McHaffie: MCU lesson 164 / Intimidation

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 164: Intimidation: Gardena style vs. Caro style

In the early 1970’s Mike often played five-card draw in Gardena, CA, which was commonly referred to as “the poker capital of the world.” You see, Gardena was where the pros gathered to play against the newbie’s and intermediate players who liked to challenge them.

Gardena style

During those days Mike discovered that a considerable number of poker players had adopted the bullying technique as a way to intimidate other players in the hopes of enlarging their own chip stacks.

Aggressive intimidators would often prey on their weaker opponents by ridiculing them for their feeble decisions or unusual betting methods. The idea behind this type of behavior was to distress their opponents into making grievous errors, on the theory that this supplied profit to the tormenter.


While observing the tables where the bullies reined, Mike also noticed that players frequently avoided pots that involved the bullies. He determined that when a player applied this type of intimidation, the other players would refrain from participating with the tormenter.

The players were there to enjoy a nice, relaxing game of poker. The last thing they wanted was to be accosted by the playground bully. Those days were supposed to be behind them, not still confronting them from across the poker table. In their school days, they may have been unable to evade their tormenter, but now, all they had to do was get up, walk away and find a more desirable table.


The intimidators failed to realize that when their victims tire of their unpleasantness and depart the table, seeking out tables of less stress and bullying tactics, they were also taking potential profit with them. Usually these unfortunate victims are the weak, loose players who are abandoning the table, and those are precisely the ones you want seated in your game. Not only did the harasser lose prospective profit, but so did the other superior players at the table. So, this type of distasteful behavior hurts everyone.


This was when Mike became aware of how important image was at the table. Image determined how other players perceived you and reacted to you. Therefore, it could hugely affect your profit. Mike believes that in his own way, he can be described as an intimidator – just not through harassment. His form of intimidation is friendly and fun. Some players may feel intimidated by him because he is a well-known poker professional. He also has a reputation of being a leading authority on psychology and manipulation. So, it is only reasonable to assume that he could be a threat at the table. However, his image is one of playfulness and often seemingly reckless abandon. Seeking not to make an opponent uncomfortable, he instead gives them encouragement and reassurance. Mike refrains from apply bullying techniques, as that form of intimidation is repulsive and unnecessary in reaping rewards from your opponents.

Mike’s style

That is why players don’t shun the tables where Mike is playing. They seek him out because he is fun, unusual, and unpredictable and because his form of intimidation isn’t the objectionable kind. It’s entertainment. In fact, he makes losing less painful. Ridiculing opponents is something he teaches against. It’s necessary that his opponents feel good about whatever decisions they make, whether good or bad. There are possible pots to be won if the loose, weak players remain seated at the table and are eager to compete against you. They are the ones that supply much of the profit for every player who is playing more sensibly.

Gardena or Caro

So, what we have learned today is there are two main types of intimidation. There is the aggressive bully that torments opponents, making them so miserable they finally abandon the table. And there is the second type, the one that manipulates the players in a fun and comfortable manner. Although opponents may be at a disadvantage, their loss is less painful, prompting them to remain and even enjoy losing.  — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU series


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  1. this rings so so true to me im a novice player made acouple of mistakes and was ridiculed was losing badly but would have played more but i left probably cost table 150 bucks i would spent learning his loss

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