McHaffie: MCU lesson 154 / 2009 Seminars, Part 3

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 154: 2009 Caro and Brunson Seminars, Part 3

The Power Poker Seminars, at the Rio, presented by Mike Caro and Doyle Brunson concluded their sixth and last seminar on June 28th. It was a grand finale with ESPN in attendance, filming. The topic was “50 Best-Tip Countdown.”


Mike announced to his poker audience that, “Your Grandma lied when she said that you can’t win gambling.” What? Grandma lied? Impossible! No, Mike explained, someone has to win, right? Well, yes, of course. Whether it’s the casino, you, or an opponent, someone gets the money. If its craps, roulette, or slots, then it’s the casino that is usually the big winner, but in poker, it’s someone at the table, you or one of your opponents. Ah! Quite true!

Decisions matter

A very important tip that Mike includes in every seminar is that “your decisions really matter.” That’s right, in everyday life as well as in poker; your decisions determine the outcome of events that triggers a trickle-down effect that usually involves more than just you.

Contrary to what many people think, your main objective in playing poker isn’t to win pots. Anyone can win the most pots by simply betting and raising all the way to the river on every hand, winning with or without a showdown. But that would be a quick way to go broke. So, if it’s not to win pots, then what is the objective? It’s to make the right decisions, all the time, in life and in poker. You get paid solely to make quality decisions, nothing more. Hmm, sounds a little like think before you speak, think before you act.


Players to the left have a positional advantage by acting after they see what previous players do. It’s more profitable to place the weaker, more liberal players to your right, as well as the forceful, more skilled players. This allows you the opportunity to act after them. Then you want to place the more conservative players as well as the players who have a depleting stack to your left, because they take less advantage of their position.


One of the questions that Mike receives the most, and that he covered in Tip #38, is how to handle bullies that are trying to dominate the game. He says that you need to call frequently and avoid betting wars. Betting and raising is not the answer.

When the flop is being placed on the table, observe your opponents. It’s their reactions that matter — and you won’t see these if you’re watching the flop.


Another useful tip was; if you’re involved in a limit hold ’em game and your opponents are loose, but not aggressive, then you can play your lower pairs, such as “3-3, 4-4, or 5-5” early. Ah, but if you’re playing in a limit hold ’em tournament, Mike strongly advises against playing 2-2 thru 6-6 early unless ….. The audience waited with bated breath until the next slide revealed …unless “hell freezes over!”


Every year poker player’s bankrolls fall prey to a dreadful disease, one that you especially want to guard against during the World Series of Poker or any other major poker tournaments.  What is the disease, you wonder fearfully? Well, it is one that you can prevent, FPS, Fancy Play Syndrome. FPS is disease that players succumb to when they wish to impress their opponents with their skills. Unfortunately, the player’s vow to play their best game all the time vanishes, to be replaced by a peacock trying to strut its stuff. Don’t be a peacock.

Do’s and Don’ts

Did you know that there are do’s and don’t’s to “thinning the field?” Here they are: Do raise to “thin the field” when weak players are already involved and the more aggressive players haven’t had the opportunity to act yet. Don’t raise to “thin the field” if forceful opponents are involved and weak opponents have yet to act. You want the weak opponents to be playing, not frightened away.

If you’re staring at your hand on the river, wishing for something better, but you think that maybe your opponent is facing the same situation, challenge him. That’s right, bet! The last thing that you want is to have a 50-50 chance in a showdown when you can win the whole pot by betting.

Probably the most important tip of all that Mike has to offer is this: “The greatest secret to winning at poker… Play your best game all the time!” — DM

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