Mike Caro “In the beginning” mantra explained

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (2001) in the revived Gambling Times, called Win magazine.

My proudest quote ever is: “In the beginning, everything was even money.” You may have seen it repeated in many places, even in Newsweek where it was reported that this is my mantra. Fine, but it isn’t just something to be chanted, and it isn’t simply some fancy wording. Those are the seven words that say everything there is to say about gambling to win and living to succeed.

So, now that I’ve dramatically and immodestly argued for the importance of my own seven words, I should try to convince you why they’re important. So, I will.

I want you to think back to the day you were born. You were so stupid then. I could have told you that choo-choo trains splash around in ponds between lily pads and ducks carry cargo cross country on rails. It would have sounded reasonable to you. That’s because everything seemed reasonable to you on the day you were born. And everything seemed unreasonable, too. You just didn’t know.

Of course, you couldn’t understand words, but even if you could, any single thing you heard would be either true or false. It was fifty-fifty, a coin flip, even-money. And that fifty-fifty-coin-flip-even-money perspective lasted awhile. Then you began to grow.

Odds everywhere

And as you grew, you began to realize that your whole life was governed by odds. Well, wait. This doesn’t mean that it dawned on you that odds and probability were controlling your outcomes. It just means that this is what was happening, whether it dawned on you or not. You learned not to crawl off ledges, because you didn’t know how far you’d fall. Even though you didn’t realize it, you were secretly asking yourself: “What are the odds?

When you got to be five or six, you thought about crossing the street to play at a friend’s house. And you looked both ways, like your parents told you. But while you were looking both ways, you had to decide what the odds were. No car in sight? That seems pretty safe, but not 100 percent safe. There’s always the chance that a truck will suddenly appear out of nowhere, perhaps from a parking space and splatter your young bones all over the asphalt. Not pretty. Not fun. But it’s worth the gamble, otherwise you’ll just stay on this side of the street for the rest of your life. And who knows? You might get hit by a meteorite while standing here.

Yep, there’s risk everywhere. But you’ve evolved, even though you’re still a child. You know – maybe not in words or objective thoughts – but you know that it’s not a fifty-fifty proposition, crossing this street right now. You’re much more likely to survive than that. But on the day you were born, it was fifty-fifty, even money. So you’ve evolved.

The point

Are you getting what I’m telling you? If you’re going to succeed in life or be successful as a gambler, you’ve got a job to do. That job is simply to examine anything you do in terms of whether the odds are really even money. More information, deeper insight, better analysis, enhanced judgment – that’s what you need to win. Once looked at objectively, something might still be even money. The point is that not everything will be even money. But in the beginning it was.

In the beginning, you had no information, no tools to handicap life, nothing. But you improve. And the better you get at defeating the notion that everything is even money, the more you’re be able to make quality decisions in life and in gambling. You must separate good bets from bad ones. Make it your lifelong quest to defeat the notion that everything is even money. That’s all there is to it. The most powerful and useful truth anyone is every going to tell you is: In the beginning, everything was even money. Think about it. — 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.


4 thoughts on “Mike Caro “In the beginning” mantra explained”

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  1. A poker session or tournament table where you no nothing about the players, and they know nothing about you comes to mind when I read this post. By the time I got done reading the post, something clicked.

    At the begining of a tournament, for example, where nobody knows each other, will have a lot of even money situations in the beginning. I would say it would take me at least three rounds of the button, and possibly more, before I can evolve my game to fit the texture of the table. So, that would sort of like being a 5 year old, who has not been in the game of life long, but has to make that decision to cross the street knowing that there is always that chance something bad can happen. For me, it would be like getting pocket aces or kings in early position before the flop on the very first hand of a tournament, and I know nothing about my opponents yet. All I can do is listen to what father Caro has told me, “in the beginning, everything was even money”.

    So what that tells me is that even though I probably do have the best of it, being under the gun and not knowing what my opponents are capable of doing and having top pair, all I can do is make the standard raise under those circumstances, and if I get callers, well I guess we will see a flop and get ready to do a little gambling, because I don’t know you yer and you don’t know me. All you know is that I bet under the gun representing a strong hand and you called. But then again I could get raised, I could get raised and then reraised by a second player.

    There are a lot of variables in the begining of a tournament that are impossible to know when you have never played with anyone at the table you were assigned. That is what makes a situation like this even money. You might bet your aces and then get reraised all in by another player holding kings, queens, or AKs. What do I do now? Do I risk my tournament life on a pocket pair that only has two other outs to improve, just in case they do have KK, QQ, and flop a set?

    Honestly, it really depends on the tournament for me. If the tournament was for a small buy in and I could walk away without any crushed dreams, there is no doubt I would call an all in raise. However, if I was playing the WSOP Main Event, my ultimate goal is to survive.

    If I can’t fold the best hand, then I can’t play poker.

    If I misunderstood the concept, please feel free to correct me.

    For the record, I think this thought process concerning the “In the beginning mantra” can be applied to a lot of things in life that are still even money for me. Thats why I read a lot on this website about your articles on life strategy. I will never fully evolve in the game of life or in poker.

    There is always a learning process going on for me. I have yet to master life or poker, and honestly, I don’t expect to. Just like a tournament, my goal in life is to survive. The older I get, I believe the more calculated risks I will be able to make. For now, I am keeping the stakes in life at a limit that I can mentally afford, and my number one goal is just to make the correct decisions as best as possible, based on what I already know. If I take a bad beat, thats just a part of life.

    Awesome post.

  2. I see this as having two parts:
    1) Estimating odds based on information you have (which might be incomplete)
    2) Having good information by (lifelong) learning

    When you have no information the correct estimate is 50/50. Not everyone recognizes this, and therefore risk making a poor bet (decision) since they neither have enough information, nor are able to make correct estimates. In more common wording this may be analogous to wisdom (1) and knowledge (2).

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