My old poker notes are worth sharing. So why stop?

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine.

The first paragraph below was left in this entry for historical purposes.

Let’s sift through more of my old poker notes. This will help me prepare for my seminar, Friday, August 6, 1993 at the Bicycle Club Casino. By the way, I’d feel honored if you showed up. It starts at 7 p.m., lasts 90 minutes, and doesn’t cost you anything. Now, here are two notes.

Making it hard to win. Tournaments are strange. If 300 players enter and you finish 75th, you fare better than 225 foes, while only 74 foes fare better than you. In a regular poker game, using the same skill and enjoying the same luck, you count your gains and giggle. But, alas, in a tournament there are no gains and you don’t giggle. That’s because every hour the tournament director declares the limits doubled. He’s trying to eliminate players, because the object is for one player to end up with all the chips while everyone else goes broke.

I’ve seen many players treat their entire bankrolls like a buy-in to some tournament. If they survive a $1 limit, they rush to play $3 limit, then $5, $10, $15, $20, $30, $50, $75, $100, $150, $200 and beyond. If they beat one limit, they jump to the next. They keep surviving one more level and advancing. Surviving. Advancing. But unless they’re quite lucky and become quite rich, they’re destined to go broke–even if they’re quite talented.

While they might well be getting theoretically the best of it at that new level, they’re not likely to survive every new level that comes along, any more than they are likely to win a single tournament. Think about it.

Fancy plays. Most players, even very good players, lose money on their fancy plays for life. They want to appear devious. So they trick players into drawing out on them for free. “I tricked you, so take the pot.”

There needs to be a clear reason for you to vary from your obvious tactics. Slow-playing and sandbagging must be right or you shouldn’t indulge. Used at the wrong times, or in the hands of inferior players, these tactics cost money. Average players snare smaller pots or lose pots they should have won. The usual purpose of tricky play is exactly the opposite—to snare larger pots or to win pots you would otherwise have lost. So, if your trick doesn’t have one of those two objectives in mind, it’s usually wrong (although there exist exceptions which fall beyond today’s discussion).

If you just remind yourself of that whenever you think about making a weird play, you’ll save yourself a lot o money. Ask yourself: “Is this action likely, to help win bigger pot or help win a pot I would have lost?”

Talk to you later. — 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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  1. A very simple yet difficult idea. Have a plan and stick to it, even if you’re plan is to deviate from time to time as it should be. I want to look sneaky, I HAVE to look sneaky. So we make a move we know at the time to be a bad one, but you feel like you have to because ” Its the right thing to do”. I cant just be a passive check fold player. Faced with talent, aggression or both we feel the need to prove ourselves and be the bold one. But timing is everything… And sometimes checking and folding MAKES you money. Money saved is money made. I think some mad man taught me that hahahaha

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