McHaffie: MCU lesson 156 / Small edges

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 156: Small edges

Small edges can be beneficial to you and are more frequent than larger ones. On an hourly basis, they can render the most profit. When Mike states that “30 small $1 edges are worth more than two large $10 edges,” he is, of course, just pointing out the obvious.

How do you go about acquiring small edges? Well, Mike has a tendency to play “out of position” many times because he has observed his opponents and determined who behind him is likely to possess the weaker or stronger hands.

No threat

For instance, if you detect the second player to your left concentrating on his chips, then you should interpret that as meaning the player is probably trying to deceive you and holds a lousy hand. Usually rule him out as a threat. Suppose the player next to you reaches slightly toward his chips? Well, he probably has a doubtful hand and he’s merely trying to intimidate you into thinking he’s going to bet.

Maybe you notice a player behind you staring wistfully at his cards. That is an indication that the player is pretending to be interested in his pitiful hand. You have nothing to fear.

So you see, by establishing that one or more players behind you are not going to be a danger, this moves your position up, allowing you to play hands you would have folded otherwise — an edge that can frequently result in a small profit to you.


Tells that you should be aware of that can put your cards in peril, which Mike refers to as “anti-edges,” would be:

  • If an opponent is pointedly gazing away from you.
  • If a player is unusually silent.
  • If a player does not check his cards to reaffirm what he’s holding.


Often players think that when their chip stacks are dwindling they need to rebuy in order to have plenty of money to do battle in the blinds. It’s often better to rebuy after you have been in the blinds. Having a small chip pile can actually work to your advantage when going all-in. This allows you to possibly win a pot with a hand you would have been forced to fold had you purchased more chips. Of course, it’s also true that if you have a towering stack of chips, you will have a more commanding presence at the table.

The call

Provoking a call can give you an added edge. Players come to the casino to participate; therefore they have the urge to call. So, you want an opponent to call? Cough, hum, pop your bubble gum, take a sip of your soda, or shift in your chair. They are now suspicious, which could very well result in a call.

If an opponent just made an emphatic bet, knocking his chips over in the process, and neglected to straighten them, it’s likely that he has a strong hand. This can prove profitable to you, by sometimes allowing you to fold a hand you would have called with prior to your surveillance.

Lucky seat

If you’re participating in a game where you find yourself suddenly losing chips, you might change seats as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Then announce that you’re in a lucky seat. Even though you aren’t superstitious, your opponents might be and it could change their image of you from loser to someone to be feared.

When bluffing, do not hesitate! You’re ruined if you do. Your opponents are going to see your hesitation as insecurity, become suspicious, and call more frequently. Now, if your goal is to produce a call, then faltering might achieve that goal.


Mike encourages his students to chase the small edges. Over time, these edges can bring a tidy profit to you. But, don’t allow imaginary small edges to overshadow your better judgment, resulting in too frequent calling and wild play.

Small advantages spell success in life and poker in a variety of ways. It’s up to you to identify them.  — DM

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