A Discussion on Poker Coaching

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Introduction: This article will discuss the pros and cons of poker coaching and the questions that a player should ask himself before pursuing poker coaching. This article will primarily describe personal coaching (1 on 1) in reference to ‘coaching’. This article is from the viewpoint of a potential student who is seeking poker coaching. This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Find part 2 here.

Why Players Get Poker Coaching

Poker coaching can be a life changing experience for students. Some students learn a great deal from their poker coach and increase their win rates in an exponential manner. Poker coaching is an investment: You pay some money now in order to learn new strategies that will last you for the rest of your poker career. Your increase in knowledge will help your profits, which will enable the coaching to pay for itself (and more) over time. Poker coaching is akin to a seminar from an expert, or a tutor in school- a premium service that will (hopefully) attain results in the future.

Initial Thoughts

There are several things you need to ask yourself when deciding on whether or not you are ready for poker coaching. This list is primarily for newer players (or players who play micro stakes and are serious enough to think about coaching):


  • Can I get it for free? In other words, can the initial knowledge you are going to gain from a coach something that you can attain for free? Poker forums, poker strategy websites, free e-books (Ryan Fee’s 6-max guide comes to mind: http://www.gamblingsystem.biz/books/2p2NL6max.pdf), and others all are available for free. If you are a beginner in terms of poker strategy, coaching may not be the best option for you.



  • Price Costs to Bankroll- Poker coaches are expensive. Cheaper coaches typically run from $50+ an hour and the highest tier coaches (those playing nose bleeds) charge up to a few thousand dollars per hour. In order for coaching to be truly effective, it is advisable to do a multitude of sessions (given both the coach and player are comfortable with it). For newer players, it may be more effective to keep their bankroll money and hope to move up in limits instead of using it for coaching. The author recommends that players wait until they are playing 50NL or higher before getting coaching. Not only is this due to bankroll restrictions (1 buy in per hour is a good amount), but also for fundamental knowledge.



  • Fundamental Knowledge- Before receiving coaching, it is important to at least be somewhat knowledgeable with basic poker strategy. As stated in #1, many of the elementary concepts in poker can be learned for free with a little bit of research. A player will gain much more from a coach if they are discussing hand reading, leveling, equity breakdowns, and other more advanced concepts.


Furthermore, a player who plays 50NL+ will be able to better critique and evaluate his coach. Lower staked and more inexperienced players will occasionally lack the knowledge to critically think about his coaching experience. This can lead to the student being duped and fed poor advice without him even realizing it. While this can occur in ALL coaching circumstances, it is much easier for micro stakes players to simply say ‘yes’. Fundamental knowledge that 50NL+ players have attained helps with regards to this.


  • Justified Costs- Coaching can pay for itself many times over during the course of a player’s career. But in order for this to happen, the player must be putting in either a) a sufficient amount of hands or b) be playing meaningful enough stakes to justify the cost. If a player only plays 2 sessions a month and wants to get coaching, the cost will most likely not be justified.


In summation, a player should be playing 50NL+, have a good fundamental knowledge on poker, be playing somewhat regularly, and have sought out other options (more on this next) before seeking out coaching. There are obvious exceptions to this, but it is a nice standard to go by.

Cheaper Alternatives to Coaching

What are some cheaper alternatives to personal coaching?

    1. Video Instruction- There are many video instruction sites that have massive libraries and hundreds of hours of poker videos for a much lower price than coaching. These website are often coaching sites as well and that option is always available. Why video instruction instead of coaching?a. Much Cheaper: As stated, coaching can run anywhere from $40+ an hour. Instructional poker strategy websites can cost $20-$30 a month and provide hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of instruction.

      b. A Wide Range of Coaches: Unlike personal coaching, video websites offer a wide range of instruction from many different coaches. Different styles of play and instruction can help a player learn a variety of styles and games for a cheaper cost.

      The bigger video poker instruction sites are:

      There are smaller, more affordable coaching/video instruction sites as well.


  • Group Coaching- Think of group coaching like a seminar. Poker coaches will sometimes take up to 10 players and then present a specific concept or topic for an hour or two. One example might be ‘3-bet pots’. The coach will go through the theory, math, example hands, etc. and then take questions at the end.


Group coaching can also be video review groups as well- where a group of students review a video each week (submitted themselves) and the coach and students discuss it. Group coaching is a cheaper alternative to personal coaching and can provide good value to micro stakes players. The downside to this is that group coaching is obviously not as personal, and the coach will be less focused on you and your specific leaks.

Finding a Coach (and Evaluate)

The most essential tip for choosing a coach: Do your research!

Searching- There are many avenues for finding fantastic poker coaches. Many of the video instructional websites listed above have their own stable of respective coaches. The twoplustwo forum has a coaching classified section as well- http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/164/cash-game-poker-coach-listings/.

Another option is to read varying poker forums and finding players that you respect and seeing if they coach. Oftentimes, bigger winners at 50NL + will also have some experience in coaching (be it as a student or coach themselves). Reading poker forums and following knowledgeable posters is typically a good way to find a poker coach.

High Stakes Superstar or Relevant Limit Crusher? – This title may be worded strangely. Some players cannot decide on whether to book a huge winner at much higher limits or a player who wins at limits close to the one they are playing. For example: A prospective student who plays 50NL is researching coaches. Player A plays 5/10NL on Pokerstars and has a very big win rate. Player B is a very big winner at 100NL. Assume Player A’s coaching rate is a mere 25% more than Player B.

Who should the student go with? Do you get the player who beats higher limits, or do you hire the player who is beating stakes more relevant to the one that you play? There are obvious arguments for both.

    1. Arguments for Player A (5/10NL player) – He has beaten higher stakes and is clearly a better player. He (probably) knows a great deal more in terms of theory and can help the student move up in the ranks.


  • Arguments for Player B (.50/1NL player)- He plays limits that are closer to the students and probably understands 50NL better than player A. Player A probably does not remember how the 50NL games play and his advice/strategies might be inefficient at that limit.


This problem will not come up TOO frequently, as coaches such as Player A will have a much higher coaching rate than Player B. But it will come up occasionally when deciding on a candidate. There are most assuredly more accomplished coaches who have lesser rates than some of their peers and the final call is up to the student.

Good Players Do Not Always Make Good Coaches- Just because a player crushes his limits does not necessarily mean that he will be a good poker coach. A poker coach must be able to fluidly explain concepts and theory in a concise manner- in a way that is easy for the student to learn and understand. For some poker players, poker theory and explanation is unknown- they do not know why they do certain plays. The poker they know and understand is more innate and inexplicable. The beautiful thing about poker is that, even though Phil Ivey may not be able to talk about his hand equity or the breakeven numbers of his pre-flop shove, he still may come to the same conclusion in his brain because it feels ‘right’.

Some poker coaches are better at explaining than others. It is important to keep that in mind when choosing a coach- do not choose them simply for their poker accomplishments, but also their ability to teach and explain.

Researching- Ok, so you have a list of candidates for a coach. This initial list will normally be based on affordability, reputation, and games coached. Researching your potential coach is very important. Dig up as much information as you can on him. Some questions you can ask him-

-What games does he play?
-What was his win rate?
-What were the highest limits he regularly played?
-What is his style of play?
-What respectable players will vouch for him?
-What is his approach on poker?
-Is he heavily reliant on math?
-What are the results of his students?
-How does he do his sessions?
-Any poker videos/poker articles/e-books that he has created?

There are obviously many more questions that could be asked. Personal messaging (PM) a coach is also a good idea (as is a short chat) before committing to any coaching. You should get most of the information above as well as a slight idea of what the coach’s personality is like. Asking former students their opinion on a potential coach is also another way of learning more.

Closing Thoughts

These are but a few things to consider when deciding on whether personal poker coaching is right for you. The next article will discuss the post coaching session thoughts and some of the problems within the coaching market.