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 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 email@example.com.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 159: Thinking before you act
Careful thinking plays an important part in becoming a successful poker player. When involved in a game, what should you be thinking? Do you make careful considerations or are your decisions merely spur of the moment? Do you evaluate the potential of hands that your opponent could be holding? Do you imagine the obvious hands that may be ready to do battle with you or do you go further with your thoughts and imagine the strange and unusual hands?
Mike is always analyzing people, happenings, and events. Life is an intricate spider’s web with Mike, one he contemplates carefully. Often he sits in the woods, his mind far away, with his dogs scampering about nearby. In those moments of profound, quiet thought he occasionally gets ideas for his columns and books. He has similar distant moments when he’s playing poker, while others believe he is napping.
Most people aren’t given to deep, insightful thought, but instead only skim the surface. Mike teaches that it’s necessary to think more seriously, more penetratingly, as our future victories in life and poker hinge on it.
I’ve done a lot of traveling over the last six years and I’ve seen a vast difference in the people, their education, sophistication and thought processes. I’ve discovered there are people who are capable of subterranean thought, of discussing world events, theater, and local events with others. But, there are people who aren’t accustomed to thinking on these levels. They merely chug along, content in their own little world, discussing pot holes and the latest gossip of the community. It’s these people, who don’t think deeply, who could easily be manipulated and conquered, if you face them as opponents in poker.
You need to become a master at thought process. It’s essential to think profoundly and quickly, so that you can determine possible hands opposing you and maneuver your opponents accordingly. Mike says that you need to “prioritize” your thinking. You’re provided a small window of opportunity to decide what actions are necessary. When preparing to battle with an opponent you have to consider the big picture.
Mike advises compiling a list of “questions” that you pose to yourself prior to acting. These questions will hopefully prevent you from squandering precious moments attempting to decide what you should do.
- If you folded thousands of times in this precise situation, would it prevent your bankroll from dwindling? If yes, then cease your involvement in the pot by immediately folding or checking, if that is an option.
- What cards could your opponent hold? Warning! It isn’t always the most obvious. No, frequently the opposing hand can be weird and unlikely. Mike says to itemize the first, second, third, and fourth possible hands that could be facing you. Estimate how likely they are, given the sequence of betting so far. Then strongly consider that the actual hand might be none of those.
- What image are you presenting? If you’re a cautious player, opponents are likely to attempt bluffing you, so be prepared to call often. If you’re posing as a “Mike Caro type”, wild and wooly, then you’ll find betting with small advantages more lucrative. Your actions should match your personality.
Will you always accumulate more chips by deep thought? Not always. Some players make successful snap decisions based on similar situations experienced previously, so they have an edge over someone whose thought may be deep but erroneous.
Preconceived decisions can be ruinous. Those are decisions in which you’ve talked yourself into calling, betting, or raising for some ridiculous reason and ignored that little voice in your head that’s whispering, “Beware!”
A manufactured reason for an action can be destructive. Don’t ignore the strong possibilities before you, while giving undue importance to insignificant ones. You want to increase your bankroll by careful, studious thinking and by considering all the alternative hands that could be awaiting you.
Avoid emotions as they can be harmful to your bankroll. Your ability to think in a more sophisticated manner than your opponents leads to victory. — DM