Weird poker advice about feeling comfortable

Note: This entry is a version of a previously published Mike Caro column. The identity of the original publication hasn’t yet been determined.

The column title (or subtitle), when submitted, was: “How to give away $1,000 and still win, plus some very weird poker advice about feeling comfortable at the table.”

We talk a lot about “advertising” in poker. Ten years ago, in Poker Player newspaper, I wrote a column defining one of my approaches to maximizing profit through the use of advertising. Before you read it, you need to know that it probably is not an approach that you should adopt.

In order to make it work for you, you need to do much more than just put on a show. You need to fully understand your opponents and all of the strategic options available to you. You need to have mastered almost every aspect of the form of poker that you’re playing. You need to be vastly superior to the particular field of opponents that surrounds you right now. And, even then, this approach may just cost you money. So, you’ve been warned.

Spreading the money around. Now, here’s the column:

Today’s Word is ‘Control’

OK, suppose that I’m about to sit in a poker game. Imagine it. Look, quick! There’s the Mad Genius about to take the No. 6 seat in a $50-$100 jacks-or-better game.

Wanna know what’s going on in my mind? Am I thinking, “Gee, how can I present my most professional image?” No. Am I reviewing odds, statistics, and secret strategy? Nope. Am I giving myself a spirited lecture on poker discipline? Not me. Stop guessing; I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m thinking.

It is this, assuming it’s a fairly large-stakes game: How can I give away $500 to $1,000 in the first 20 to 30 minutes? As you know, sometimes it isn’t easy to unload so much money against unsuspecting opponents in such a short time. Once in a while, good cards will land your way and it’s hard to keep yourself from winning. That’s when giving away one or two buy-ins takes a special talent. I have it. But if the cards are stubborn, meaning lucky for me, I’ll just accept the win. My advertising budget is a measure of how much substandard play I provide my opponents. Throwing off this money by making seemingly unprofitable decisions, whether I win or lose doing it, isn’t just a minor objective. It is my major mission, and for the next 15 to 20 hands or so, little else matters.

In smaller games, my advertising budget is correspondingly smaller.

There’s a science involved here. You see, since I’m bound and determined to get rid of that much money, it’s essential that I realize the biggest possible advantage for every dollar spent. Yes, it’s advertising, but making sure that it goes to the right people, that it gets the right responses, and that it establishes the right image is an art form.

Just a loan

There’s one thing that you should know right now — that $500 to $1,000, all of it, probably is coming right back to me. I’m not really giving it away. I’m only lending it temporarily, spreading it to the spots at the table where it will do the most good. Unless the cards are very unfavorable over the next few hours, I will be able to call it back in anytime I feel like it — with interest!

This method must not be used by anyone except very advanced poker students. And it shouldn’t be used for every game, only some games, sometimes when the chemistry is right. It isn’t my intention to explain the theory or the techniques today. Instead, I want you to be aware of these important concepts:

1. Get your opponents’ attention as soon as possible after you enter a game. Attention allows you to control your opponents. When you are the one force to be reckoned with at your table, players will make weak calls, allowing you to profitably bet hands that you could not have otherwise bet. And because your image is confusing, your opponents will become less aggressive and thereby will stop getting maximum value out of their own hands. Once this happens, you can win almost at will. You can establish this image in several ways. Advertising is only one of them.

2. There are times when you never should advertise. One is if the game may break up shortly or if you don’t intend to play long. That would be like buying a full-page ad in a national magazine and closing your business before it hits the newsstands. Another time that you shouldn’t advertise is when your table is short of players. Wait for a full audience. Also, don’t advertise while players are focusing on something unrelated to poker. If an argument is in progress, you aren’t getting full attention.

These are advanced concepts. If they seem bewildering, file them away for future reference. Goodbye.

A weird psychological lecture

At about the same time that column appeared, I wrote this one. It may have value to your bankroll, and it may not. Nevertheless, deep inside of my mind, it strikes me as being important. But, then, deep inside of my mind is not necessarily a place that you want to visit. Here it is:

Raise your hand if you have ever felt out of character in a poker game — 76, 77, 78, and three in the back row. That’s 81, unless I missed somebody. OK, how many have always felt completely comfortable playing poker? Hmm, only six of you.

Does this tell us anything important? Sure. First of all, it accents something that I contributed to Doyle Brunson’s book Super System — A Course in Power Poker many years ago.

Most people are prevented from living life as they want. In childhood, they’re required to do chores that they hate. They grow up having to conform at school. As adults, they must shake hands that they don’t want to shake, socialize with people whom they dislike, pretend that they’re feeling “fine” when they’re feeling miserable, and “act” in control of situations in which, in truth, they feel frightened and unsure. These people — the majority of the folks you meet every day — are actors. Deep within themselves, they know that they are not the same persons they pretend to be.

The need to act

The point is simple and powerful. Most players know that they must act in order to disguise the true strength of their poker hands. On a primitive level, they have only one method of misleading you: They pretend to be weak when strong, and they pretend to be strong when weak. That’s the central concept behind the science of tells, the art of reading your opponents. When you apply that proven magic, you get to spend their money and they don’t get to spend yours. For instance, you’ll save bets simply by knowing that players who sigh, shrug, or bet with sad voices actually are holding powerful hands.

But that isn’t really what I wanted to say to you today. Instead, let’s deal with this: Often when you feel out of character, it’s because you’re roping off a room where no walls exist. This is not some trivial truth that can wait till winter. It’s a major Mad Genius truth, and I want you to know it now. Some people think, “This is me and I go from here to here, but never there, and if I ventured beyond these limits, well, that just wouldn’t be me anymore.”

Well, trust me, nobody’s really in character or out of character — not ever. It’s always you, wherever you go, whatever you do. It’s you! Winning in life and in poker requires the ability to adapt and still feel like yourself, and to recognize when others feel unnatural. We all bring our boundaries with us wherever we go, but broad borders work best.

The secret

Guess what? You’re not the same person with your Uncle Fred as you are with your friend Tom. And you’re not the same with Tom as you are with Martin. You must understand that they’re not the same, either. If personalities aren’t flexible, they can’t interact. We’re chameleons, all of us, and we couldn’t be otherwise.

Anytime you feel out of character, you’ve got potentially more than poker problems. You need to learn the secret. The secret is stepping beyond where you thought you stopped and still knowing that you’re you. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

Visit Mike on   → Twitter   ♠ OR ♠    → FaceBook

Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


8 thoughts on “Weird poker advice about feeling comfortable”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's make sure it's really you and not a bot. Please type digits (without spaces) that best match what you see. (Example: 71353)

  1. Hi Mike, Powerful words.

    Anytime you feel out of character, you’ve got potentially more than poker problems. You need to learn the secret. The secret is stepping beyond where you thought you stopped and still knowing that you’re you. — MC

  2. Very thought provoking stuff. Thanks Mike

    This is one I’ll come back to as I continue to devlop as a player.


  3. I have a hard time keeping up with you sometimes Mike. Other times I feel like you leave some material on the table.

    The other day I was in a nice hand in a NL game, my reading of your tells, told me my two pair was good but all of a sudden – another person chimed in “TIME” and started with the smack talk. I usually don’t “lose it” to guys like this.. but THIS GUY, that night I did.

    I went against my gut because of it and the kid showed me a bluff/semi, “nothing with a flush draw”

    The only thing making me not happy at a poker table is my shitty “Poker roll” –

    I’ll keep reading and grinding Mike. Keep up the good work… and if you’re leaving somethings out. Stop doing that.

  4. Just a little science trivia – chameleons do not change the color of their skin to blend into the environment. It’s actually very simmilar to when we blush. You can put a thousand chameleons on a pink rug with purple polka-dots and not one of them will blend in. Instead a chameleons skin color change reflects their mood – blackish if sick, redish if angry, yellowish if scared… making them possibly natures worst poker players. I learned this watching “Stanley” (a PBS nature cartoon), with my son.

  5. About the second to last paragraph – I know this is completely true. It’s something not everyone realizes or understands. It’s a good concept to think about. Anyway you explain it in an eye-openening way when you say that “If personalities aren’t flexible, they can’t interact.” Thanks!! :)

  6. Performing in a present state of mind, with more space in between thoughts about anything other than the hand calculations taking place, is a good focus point. Any uncomfortable feeling is a direct result of your thoughts, so if you cant avoid negative ones, just think “next” when an uncomfortable thought occurs in your mind and consciously focus on a positive aspect or use an affirmation.

  7. thank u for this advice especially. i think i knew these things instinctually, but never fully accepted that i too am a chameleon. no point in hiding the fact that im comfortable im my own skin, even if it has to change colors sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's make sure it's really you and not a bot. Please type digits (without spaces) that best match what you see. (Example: 71353)