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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Mike Caro

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Throughout the history of poker you can only name a few people that have literally helped change the way the game was played.  The way the game has been changed has been through things like extensive research (such as David Sklansky) and those who have contributed books to the poker world that were truly unique (such as Doyle Brunson, who also is arguably the greatest ambassador the game has ever had).
Not often does it come along that one single person has contributed both great amounts of research and poker changing books, such as our subject today: “The Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro.  Unfair critiques will point out that Caro doesn’t have the greatest poker results, but often times people who change the way a game is played, any game, weren’t giant superstars of their game.  As a small aside, the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Nasmith, is still statistically the worst basketball coach the University of Kansas has ever had.  Mike Caro, on the other hand, is far from the worst poker player of all-time, and while he didn’t invent the game of poker, he invented new and different ways for it to be played and seen.  Caro is credited with introducing the 'four color deck' in order to keep from misreading suits in poker games.

Mike Caro was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1944.  Caro had a slight interest in poker as a child, but it wasn’t until he was a young adult that he had any high aspirations for the game.  The “Mad Genius” part of Caro wasn’t looked highly on from his teachers when he was a kid.  In class, Caro was relatively uninterested in what teachers were talking about.  It wasn’t because he was dumb, it was simply because it was all below him.  However, the teachers couldn’t see that, and Caro couldn’t explain that, so instead Caro was held back in sixth grade and put in what he has since called in interviews “a retard class.”
Eventually, teachers caught on and Caro was put in advanced classes where he excelled, and graduated with top honors.  Caro didn’t really have a desire to go to college, so instead he moved to California and got a job as a sports writer at a newspaper.  He enjoyed the job, but over time he thought he could make better money doing something else.  One day he walked down to a local card room and sat down at the poker table and instantly fell in love with the game.   This was in the early 1970’s.  Even as just a decent cash game poker player he was making more money than as a poker writer, and quit his job at the paper to play the game full-time.

Caro was making enough money to live on, but just barely.  He searched for all the poker books he could find, but during this era most poker books were beyond basic accounts of the game, and didn’t really offer anything to Caro in a way to make him any better at the game.  This is when Caro began studying the game during nearly all his free time when he wasn’t playing.
He produced graphs and charts that can now be made instantly with computer programs, but back then took weeks and months to produce.  Overtime he became a very good draw poker player, so good in fact that Doyle Brunson has called him the greatest draw player in the world.  In fact, when Brunson was producing the book called “Super System,” he asked Caro to contribute to the book.  Caro wrote the strategy section on draw poker, and contributed 50 graphs and charts to the book, the likes of which most people had never seen before.
“Super System,” published in 1978, has, of course, gone on to be one of the most sought after poker books of all time, and it also made Caro a celebrity.  In fact, Caro gained his nickname “The Mad Genius of Poker,” from fellow poker professionals who were seeing the charts in the book for the first time.  However, that would just be the beginning of Caro’s contributions to poker.

At the 1984 World Series of Poker, Caro introduced an artificial intelligence computer program named “Orac” (Caro, backwards) to challenge a few of the professionals that have gathered for the event.  At first the players were skeptical, thinking it impossible that a computer program could compete with them, but most of the players left with a new found respect for the program and Caro, as it had more than held its own against its human challengers.  The Orac program is believed to be the first poker program to truly mimic the thoughts of human poker players, and not play like a “game.”
Another major Caro contribution that stemmed from this is the Poker Probe computer program, which can analyze thousands of hands in a second, the same work Caro used to take months doing.  This program was introduced in 1990 and has been updated a handful of times since then.  This tool has helped millions of players, since the “poker boom,” study hands in a matter of minutes that took the top players of yesteryear a lifetime to master.

Caro’s greatest contribution to the game may very well be his book, “Mike Caro’s Book of Tells.”  This book was published right before the aforementioned poker boom of the mid-2000s.  Up until this point thousands of books had been published on strategy, but hardly any books dealt with the idea of psychology.  Of course people knew about “tells” before this book, but never had these tells been so thoroughly examined.
Caro believes that anyone with a little bit of knowledge of the game can be a breakeven player, but it’s having a strong psychological foothold of the game that will keep bringing in the money.  One of the most interesting sections of the book was on how to tell when your opponent knows that you know they are faking tells.  Aside from being a confusing sentence, it was the first time that subject had ever been addressed in a book.  Since the book’s publication in 2001, it has been one of the most quoted books in the history of poker, and most of the time people don’t know they are quoting it.  It has also been accompanied with a DVD, to accompany the 150+ pictures that were in the book.  

Caro has also contributed statistical information for casinos when casinos are exploring allowing a new game on to their casino floors.  He was also largely responsible in the East Coast, as tournament director of the World Poker Finals in Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. 

The truth is, this story could easily go on another 2,000 words, listing more and more positive things Caro has done for the game, but I believe we got a good feel for some of the more major contributions he has added to the game.  So, while he may not have invented the game of poker, he has more than once, single handedly, changed the way the game was played.

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