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Caro's Threshold of Misery, Super System 2

The full name of MCU is Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. I take the life strategy part of that seriously, and in my teachings there are many overlapping themes between poker and everyday endeavors. Few concepts have resonated with students more than Caro’s Threshold of Misery. I continually receive letters, e-mails, and face to face thanks from both poker players and people in the “real world,” telling me how much this simple truth has meant to them.

Here’s how it goes: Suppose you’re a small- to medium-limit player, and you can envision yourself comfortably losing a maximum of $1,500 today. I’m not suggesting that you’ll be happy about losing that much, just that you can comfortably handle it and that anything more will begin to feel uncomfortable.

Okay, now you find yourself down $500, then $1,100, then—before it registers—you’ve zoomed past $1,500 and are losing $1,800. You’ve entered dangerous territory. And it gets worse. And worse. Hours later, you find yourself losing $4,530. Now, your mind is numb. I believe that most people at this point can’t mentally comprehend added losses. It all feels the same. You’ve crossed Caro’s Threshold of Misery, which is the point at which mental and emotional pain is maximized and anything further won’t register. You must be aware when you cross the threshold, because beyond it decisions don’t seem to matter. This is true in real life, too. When romances unravel or businesses fail, you might cross the Threshold of Misery and stop caring about making critical decisions regarding other things. That’s because the pain is already maximized and anything else that goes wrong can’t add to the agony. Listen closely. At these times, in poker and in life, the secret is to keep performing as if you care. Remember that, although you can’t emotionally feel the importance of making quality decisions at the moment, there will come a time when you will feel that importance and be grateful for the good decisions that you make now. Yes, you’ve crossed the threshold and decisions don’t seem to matter. They do still matter, and anything that suggests otherwise at this moment is an illusion.

-- Tip #15 in Super System 2

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