You’ve probably heard that you need to adjust to your opponents to win at poker. That’s wrong! In fact, you risk costing yourself money whenever you make an adjustment. And today, I’ll explain why. I’ve previously taught you about hundreds of adjustments that are profitable. Fine. Now I’m warning you that the practice can be dangerous. If you take poker seriously, it’s important to understand the theory behind this mysterious poker phenomenon. So, let’s talk about it.
Among the oldest common sense poker advice you’ll hear is that if the game is tight play loose, and if the game is loose, play tight. The advised trick is to take advantage of opposing weakness by veering in the opposite direction. Seems to make sense.
I teach five levels of winning in poker. Together they define a path to success and, eventually, to world-class play. Today, we’ll examine those levels, so you can see where you are now and plan for future improvement. There’s nothing sacred about these levels. And five isn’t a magic number. An intelligent poker trainer could define different levels—maybe 2, maybe 30—and they could include other sets of conditions and goals. Still, I think my plan is superior, and I want you to understand it. I’ll share it today.
Remember, I said “five levels of winning.” These don’t cover the total poker experience, because—for most players—there are requirements that come before winning. Like what? Well, you need to know the rules. You need to be comfortable with acting in turn. You need to learn the common language of poker. Fine. Let’s say you’ve done that. Now it’s time to win.
Winning at level 1
You can be a lifelong winner as a Level 1 poker player. You really don’t need to do anything else. It’s just that you won’t win as much as you should.
This level requires you to play very conservatively and to choose opponents who are weak and who play too many pots. This is largely the arena of smalllimit home poker games.
Extremely tight is right at this level.
Why does it win? Even though you’re sacrificing many hands that can be proven to have an expectation of profit, you aren’t sure which they are. So, you stick to the obviously strong hands. By contrast, your opponents are dancing into pots with cards that are clearly unprofitable. If they aren’t, you’re in the wrong game. This is the level where you first learn the importance of always finding players who play worse than you do.
When you enter pots only with superior hands, you usually have such a great advantage that it overwhelms the disadvantages of not playing other facets of poker effectively. Find a weak, loose game. Play super tight. You’ll usually win, but not nearly as much as you could.
Winning at level 2
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 thing players fear most about their opponents—good luck and strong confidence.
Fear of good luck
Thinking “outside the box” sometimes provides a great advantage. But it can also lead to poker disaster. Here’s why.
The concept of outside-the-box thinking means that you can stray from traditional step-by-step logic and find innovative solutions that aren’t otherwise apparent. Fine. I do that routinely. Many truly great advances have happened because someone thought “outside the box.”
Poker is no different. When you’re faced with a routine decision about calling or folding, you should often think, “Wait! What happens if I raise?” Raise? Well, you can’t raise. Nobody raises in this situation. Hmm… but what if I do?
Thursday night. Another in a long history of horrible football decisions made by coaches. It’s time for me to speak about it, because it has much to do with poker.
Warning: Sometimes my moods fluctuate, causing me to project different personalities. If you’re expecting the Mike Caro who is patient, kind to everyone, diplomatic, and semi-modest, you probably shouldn’t read this one. It could destroy our relationship.
Today I’m going to share a simple trick about hands with medium prospects. It will revolutionize the way you play poker. If you use it correctly, your profits will soar. Yes, really.
In order to take advantage of my trick, you need to understand that an ace is higher than a king and that a king is higher than a queen. That’s all.
From now on, whenever you’re involved in a poker hand, you will always be translating your hand into a single card—ace, king, or queen. Just pretend that, no matter what your actual cards are, there’s a super card floating in your face. Ace, king, or queen. Visualize. Ace. King. Queen. Got it?
Okay, now I’ll explain.
by Mike Caro
The process of poker requires extracting profit from pain. Your pain and theirs. Life itself is that way, too. And once you truly understand this, winning gets easy.
So, today I’ll tell you about the pain of poker. But don’t get scared. Poker pain is your friend.
Huh? Well, let’s start with some simple truth. Mental anguish and anxiety is unavoidable in life, and it’s magnified in poker. Why? Because you’re choosing to place yourself in an arena that simulates the ups and downs of a lifetime in a single session of poker. In fact, that’s the thrill of the game for many. You get to experience the unexpected treats and tragedies, highs and humiliations, all in a few hours.
Now I’m going to warn you about some things. If you just play poker for pennies, or whatever amount you can totally afford, there isn’t going to be pain involved in poker. But few people do that, because it would be like sleeping through a roller coaster ride. What would be the point?
A disagreement with Doyle
Often you can know with almost absolute certainty when a poker opponent is bluffing. Few players understand how that’s possible.
So, they fold—failing to catch the bluff—when they could have won huge pots by calling.
Obviously, knowing the secret will add significantly to your bankroll. And today, I’m going to share it with you.
First, we need to talk about Jack. In the 1970s, he was a hostile and intimidating force — a barroom brawler that people avoided. And he brought his menacing disposition to the poker tables in Gardena, California.
It was a tiny scratch on my neighbor’s new car. And that childhood memory relates to poker in an important way. I’ll tell you about it in today’s selfinterview.
Question 1: What color and make of car was it?
It was a black Pontiac, but what difference does it make?
Question 2: None, I guess. But you’re the one who brought it up. What am I supposed to ask?
Don’t look at me that way! Stop staring, really. Okay, I think I know what you want me to ask now. How did the scratch happen?
It doesn’t matter.
Question 3: Well, what does it have to do with poker?
Finally! Let me answer this way...
This is another one of those days when I’ve instructed my interviewer to ask non-specific questions. I’m not in the mood to be pinned down.
You might argue that, since this is the latest in my series of self-interviews, I’m actually instructing myself to ask only nebulous questions. Well, you can complain and quibble all you want, but that’s the way it’s going to be.
Question 1: What would you like to talk about first? And please explain what it means.
Let me answer it this way. The question, as I understand it, is when should you quit a poker game? There are several reasons to quit, and solid reasons to keep playing, even when many players think they should quit. Here’s the deal. The trick is to find games where you can make the most money possible at reasonable risk. Notice that I said, “the most money possible.” That means you shouldn’t always remain in a game that’s profitable. There may be more profit in switching to another game. And if the profit is too thin to justify the time you’ll invest, you’re probably better off not playing. So, quit.
One thing you shouldn’t do is quit in order to preserve a win. That’s never a good reason. Dividing your playing time into artificial days or sessions is silly. The only reality is how you do overall. It’s much better to win $500 once and lose $50 three times than to win $50 three times and lose $500 once. In fact, in the first case, you net a $350 profit and in the second you suffer a $350 loss—so it’s a $700 difference.
Yet, somehow, some players feel better about amassing many wins, even if small. Winning many days in a row shouldn’t be your goal. Only your longterm results matter.
Specifically, you shouldn’t quit a game because you might lose your profit. That profit is potentially fleeting, and you’re just as likely to lose it tomorrow as today. It should be considered only a small part of the big poker game—one that lasts forever.
Mentally breaking it up into segments doesn’t change this simple reality: The more hours you play under profitable circumstances, the more money you’re likely to win. If conditions are favorable and you’re not tired or impaired, physically or emotionally, stick with it. If you quit now, you’ll only be playing fewer profitable hours—whether you end up winning or losing this time.
But, if you’ve been losing and opponents are inspired and playing better against you, because they perceive you as a target, that’s often a time to quit. You don’t have psychological control of the table.
Question 2: Thank you. Could you answer my second non-specific question now?