflicting the most damage, so chat amiably with them, buy them a soda, and become their new friend. Ah, but it isn’t necessary to do any favors for those on your right. In fact, it’s permissible to nicely take advantage of them. But remember, you never want to be an unpleasant opponent, as that can cost you.


Make it a point to observe your opponents’ wagers. If an opponent knocks over the chips he’s betting, but doesn’t tidy them up, he has an impressive hand, so be on guard. You’re going to need a truly powerful hand to proceed. Ah, but if a player does try to repair his tumbled chips, he’s usually weak or bluffing.

Seeing is believing

Here are two of my favorite tells that I like to see Mike describe. Suppose the cards have been dealt out and you’re observing your opponents before you look at your cards, as Mike has taught you to do. You notice that an opponent glances at his cards and very quickly places them back on the table. This person has a huge hand! Another opponent carefully raises his cards to peek at them and stares at them as if he’s hoping a pair of aces will magically appear. Count him out, he possesses a meager hand.

Stay tuned for Power Poker Seminar Part 3, “50 Bets-Tip Countdown.” — DM

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