McHaffie: MCU lesson 161 / Psychology tips

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 161: Psychology tips for the mid-level player

Mike teaches that weak players usually feel compelled to call almost any action. When you’re playing against weaker opponents, being aggressive for the purpose of intimidation is usually unnecessary. In that environment, you should only put in extra bets and raises when you have an advantage, not to make a statement.

Your best strategy is to be carefree. Remember that an exciting, loose, player is going to receive more calls, while a silent, serious player will usually have better luck bluffing. However, in most games there’s more money to be made by earning extra calls than by winning extra bluffs. That’s why Mike stresses that loose images are more profitable in most real-world games.

Winning streak

If you find yourself on a multi-day winning steak don’t be tempted, by your jubilation, to attempt to extend that streak by playing in less than ideal circumstances, especially if you aren’t winning at the moment. In order to lengthen your winning streak do you find yourself quitting too soon, by settling for small wins under favorable conditions? You’re costing yourself money when you do that. It’s more lucrative if you take advantage of a good game, even if you risk breaking your winning streak. Many players will continue to sit in unpromising games, attempting to manifest a win and prolong a winning streak. That, too, does bankroll damage. It’s necessary to learn when it’s cost effective to stay in or get out of a game without basing your decision on a winning streak. Overall, it’s how much money you win, not how many days you win in a row.


Caro’s Threshold of Misery is an important concept to remember when losing. If you enter a game believing $2,000 would be a barely tolerable loss for you, but find yourself losing $4,500, the pain will not feel measurably worse than if you’d been losing $4,000.  You’ve maxed out the misery and the additional $500 loss doesn’t register. You’ve crossed Caro’s Threshold of Misery – and that’s dangerous. You need to either quit or convince yourself that winning the next hundred dollars is still important – because it will be tomorrow.


If you fear that cheating might be occurring, it’s usually best to abandon the game, even though most such suspicions turn out to be false. The reasons are: (1) If your suspicions are incorrect, your uneasiness can still have a negative effect on your play; and (2) If your suspicions are correct, you’re toast!


Unfortunately many players are prone to going on tilt. It often seems like players at your table are actually sharing the tilt time – taking turns going on tilt. However, if you ignore the temptation to be a member of the tilt team, it can be monetarily beneficial for you. In other words, play your best all the time, regardless of the mistakes your opponents are obviously making by taking their turns at the tilt game.


When you feel compelled to show puny hands to opponents, as Mike is inclined to do occasionally to increase calls, it’s more valuable if the cards are weird or unbelievably weak. After all, you’re trying to get their attention. You don’t want a yawn or “so what” reaction – which is what happens when you show medium-weak hands, that your losing opponents play themselves.


You’re chosen a loose, lively image – even though you’re really playing tighter than what you’re trying to convey. Now you’re wondering if that image will be successful against the skilled pro facing you. Well, if you’re slick and confident with your portrayal, any player, no matter how accomplished, can be influenced by it. Mike says that no one is immune, if you’ve perfected your act.

So, to sum it up…. Be carefree with weak players. Don’t be a tilt team member. Avoid suspicious games. Manufacturing winning streaks can be dangerous. Beware of Caro’s Threshold of Misery. No one is immune to a believable image.  — DM

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