Mike Caro poker word is Crisp

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2013) in Poker Player newspaper.

Think of it as a no-huddle offense for poker. And it can be just as hard to defend. So, let’s examine it…

I teach that you usually should make your actions at the poker table swift and certain. Swift. And certain. I call this playing crisp — which is today’s word. Now I’ll explain why playing crisp can bring you mountains of profit. And I’ll point out some exceptions.

Let me ask you a question? What do you fear most about your poker opponents? That they’ll draw out and beat you when you have a great hand? That they’ll cheat you? That they’re superior to you? Sure, you should be concerned about that and more.

Fine. But psychologically, there are two things players fear most about their opponents — good luck and strong confidence.

Fear of good luck

Oddly, even the majority of superior players, using winning tactics, are afraid of your good luck. They might deny it and swear they’re not superstitious. But just look around the table. When a player gets hot, opponents back off.

Intellectually, they may not be superstitious, but clearly they fear good luck. So, what do I teach about that?

Two things, mainly. I teach that superstition has no place in either poker or in everyday life. Streaks of luck — good and bad — are real, but only when you examine them in the rearview mirror. Scientifically, a streak is never in progress. That’s because it has no force guiding it. It’s just what has already happened. If you toss nine heads consecutively, that’s a streak to be sure. But the next toss is no more likely to be either heads or tails than any other toss. Streaks have no influence on the future distribution of anything, except… Well, except where human beings get emotionally involved and change things.


That happens in poker. Humans change things when confronted with streaks of luck. Specifically, opponents tend to play better against players they perceive to be unlucky. That’s because they see them unconsciously as vulnerable and tend to maximize their advantages by making daring, but profitable, bets and raises. And opponents tend to become timid and play poorly against players they perceive as being on a hot streak of good luck. They fail to take full advantage when they have medium strong hands.

That’s a fact. Look closely and you’ll see it. So, I teach that you should play more aggressively when you’re on a winning streak, even though there’s no superstitious motivation for doing so. Most opponents will fall in line, tending to become meek callers, leaving you to take advantage without fearing as much punishment.

Conversely, you should back off and not play aggressively when your recent past looks like a losing streak. Be on defense. Take fewer chances. Wait for the cards to bring your dominating image back to life.

Fear of confidence

The second thing I teach is that opponents fear your display of strong confidence. When your actions suggest that you know exactly what you’re doing and not doubtful, you unnerve you opponents. Once again, they fall in line and play poorly.

And here’s the secret. Going into crisp mode solidifies your super confident image. So, rather than hesitate when a decision is close, just choose one way or the other, sit tall, and confidently fold, call, bet, or raise. Make every action swift and certain.

You’ll be amazed how significantly this will improve your table image and your results.

But, wait! I said there were some exceptions, and I’ll explain them now.


First, there will be times when it’s more important to pause and study an opponent than to play crisp. When that’s the case, go ahead. Study. Wait a few seconds for a tell to appear or try to elicit one.

You should also be aware of the timing of your bets when you hold a very strong hand. If you want a call, it’s often better to wait a few seconds longer than usual, because that makes many opponents suspicious and more likely to call.

And if you’re bluffing, follow my two-and-a-half-second rule. That’s the perfect time to take before betting in most limit games. Bet too quickly and opponents are suspicious. It’s the same if you wait too long. Suspicion. Try two and a half seconds. It’s almost perfect in most cases.

In no-limit games, add a second or even a bit more.

The magic of crisp

Let’s get back to the magic of betting swiftly — the magic of crisp. You can sometimes instigate a raising war when you have a huge advantage. If you bet and get raised immediately, raise back instantly in return. You’ll sometimes get yet another raise that happens almost instinctively because of the fast paced action. Had you hesitated, your opponent would have had more time to think rationally and might have backed off.

How much is that tactic worth? It’s only worth a fraction of an extra bet on average, but the profit adds up over time. Better still, you’re keeping your crisp image alive.

So, sit up and take charge. Act crisp and certain. It works!

This is Mike Caro and that’s all I have for today. – MC

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Mike Caro

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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.


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