Coaches & Instructors — the poker how to

November 26th, 2007 — Coaches & Instructors, General, Poker Tips

A poker instructor – or coach – can be a powerful tool in the quest to improve your game and win more.

Successful players do lots of self-evaluation, reviewing tough hands after sessions and thinking about different lines. However, there are inherent limitations to self-review.

You Are Biased

This simply means that you already know the outcome of the hand. Knowing in advance that you got stacked by a set can skew your immediate reaction.

Innovating New Strategies Can Be Difficult And Time-Consuming

Each of us have a general set of strategies we use on a regular basis. Occasionally we develop a new one, but in general our play stays pretty consistent. Having outside perspective can facilitate rapid improvement in your game.

It’s Hard To Break Habits

We each form habits over the course of our game. Some go back so far that we don’t even notice that we are making tiny unprofitable plays, perhaps by raising an offsuit broadway hand from middle position or something else entirely.

A poker instructor can help you spot these tiny leaks quickly.

A poker coach is not for everyone. However, those who are serious about learning and getting better will reap great benefits from the help of a poker instructor.

My Experiences With Poker Instructors (series)

September 29th, 2007 — Coaches & Instructors

This is part 2 of 3 in my 3-part poker coaching series. If you haven’t read 5 Different Ways a Good Poker Instructor Will Help You, I suggest you read it before this one (although I don’t think it matters that much). In this part I will share my experiences in a little bit more depth. What kind of experiences have I had with poker instructors then?

Nothing but good ones, although you have to look out for poker instructors who don’t really know what they are doing. The best way to avoid this is to ask around and see what other people think of their coaching. Try to find out what good players think of them, usually if good poker players think highly of a poker teacher then you are very unlikely to have a bad experience.

How Did I Get Started with Poker Instruction?

Like I said in Part 1, my first instructor was in Limit Hold’em. It was when I was playing 5/10 Fixed Limit Hold’em and had just moved to play shorthanded 6-max tables. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon poker coaching but I remember seeing someone post over at the 2+2 forums and I saw one guy consistently crank out good posts, I clicked on his name and looked at his profile. He apparently had a website and I saw that he was offering coaching, “Why not?” I thought to myself.

It was pretty expensive and one of the most expensive hours of lessons I’ve had to this date at $300/hour. It was tremendously helpful and that initial investment of $300 has paid itself back a hundred fold. I hardly ever think a good poker coach is too expensive because you have to see it as an investment. You also have to be aware of what the price is relative to the stakes you are playing. You do not want to hire a high-stakes poker coach for $300-500/hour if you’re playing low-stakes. It makes much more sense if you got a low-stakes coach that charges $50-100 instead, because you will need to learn the basics before you can understand the more advanced concepts.

How Did It Help Me?

There are so many areas it has helped me, I think I am one of the players who has taken the most coaching out of most poker players out there (although I have no evidence). I try to take some coaching every week and on top of that I have some friends on MSN, AIM and Skype with which I discuss hands that I have problems with daily.

Let me just say that if it wasn’t for poker instruction I wouldn’t be making $10,000+/month and doing it consistently. When I switched to No-Limit Hold’em last year I met someone called Jason Rosenkrantz, he is the owner of a coaching website called At the time I was playing shorthanded Limit Hold’em up to $20/40 and $30/60, I was getting sick of limit so I sought out a No-Limit coach and Jason was the one I bumped to. At the time he was charging a low $60-80/hour compared to the $500/hour he is charging today.

From about May to August I literally spammed his mailbox with hands I had trouble with and that I wanted confirmation on. We spoke daily on AIM and discussed different poker concepts and everything related to poker. This is how I learned No-Limit Hold’em and Jason is the one poker coach I’ve done the most extensive work with. So practically how he helped me was to teach me the game and help me earn what I earn today.

How Does It Work, What Does a Session Look Like?

When I take coaching I am usually flexible to what the coach prefers to do and I discuss what he thinks is best and what I think is best for me and how we could work best together. Here is a list of different things a typical poker coaching session might hold:

  • Sweating - This is when the poker instructor watches you play or you watch him play. Communication can be made through an instant messenger like AIM or through Skype/Phone. I recommend you do it over phone because that way you will pack in a lot more discussion and make it easier on both of you.
  • Videos - You can make videos of you playing, videos are usually made with software like Camtasia and uploaded on a site like filefront for your coach to download. He will then proceed to write down notes on your plays and send them back to you for discussion.
  • Hand Histories – This format consists of you playing on your own and saving the hand histories of your session (most poker sites offer this option) and sending them to your poker coach. He will then make notes and comment on your hands and send them back to you. You can also save specific hands you had trouble with during your session and send these for review.
  • Discussion – I have only had one coach offer discussion as a method of coaching and I think it is an inferior form because it will be hard for a coach to see your leaks by just discussing with you. Most players are very inconsistent between what they talk about and how they apply it. Someone might know how to play a hand in theory, but when it comes to it and they’re sitting at the table they do something entirely different. Although this form of coaching can be helpful, new players should choose one of the other three to begin with.

I still hire lots of poker instructors to this date. As I said, I try to do one coaching session per week, if I can’t manage that or don’t feel the need to then I stick to once a month for my monthly check-up to see how my poker game is doing. I don’t want to slip when this is how I make my living icon_smile-8255253

5 Different Ways a Good Poker Instructor Will Help You (series)

September 28th, 2007 — Coaches & Instructors

This is the first part in a three part series about poker instructors and why you should get one if you’ve come to a certain point in your game. How do you know when you’re at this point? I recommend you take poker instruction as soon as you can afford it, it is anywhere from $50-100/hour if you play lower stakes so you might want to build up a bankroll first and then start investing in a poker coach.

The way to get to that point is to find people to discuss poker with and absorb anything you can get your hands on. Let’s get on to the pressing issue, the reasons why you would want a poker coach and what to look for in one.

1. Finding leaks – A good poker instructor will spot leaks you never even thought you had. This happens to me all the time, although luckily less frequently as time goes by. When I started playing poker, my first coaching experience was in Limit Hold’em, I still remember it well. I was a bit frightened because it was all so new to me but it proved to be tremendously helpful and I became addicted to having a poker coach.

I’ve probably had over 20 poker instructors over my poker career and I constantly try new ones because the more perspectives you have from good players the easier it is to see the big picture and understand poker concepts. I still keep a few of my favorite poker teachers captive in my home (joke) icon_wink-5478902

2. Help you with your goals – Awesome poker instructors will ask you what you want to get out of coaching with them. They will tailor the teaching to your specific needs and goals. And if you do not know what your goals are they will help you determine your goals. Note: Most coaches wont help you with this unless you commit to working with them extensively and even then most do not focus on this area in great detail so do not pass up coaches just because they are lacking in this area but be aware of it yourself.

3. Keeping you on track – A poker coach will keep you on track and help you achieve your goals (even if they do not help you determine them). What does keeping someone on track mean? Well, for me it means helping you avoid and overcome distracting objects and unnecessary subjects which will frequently come in your way. A few things that came in my way were focusing too much on statistics, worrying about downswings just to name a few of the top of my head.

4. Help you through rough stretches – This is one of the most important aspects of poker coaching. I always improve my game a lot when I run bad, because those tend to be the times I work on my game the most. And a poker instructor really comes in handy because it is so easy to slip and start playing bad when you are very unlucky and running bad. Your judgment gets clouded and you really don’t know what to do, it happens to the best. This is where good instructors shine, they will help you both in the emotional and strategic aspects of the game.

5. Help you feel good and be realistic – It is also good to discuss what is possible with your poker coach. Are you running bad or are you just playing horribly and need to improve a lot of aspects in your game? It is crucial that you are honest with yourself and take criticism well when you take poker coaching, because you are just wasting money if you go into a coaching session with a closed mind. I know people who take coaching and try to hide all of their weaknesses and leaks, that’s horrible! I love criticism, I frequently tell coaches to just tell me straight up what I need to do and how severe the leak is because most coaches are used to being soft on their students, because most of their students are hurt when someone says they are doing something wrong. Don’t be one of these students.

That’s my list and I am very happy with it. As I said, I highly recommend you take poker coaching/instruction even if you have to save up for one session every other month. I hope I have convinced you because if you want to take your game to the next level and speed up your learning curve, coaching is the way to go.