Am I Ready for a Poker Coach?

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This is part 2 of a 2 part series on poker coaching. The previous article described what players should consider before poker coaching and things to think about during searching for a coach. It can be found here.

First Session

After research and briefly talking with potential candidates, you have a coach in mind. Before the first actual session, there are many things to think about and keep in mind:

Book only one session to start- Many players will see deals that offer ’10 lessons for the price of 8!’ or something of similar nature. Never book a deal with a coach before knowing how the two of you work together. Poker coaching can be a miserable experience for both the student and coach if the two are unable to cooperate and be on the same page. For the initial session, only book one session at the start. If the results are favorable (and you both enjoy working with each other), future plans for package coaching may be considered.

Mind Set- Go in with an open mind. Be willing to ask questions and pick the coach’s brain. Ask a coach why he thinks X/Y/or Z about particular hands. Understand that you (the student) are the boss in this relationship and that you are paying him, not the other way around. Most all coaches will structure their lesson to the student’s needs. Be calm-having a stand off mentality will benefit no one and fiercely debating your coach may leave a bad impression. Discussion and debate is always vital for learning, but with the right tone. The student must be willing to accept new ideas in order for growth.

Plan the Lesson Out- Before the lesson starts, the student and coach should have an idea on the structure. Is it going to be a live sweat? Is it going to be hand history review? A theory discussion? What type of theory? Both the coach and student should be on the same page with regards to what the lesson will entail. Organization is essential on both sides in order for it to be a successful session.

Preparation- Being prepared for the session is very beneficial for both the coach and player. If you are doing hand history review for the session, make sure that you have both your hands planned out as well as additional notes on said hands. This will allow for no wasted time and allow for both of you to use the time as efficiently as possible. Two external things the student can do is to grab some water and put it next to your computer and make sure that you will not be disturbed for the session length.

During Coaching

Each session will vary by time and length for each coach. During a session, students should also never be scared to discuss a concept with their coach during a session. If all a student is doing is agreeing with the coach, he is probably not thinking critically enough. Being active and asking questions while discussing hands (and not simply saying ‘yes’) is an effective way to learn.

Understand that all coaches make mistakes at times. If something is not clear, ask the coach to repeat his statement (or explain it in a different manner).

Recording the session or taking notes is also nice for additional review. However, be sure to ask the coach beforehand.

Post Coaching

So you just finished your very first coaching session with a new coach. What are some things you should be thinking about?

Did the Coach Help Me? – This is a difficult question to process and the answer often takes several sessions before coming into effect. A coach may explain a topic or theory that will not come up for thousands of hands. Further, it is hard to truly see the impact of coaching until a valid sample size is met (unless the leaks that the coach fixes are massive ones- for example: limp/calling 68o pre flop). Variance is too much of a factor in the short term reflection post-coaching.

The overall impact of coaches can vary from player to player. Some students are closer to their coaches in skill and do not gain much knowledge. Other coaches and students simply do not work well together.

On the flip side, some students really benefit hugely from coaching. Even fixing a leak that might add .50bb/hour to a win rate would mean a great deal of money at high enough limits. It often takes both parties to be fully committed to the coaching and learning in order for the student to have excellent success.

Typically, if the coach helped you think about a hand in a different manner or if you picked up a concept or two while discussing, that is the sign of a successful session. Light bulb moments may occur frequently for newer players and the effects of coaching can be seen quickly.

How Comfortable am I? – This is a very important question that all students should ask themselves. How comfortable are you with your coach? Can you talk freely with him? Is he easy going? Or is he very rigid and will get upset if you interrupt him? Students should never be afraid to talk during a session. If you are uncomfortable with your coach, he probably is not the best fit for you.

Relationship- This may seem similar to the previous point. Are you friends with your coach? Did you get along with him? Do you have any common interests? Was he easy to talk to? These are all questions that can help you decide on whether or not you decide to get future coaching. Yes- the actual quality of coaching is obviously very important when evaluating coaches- but the comfort level and relationship help immensely as well.

How Good is My Coach? – You might often hear some players complaining about online forums and the fact that they do not know ‘who to listen to’ or ‘whose advice is actually correct’. This probably means they are not thinking critically enough about the hands or advice presented. When evaluating your coach, it is important to reflect on the discussion and advice- did the coach make sense? Was his logic sound? Did he ever use math or equity calculations to back his claims up? These are but a few questions that students should ask themselves after the session.

Investment and Dedication- Poker coaching is not a quick fix for your poker game. Sure, there may be some larger leaks that the coach finds immediately and the result is a bigger win rate quickly. But a typical successful coaching/student relationship lasts for several sessions over the course of a few weeks to months. Every poker coach will tell you that their most successful students have received a fair amount of coaching.

Poker learning is a life long endeavor and there are no short cuts. Players who want to do a get rich quick system or something of similar nature are misunderstood- there is no ultimate cheat book to memorize. Hard work is the only answer for poker success.

Problems in Coaching

The coaching industry has been heavily criticized in the past. Because there is no vetting system out there, many feel that some coaches (who are unqualified to coach) are preying on hopeful micro stakes players.

There are several issues in the coaching industry, much of which can be described with one word: deception.

Less Qualified Coaches– Because poker coaching is such an unregulated market, there are many players out there who proclaim themselves a ‘poker coach’. This is a touchy subject, because despite being unqualified for the limits they claim they can coach, these coaches typically CAN provide value to their micro stake students- they can teach elementary concepts and other basic theory. The main concern for many coaches is deception in both their results and teaching ability- some coaches fabricate their results and make claims that are untrue or falsified.

Another concern is coaches who advertise ‘get rich systems’ and other gimmicky products. Aspiring micro stakes players might feel that there is an easy way to make quick cash, which prompts them to purchase coaching or a coaching product (video series or book). While some of these products can be valuable, a few can be misleading. There are some players who have created advertised ‘$100k Coaching Systems’ but have won far less than that.

More can be read in this thread:

Predatory Coaches- Predatory coaches are a rare group that fall in the same category as scammers, cheaters, and other people that give poker a bad name. Predatory coaches essentially ARE scammers- coaches who steal their students’ money and use their reputation for other scams. Further, predatory coaches may not be successful in the least and have fabricated their results entirely. Below is an example of a coach who was a losing player and stole thousands of dollars from his students:

Coaches can be very dangerous to a student’s poker game. It is important to do vast amounts of research before deciding on a coach.

Closing Thoughts

Poker coaching is a premium service that can result in a large boost in overall winnings. It takes a great deal of hard work and organization in order for the coaching relationship to work. Poker coaching is never a quick fix for a problem, and only the student can put forth the dedication and hours in order to correct a setback in his game. Above all, it is vital to do thorough research on a potential coach. Watch for predatory coaches and other dangers as well.