Mike Caro poker word is Advice

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2011) in Poker Player newspaper.

As we continue our series of self-interviews, I’d like to deal with a special request. The persona who usually interviews me has taken today off. His replacement has asked if he can ask questions seeking poker advice that applies strictly to him.

I said yes. I’m gambling that any advice that applies to him will also help others. So, let’s see. Here’s the interview…

Question 1: I have a $500 bankroll, which I’ve gradually built from $20 playing at 50-cent and $1 blinds, no-limit hold ’em. Last night there was a game with $1 and $3 blinds that had very loose and weak players. Should I have sat in that game, instead?

That’s up to you. Your bankroll probably was large enough to justify taking a shot at that game, if you decided it was just that – a shot – and you remained stubborn that you wouldn’t stick around to cripple your bankroll in that game. For instance, you might have decided to devote $100 to the attempt.

I know, that sounds a bit like a stop-loss, and you’ve heard me say that “stop loss” is really “stop win.” Stop loss is a method by which you rigidly enforce predetermined limits governing how much you’ll allow yourself to lose. That keeps you from squandering an entire bankroll, or major portions of it, in one session.

My quibble with stop loss is that the method may keep you from playing at a time when you’ve been unlucky so far, but conditions are good. If you quit now and come back to the same game tomorrow, conditions may be worse. If so, the next hours you spend playing will be at a “lower wage.” That costs money, even though the intent of stop loss is to save money. Stop loss could be reasonable, however, if you decided to step down to a lower level after losing a certain amount.

In your case, though, you wouldn’t be coming back to the same larger game tomorrow. You’re taking a shot at a limit higher than you’d usually play, because the prospects look exceptionally favorable. I’m saying, okay, but don’t risk your entire bankroll doing it.

So, yes, you could have justified sitting in that game with $1 and $3 blinds. You should always be on the lookout for slightly higher limits that might briefly be extra profitable. But the trick is to jump in and then jump right back to your previous stakes when conditions are less favorable at the higher limits.

Question 2: My wife doesn’t like me to play poker. She thinks it’s just gambling. How can I convince here that it isn’t?

You’re probably not going to be able to convince her with words. Try to win consistently over a meaningful period of time. She’ll be more likely to accept that as a compelling argument.

Question 3: There’s a player, Frank, who almost always wins in my game by being very aggressive. He raises very often, driving players – including me – out of pots. What should I do?

You should sit to his left, if possible. You want Frank to act before you do, so he won’t interfere as much with your usual strategy.

It’s true that, generally, you want to sit to the left of the loosest and weakest opponents – those who call too frequently, but who don’t raise often enough when they have advantages. Those players supply most of your profit when you let them enter your pots before you raise with quality hands. If you raise before they act, you’re more likely to chase away their loose and profitable action.

Fine. Well, Frank isn’t one of those players, but he still belongs on your right (with you sitting to his left and acting after he does, due to the clockwise action in poker). That’s because he can take advantage of you if allowed to sit on your left.

So, there are two types of players you want on your right: (1) Loose, but unaggressive players, so you can make the most money on offense; and (2) Skillful, aggressive players (like Frank), so you can save the most money on defense.

The other thing you should do against Frank is to call him more often with medium hands, because clearly he’s betting too many times. And you should also not raise or bet into him as often as you would against typical players. Let him hang himself. Therefore, when he bets and you have a very strong hand, it’s often best to just call until the final betting round. He might be bluffing or betting a weak hand, and you want to give him another chance to make that same mistake on the next round.

Question 4: I can’t seem to spot any tells in my games. What’s wrong?

Don’t expect to see tells everywhere on every hand. Even one or two solid tells an hour can add to your profit monumentally.

You’re probably not focusing on a single opponent at a time. That’s the secret. Watch one opponent play after play, whether you’re in the pot or not. Ignore everyone else. If that player doesn’t turn out to be a good tell candidate, move on to someone else.

Once you’ve successfully spotted a few tells, you’ll automatically be able to see them in more than one opponent, without much effort. But the learning process starts with scrutinizing just one player.

Question 5: What can I do to keep from going on tilt when stupid opponents play weak hands and draw out on me?

Be glad that they drew out. As a proportion of the pots entered, great players are drawn out on much more often than weak players. Why? It’s because great players have the stronger hands most of the time. Often, the only way they can lose is to be drawn out on. Weak players, conversely, often can only win by drawing out.

So, instead of going on tilt, remind yourself that you’re doing it right and will eventually prosper. Being drawn out on is a good sign.v

Question 6: Any other advice?

Go win.— 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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