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Poker Book Review: Mike Caro's 'Caro's Secrets of Winning Poker'

Poker Book Review:  Mike Caro's 'Caro's Secrets of Winning Poker' 0001

The self-styled "Mad Genius of Poker," Mike Caro, has established for himself a well-earned place among the pantheon of poker authors, primarily thanks to his classic Caro's Book of Poker Tells, oft-cited as one of the most influential poker books ever penned. His newest title, Caro's Secrets of Winning Poker, brings together advice on a wide range of poker-related topics, providing a useful compendium of concepts for both novice and experienced players.

This is the fourth edition of what began as Caro's Fundamental Secrets of Poker (first published in 1991), here updated and expanded to include new material, including a section on hold'em (discussing both limit and no-limit). As Caro explains in the introduction, the book compiles what he regards to be the most important concepts from his live seminars, simulated here in print with "blackboards" punctuating every mini-lecture. The format resembles that of Caro's contribution to Super/System 2 wherein he offers a list of tips, and a couple of those reappear among the book's hundred-plus lessons spread out over fifteen chapters.

Indeed, one might submit (respectfully) that repetition — in the service of hammering home advice Caro deems worth repeating and remembering — is a hallmark of Caro's style of instruction. Much like a teacher reiterating important information to a classroom full of students, Caro frequently stops himself mid-lecture to say "that's an important concept, so I'm going to repeat it" and then does just that. It is an effective method, further exemplified by the "blackboards" on which a given point is summarized again for the reader.

Caro begins with one of those core concepts, what he calls "the primary truth that governs both poker and the real world beyond poker," namely, his famous saying that "In the beginning, everything was even money." The idea in essence is that before we gather relevant information for making a choice — in poker or in life — we repeatedly face situations where either alternative might appear equally attractive. Only when we educate ourselves, gathering "clues" and other pertinent evidence, are we able to realize every choice is not, in fact, "even money." Many (if not all) of the lessons that follow build on that principle as it applies to poker, helping readers decide how best to handle the many, many borderline decisions which Caro insists ultimately determine most of one's profit (or loss).

Following that introductory discussion and a chapter detailing how to play various games, Caro has a catch-all chapter of "General Winning Advice" covering topics such as self-discipline, player types, seat selection, table image, and other items. Ever the iconoclast, Caro often goes against the grain of conventional wisdom, such as when he disagrees with the familiar recommendation to play tight at a loose table and loose at a tight table (loosen up whenever the table is demonstrating either extreme, says Caro). That is followed by a chapter on bankroll management that concentrates primarily on psychology and attitudes towards money, rather than offer specific formulas.

The middle section of the book consists of separate chapters on seven-card stud, stud high-low, hold'em, draw poker, and other games. Unlike the more theoretical discussions one finds elsewhere in the book, these chapters tend to offer very specific, concrete recommendations (e.g., in hold'em, "an overcard and an inside-straight draw is usually better than two overcards").

Next comes a chapter on tells — hitting some highlights from the Book of Poker Tells — and another on tournament strategy. That Caro appears to favor a mostly conservative approach in both his hold'em and tourney chapters may surprise some readers familiar with his self-created "wild" image. Not an accident, Caro would likely say, since "your manner of play should not be consistent with your image."

That latter tip comes near the end of the book in a chapter collecting what he calls his "best 15 tips of the day." The book then concludes with a suggestion about record-keeping, followed by a "final winning affirmation." Such is how Caro says he ends his seminars as well, thereby underscoring the importance of having a positive attitude and confidence at the poker table.

Of course, it is much easier to be positive and confident once one is equipped with the knowledge and understanding to face poker's many challenges. As a handy compilation of several decades' worth of wisdom from one of poker's most-revered minds, Caro's Secrets of Winning Poker is a good place to go when seeking such instruction.

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