Mike Caro

He’s the authority on poker psychology, strategy and statistics, and wrote the definitive book on tells

When you’re bluffing you shut down because you don’t want to elicit a call

When you’re in a game of no-limit poker you’re in a game of selling. When you have the better hand you want to sell it for as much money as possible. You want to bet the amount that gives your opponent pot odds to call – with as much on top as you can get away with. Very frequently moving all-in is a bet that just won’t pay and you’ll only take the blinds. Determining the best price is more to do with understanding your opponent than your mathematical knowledge.

I don’t think it’s essential to know the statistics of poker inside out and that’s coming from me. (Caro penned the exhaustive stat section of Doyle Brunson’s Super System.) It’s a controversial point and many players may argue with that but they don’t see the bigger picture. There’s not much difference between having a good feel for the game and knowing the precise odds. The biggest move up is by applying psychology, tells and manipulation.

There are two types of tells. One is from players that are acting – trying to convey misinformation – and those from players that are not acting, which the player is probably unaware of. The primary job is to determine whether a player is acting or not. That’s Caro’s first law of tells. Determine whether he is acting and, if he is, disappoint him by doing the exact opposite of what he wants.

Players normally try to convey strength when they’ve got a weak hand and show weakness when they have a strong hand. When you see a player sigh, shrug their shoulders or hesitantly say, ‘I bet’, when they’re moving their chips in they’re often sitting on a strong hand.

The shaking hand has traditionally been misinterpreted as a sign of the nervous bluffer. Slight tremors or outright shaking of the hand comes from the release of tension of completing a big hand. When players are bluffing they bolster themselves and become rigid. If a player’s bluffing he tries to make himself small. It’s a scary situation when you’re bluffing so you shut down because you don’t want to elicit a call.

People have a calling reflex. They’d rather call than fold. Players don’t go to a casino hoping to fold every hand so they’re really looking for you to give them reasons to call. The more things that you do the more likely your opponent is to make the call.

Giving off false tells is a dangerous game because you’re assuming your opponents are aware of Mike Caro’s Book of Tells. By reversing tells you might be doing precisely the wrong thing because most players fall for the weak means strong routine. You should only introduce reversing into your game if you’re playing someone you think understands the science of tells.

I was playing against a Japanese fellow at the Bicycle Club casino in a suburb of Los Angeles who managed to fool me about three times with reverse tells. He never said a word so I was sat there thinking that he didn’t even speak English. When he finally stood up, as a substantial winner I might add, he said only these words as he was leaving, ‘I enjoy your book, Mr Caro.’ That was a little bit humiliating but it was fun.

You can play ‘Mad’ Mike Caro online at doylesroom.com

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