McHaffie: MCU lesson 158 / Teaching bad lessons

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 158: Teaching bad lessons

The sudden popularity of poker is great for the industry, but bad for beginning poker players. Why?

People from all walks of life have been bitten by the poker bug. They have watched their poker favorites on TV and decided to give poker a try. Ah, but there’s the catch. You see, skilled professionals are frequently shown playing bad hands and winning with them. What the audience fails to understand is these shows are edited after the tournaments have been played. The hands shown often involve unusual cards played when a skillful player decided to make a stand. Or they depict incredible and dramatic “draw outs.” Not seen on TV are the much more numerous times that those same players simply folded. These clips are misleading and teach bad lessons.

Mike has made numerous “televised” appearances, many showing him with hands that normally would have won a pot, but at this particular time didn’t. The result is that the audience gets a distorted view of the number of times bad hands are played and believe that these hands win more often than they actually do.


Often the audience is inclined to be impressed by the outcome of the play, instead of by correct decisions applied. The televised results sometimes border on ridiculous. Skilled professionals seem to be jumping into pots at inappropriate times, in relation to their positions, with unbelievable cards. But deleted are the thousands of times these strange cards go unplayed. The audience is in awe of the winner and concludes that’s how to play.

Mike claims that there isn’t “always one right way to play a hand.” He has written about correct and incorrect times to play hands, but sometimes the incorrect ways are okay, depending on the situations.


The one thing that you don’t want to be is predictable. You need to vary your plays. So, although a super hand may dictate that you raise against a perceptive opponent, sometimes you should merely call. Against players who aren’t attentive, a battle plan based on deception isn’t necessary.

There are many things to consider when altering your techniques, such as who’s betting, your chances of success, your opponents’ methods, their images, and their frame of mind at the moment. The essential thing to consider is how your personality is influencing opponent’s decisions. So, that is why you’ll sometimes witness professionals playing a weird hand.

Usually what you’re observing on TV gives a false impression. The segment you are watching has been manipulated to provide you with major plays. What they aren’t showing you are the many times puny cards didn’t result in an altercation. You aren’t seeing the many times small battles are fought and won with routine hands, because they didn’t enhance the drama for TV audiences.


The TV gods are too often providing you with the rare times that superior players attempt the improbable by competing with a truly lousy hand, yet winning with it. What if the player hadn’t been smiled upon and gotten lucky?  I’m guessing that the TV gods wouldn’t have shown that play to you. No entertainment value there.

Skilled players rarely play weak hands. Should they dare to play those puny cards while being televised, you’ll only see the play if the flop has been generous. Seldom will you see weak hands pitted against equally weak hands. So, instead you’ll often see the puny hands battling it out with strong, impressive hands and winning!

In reality, you aren’t regularly going to witness meager hands winning pots nearly that often. Put simply: Professionals don’t play poker the way they seem to on television.


The danger in watching poker on TV and then playing in real casinos or online is that new players think they can play those same skimpy hands that the pros played and won with, and receive the same results. They’re going to be sorely disappointed. The TV gods aren’t there to edit the play to their liking.

Ah, but it is thrilling and exciting to be involved in a pot. The temptation to be adventuresome is great. Don’t do it! Avoid the danger! Play sensibly and make good decisions all the time.  — DM

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