3 Things I Learned from Coaching Hundreds of Clients

Alec Torelli

In this blog, I want to share with you the best of what I’ve learned from coaching hundreds of clients privately over the past few years, as well as in Alec’s Academy, working with my members and educating people through my poker business course.

You’ll learn my three key takeaways that I go through with every client I work with to help them reach the next level on their poker journey.

I really think that these three frameworks will be integral to your individual progress on your pokey journey, and they’re all things you can do from home and work on independently.

Concept #1: The importance of having a serious poker business plan.

I had a conversation with a client just a few days ago that really cemented this one for me.

It starts with your approach to poker and what your goals are. What do you want to get out of the game?

A lot of the time when I work with clients, their goal is to turn poker into a profitable side-hustle. Even if they don’t play for the money—perhaps they're playing strictly because they love the challenge—they love the game. Not only that, but they’re also passionate about the game.

What gets measured gets managed. Money is what we use to keep score in poker, and when you have a clear income goal, you can more easily track your progress.

It's something that you can use to optimize for, to work toward, and to help you improve. Whether that income goal is tied to something practical—say you want to supplement your lifestyle by making a certain amount of money playing poker—or you just want to use that income goal to represent progress for you in poker, just as you would if you were a runner trying to run a marathon.

You may not have long-term goals of becoming a professional marathon runner, but you want to run a marathon in under three hours. You work toward that goal, you use your times to measure your progress and success, and then you can start to implement everything that comes along with that, right?

Once you set a goal, you can adopt a similar approach to that of a professional marathon runner, even if you're not aspiring to be one. What better strategy than to approach your goals to emulate the best in the world?

When you make this kind of transformation in your approach toward poker, it's really where change begins to happen. You decide you want to optimize for your goal to help you get to that next level on your poker journey, and now you have something tangible to work toward.

Alec Coaching Horace Hong Kong
Torelli offers in person day sessions to help you achieve your poker goals

What I do with clients is I help them reverse engineer the practical side of that so they can figure out the following:

  • 1. Which games and stakes are right for them.
  • 2. Whether they should be playing cash games or tournaments.
  • 3. Whether they should be playing online or live.
  • 4. What their bankroll needs to be.
  • 5. How to expect, handle, and deal with the variance that comes in poker.
  • 6. How to set stop-losses and basically build a system to get behind their goals.

Let me walk you through a sample of what that looks like.

Let's say your goal is to make $2,000 each month playing poker. Awesome. And you want to do that on the side—you only play 20 hours a week. Let’s also assume you work full time, you have a family, and you play two to three sessions a week. You average 20 hours per week, which comes to about 80 hours of play a month.

Take $2,000, divide it by 80, and you’ll figure out how much you need to make per hour to play poker. With these variables, it comes out to $25 an hour. Now you know: I need to make $25 an hour to achieve that goal of mine. Great.

Now you have a benchmark that you can use to optimize for, but then you can also use it to reverse engineer to figure out, okay, how am I going to make that 25 an hour?

Well, if I play $1/$3, it’s this amount. If I play $2/$5, it's that much. If I play $5/$10, it’s this much. Now you know what you need to strive for and how good you need to be and what stakes you should play regularly to achieve your monthly income goals, right?

"Something I encourage clients to do is to use online as a sort of poker batting practice."

Once you have that, then you can also start to go down the rabbit hole a little bit and figure out where the relationship between online poker and live poker can help you on your journey.

Something I encourage clients to do is to use online as a sort of poker batting practice, because you can simulate so many hands and you can get so many hands in per hour. It's a great way to get a ton of reps in that you can then use to take with you to the live felt to achieve that monthly income goal—to crush that business plan that you have in mind.

Getting clear on all of this is key; if you want to rise to the occasion and reach the next level on your poker journey, and if you want to optimize, you have to optimize for something. When you use this approach to shift your perspective and how you think about poker, you’re effectively going from someone who likes to run, to someone who wants to run a marathon in under three hours.

You’re changing gears from being someone who likes to casually play poker and have fun, to someone who wants to optimize to make two grand a month on the side. Naturally, you start to transform how you approach the game of poker.

When you go to the casino, you're not necessarily going there to have a good time. Your fun comes from winning. It comes from growth. It comes from the progress you're making in poker, and it comes from measuring your results over time and optimizing for a gradual rise in your hourly rate or consistent growth of your bankroll.

Alex and Brandon
Brandon made $25,000 in a month after working with Alec.

You start to make decisions from a framework driven by knowing that your goal is to make more money playing poker—again, not because of the superficiality necessarily, but because of what money represents. It's keeping score.

You want to make more money because that's the way you're optimizing to improve. And then you bring everything with you that comes with that.

You bring with you to the game a determination to make better decisions. You're going to be patient. You have a strategy. You have a game plan. The day before, you begin to change your lifestyle—your habits, your diet, your routine, your sleep cycle—as part of getting ready to perform at the highest mental level you possibly can. You start to develop a routine of what you're going to do before the games to get ready, as well as what you're going to do after the games to study. On top of that, there’s everything you’ll do behind the scenes to prepare yourself to play the game at your personal peak.

Concept #2: Working on the mental game.

The second thing I work on with my private clients that I think is really important is tying in the mental game.

We all know there's a big difference between our ‘A’ game and our ‘C’ game. Of course, I work with people to help make their ‘A' game better.

But what if you could also play your ‘A’ game more often? What if you could play your absolute best 97% of the time—what would that do to your bottom line?

Again, the goal is to win more money per hour to make more money playing poker, right? That’s our benchmark. That’s the way we keep score.

You can do that in two ways: You can either just be better at playing poker, which is the strategy rooted in the technical side of the game. Or you can be a better poker player.

Playing your ‘A’ game every single hand of every single session is one thing, but you must also engineer yourself to be in peak-performance mode to play your ‘A' game during sessions.

"When you’re in a flow state, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening. You’re focused. You’re disciplined."

It’s critical to develop a mental routine that keeps you in the zone to play poker at a high level. When you’re in a flow state, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening. You’re focused. You’re disciplined. And it seems like you're in color and the rest of the world is stuck in black and white.

You know that feeling when you get lost in the moment while doing something that requires 100% of your focus, and time seems to go by more rapidly than normal? You might even forget to eat. Suddenly you realize, oh my gosh, four hours went by—I'm in the zone.

It's like that to play poker at a high level. But what if that didn't just happen randomly or didn't just happen when you’re winning and benefitting from a short-term confidence boost? It's easy to play well when you're winning, but you can engineer this state of mind to be accessible to you all the time.

Athletes do this, too. In my sessions with my clients, I walk them through my practice for how I model myself after athletes—great athletes—to develop the mental game, to be in this peak-performance mode every single moment that I'm playing poker.

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. When the opportunity comes for me to make a great decision, I'm in the zone, my world’s in color, everything else is in black and white, and I'm paying attention. I'm ready, I’m focused, and I have the discipline and my wits about me to execute on that decision.

To draw again from the example that athletes set, it’s crucial to take your time before you strike.

Imagine Michael Jordan’s at the free-throw line (it’s 1997 in this metaphor). Bulls down by one with 26 seconds in the fourth quarter—everything’s on the line. He doesn’t just chuck the ball at the rim. He doesn't mindlessly dribble and throw up a shot. He goes through this whole routine of visualizing success. He dribbles the ball, breathes out. He shrugs his shoulders, breathes out, and looks at the rim. He sees it penetrating the basket in his mind’s eye, whizzing through the net as gravity does its job.

Only then does he shoot the ball.

A tennis player doesn't just throw the ball up and serve. They dribble it a few times. They eye at the competition, assessing where they're aligned. They see where their opponent is on the court. They figure out where they're going to serve the ball. They dribble. They pause, they throw it up, and then they serve.

Every athlete has what I call a “power routine.”

This is a ritual engineered to keep them in the zone, the flow state of mind while they're performing. When they’re tapped into it, they can dedicate deep focus to the act of performing. I challenge you to think about how to do this at the table as well.

How can you keep your attention on the moment, focused and present, optimized for making the best decision possible?

And in that flow state, you’re not on your phone, you’re not distracted, and you’re not fixated on anything that’s happened previously in the session. You’re in the present moment, zoned in on optimizing your game and making the best decision possible.

I can’t overstate the importance of the mental game.

So many people sabotage themselves, prone to letting emotion get in the way of making decisions when they should be focusing on being present and letting their intuition and their logical mind work together to make optimal decisions.

Work on overcoming this, and you’ll recognize the shift in your ability to truly show up and perform during a session.

Alec Torelli in action
Alec Torelli in action at an 888Live Festival.

Concept #3: Your habits. What are you doing to improve at poker?

The third thing I want to cover is developing solid habits surrounding what you're doing to improve at poker.

A lot of people limit their poker education to YouTube videos. I have a channel myself, of course, so I’m grateful for your attention if you tune in! That said, free videos are the most basic kind of study. That’s not how pros work on their game.

Sure, they’re watching YouTube videos, but they're also part of a poker community. They’re part of a program. Part of a membership. They're immersed. They’re talking to friends, they're working through hands. They’re in the lab. They have a coach. They're doing all the things that other people aren't doing.

Just like if you want great results in the gym, you likely have a workout group, a community course, or a personal trainer. You're not just going to the gym and working out. Or if you want to be a great runner, you probably have a coach, a program, maybe a nutrition plan. Everything you’re doing is optimized and built into your success in that endeavor.

The same is true in poker.

I'm taking this one step further. If you want to get top results and turn poker into a profitable side-hustle, you’ll have to be part of the elite 5% of people who are actually winning at poker. Long-term, it’s something like that—5%. And you want to actually win, not just barely squeeze out a profit. Do you want to win thousands of dollars a month? Do you want to be operating at that next level in poker?

You have to be doing things that other people aren't doing. That's the delta.

If you're spending eight hours playing poker in a session, I challenge you to tweak your routine slightly. Instead, spend seven and a half playing, go home, and spend 30 minutes studying. How you study is really important because we all have a finite amount of time, and this too should be optimized.

And of course, you’re probably not going to study the degree that a pro would. You're not going to spend four hours after a session grinding numbers or being in the lab. You probably won’t think about poker all day because you have other commitments.

When you’re not a pro, how you're spending your time studying is really, really important. I work with clients to develop the systems, to adopt the 80/20 approach so that they’re spending 20% of the time to get 80% of the results. That's the phenomenon of the Pareto principle, and it applies to poker studying as well.

There's a great blog that I put out called “The Best Way to Study Poker.”

I broke down the strategy that I use to review hands. If you can learn these strategies and apply them when reviewing your own hands and work toward improving at poker on your own, becoming aware of the numbers, the basic equities, ranges, and the math behind poker, everything is going to improve for you.

When people say my timing is off, that's a function of them not understanding the nuance of the situation. When they say I'm bluffing at the wrong times, or I'm not calling at the right times, or I pay too many bets off on the river, it’s a function of not knowing the odds. It’s not knowing the math, the ranges, or the equities.

At its core, it’s a result of not having studied.

I've played chess for 20 years. I’m an abysmal chess player—probably rated 1200. That’s like the equivalent of a middle-school chess player. I haven't gotten any better in 20 years because all the hours I spend on chess are spent playing, and none are spent studying.

"If you want that next level, you're going to have to invest time—that sweat equity. There's a simple way to do it, but I challenge you to think about how you're going to be dedicating your time."

This is why when you play poker with people regularly, maybe you’ve played with them over the course of ten years, and they've just plateaued. They haven't got any better. Why? Because they just play—they don't work on their game.

Pros study in addition to playing, while amateurs play and neglect to study.

This is why there's a gap between their skill levels. If you want that next level, you're going to have to invest time—that sweat equity. There's a simple way to do it, but I challenge you to think about how you're going to be dedicating your time.

Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it because players you respect say you should. Carve out time to really try to improve at the game.

I also challenge you to look at this blog post I referred to earlier. I think it's really going to help you on your journey and just basic running equity calculations, using a poker solver or a poker program, playing against PokerSnowie and AI, understanding the basis of the game theory, pre-flop play, ranges, fundamentals.

Alec Torelli
Alec Torelli

These are all core things that are really going to help you on your journey, and they’re extremely important to get right because the decisions you make compound over time.

When you make the same decision thousands of times, even small mistakes compound to transform into big edges. If you could correct two or three low-hanging fruits in the form of gameplay mistakes you're probably making because of a lack of awareness around the equities, the math, the game theory, the fundamentals, it's going to transform your results over time.

These three concepts are integral to a well-rounded approach to poker.

Again, these are the things that I recommend every single poker player spends time on. I work with my clients on all of them to some degree.

If you want help on your journey or you'd like me to oversee it, reach out to me directly. You can apply to work with me at bitly.com/workwithalec.

I'd love to potentially help you develop as a poker player, reach the next level after having plateaued, turn poker into a profitable side-hustle, or even make it a full-time endeavor. That’s really what I specialize in. I've helped hundreds of people somewhere along their journey, and I’m passionate about guiding my clients toward better results.

And if you want a course to help you level up, Alec’s Academy is the ultimate poker business course to help you turn this game we all love into a profitable side-hustle.

I’ve taken the best of what I teach my private clients and built out a course to help you achieve great results on your own. Throughout the program, my Conscious Poker coaches and I help guide you on your journey.

Over the course of eight weeks, you’ll work through dozens of video modules and worksheets, participate in group-coaching calls, chat with me privately, and gain access to a forum exclusive to our private community.

Everything we do exists to help support your growth as a player, and I’d love to be a part of the process with you.

Alec Torelli is a professional high-stakes poker player and coach with over $1.5 million in live tournament winnings. As the founder of Conscious Poker, Alec has helped thousands of people take their poker game to the next level through private coaching, seminars, training videos, and blogs, as well as his exclusive mastermind course, Alec's Academy.

  • Alec Torelli of @ConsciousPoker shares the best of what he's learned from coaching clients on poker.

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