Poker Coaching: Five Traits of a Good Poker Coach
Over the years, I have learned some of the most important things to look for in a poker coach.
I believe that my experience with past poker coaches combined with my experience as a traditional mathematics teacher makes me uniquely qualified to help any readers looking for someone to guide their poker education.
Here is a list of five traits that I, as a classically trained teacher, look for when seeking a poker coach.
1. Has Current Experience in Your Games
I started my teaching career at the middle school level.
For a time, I was totally immersed in middle school math on a daily basis. This helped me to answer most questions that my students had about the material.
Although I excelled at elementary school math when I was a student, I had not seen much of that material since I was a kid.
I would not have been a good fit to teach at that level because that was not where I gained my day-to-day experience.
For example, I obviously know which numbers are even and which are odd, but I would have had a harder time explaining why even numbers are even to an elementary student than I would be explaining why prime numbers are prime to a middle school student.
Unlike the former, the latter was something with which I had current experience at the time.
This same concept applies to poker coaching.
I have had great coaches in the past who really helped me to learn how to play poker.
But there were times where we talked past each other because their day-to-day experience came from games that were at a higher level than my small-stakes games.
They could share great poker tips and tell me how my mistakes would lead to me getting exploited if I ever moved up, but they had less knowledge of how to best exploit the mistakes that current small stakes players make because they do not see these mistakes on a daily basis.
If you want to beat your games for the most money, seek a coach who is currently beating your games for the most money.
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2. Is Willing and Able to Teach to Your Readiness Level
Finding a player who is currently beating your games is important, but that's not enough.
That player must also be willing (and able) to teach you what he is doing to beat those games and how all those poker chips keep moving towards his stack.
I mentioned that as a middle school mathematics instructor, I was not confident in my ability to teach some elementary concepts.
Another obstacle to my teaching at the lower level was that I was not willing to teach many of the more basic concepts. The fact that I am a person who enjoys numbers doesn't mean I would have been willing to teach kindergarteners how to count to one hundred.
The top guy in your poker games may be more interested in playing than coaching you.
This is more likely to be true the newer you are to poker and if you are looking for someone who can explain how to play poker on line in a simple and understandable way.
This preference is completely understandable and it should automatically eliminate him from your search.
Additionally, you should pass on any available coach who is crushing your game if he is unable to understand what you don't understand about how he beats the game.
In order for this transference of knowledge to happen, he must be able to come down to your level or you must be able to come up to his.
And if you need help with understanding concepts like what is the straddle in poker, that what he should be helping you with.
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3. Can Prove Statements Mathematically
It's easy to see why I, as a former math teacher, would deem this trait to be important in a poker coach.
Maybe you are not a math teacher, but there is a decent chance that, like me, you are stubborn and hard-headed.
I only buy into plays that a coach tells me are correct once I have tried them a large number of times and proven to myself with the resulting data that the play is viable.
Not only can this take a long time, but it is also fertile ground for me to make mistakes.
A coach with the ability to prove his advice to me mathematically using a poker equity calculator can provide a valuable shortcut to my buying-in process.
And the same goes for other concepts like the best Omaha starting hands or the importance of GTO in poker.
Any coach who cannot prove what he says with either data or calculations can become dangerous once the conditions in which he developed his intuition changes.
4. Cares About Your Success
As a first-year teacher, I was told a mantra that has stuck with me over a decade later — "students will not care how much you know until they know how much you care".
This was certainly true when I was trying to teach math to troubled teenagers. I believe it is also true with struggling poker students, because I've been there.
When I first got started in poker, I joined several video poker training sites.
I would watch intelligent instructors explain high-level concepts that almost never seemed to stick with me. It wasn't until I joined the training site Tournament Poker Edge that things began to click.
Unlike in the past, I became real-life friends with these guys and knew that they had my best interest at heart. Even when I needed them to remind me of basic things like what does it mean to check in poker.
Before, I often fell asleep listening to some faceless voice drone on and on about balanced ranges.
Later, I was able to absorb more easily that same material when it came from the voice of my friend, a person I knew was emotionally invested in my success.
Find a coach who would feel disappointed in you if you did not do your best and doesn't see you as free poker money. As a math teacher, I was able to witness near miracles after cultivating that sort of relationship with some of my students.
5. Has a Track Record of Successful Students
A coach cannot guarantee that the student will put in the work necessary to succeed, so it is hard to hold him accountable for the student's success.
However, any effective coach should be able to point to examples of students who have done the work and have improved as a result of it.
This point reminds me of another statement I was told as a first-year teacher.
At the beginning of the year, the school's administration would say things like "if you can have an impact on the life of just one student, then you've done your job."
I always found that idea funny, because they generally weren't too happy if only one of your students passed the exam at the end of the year.
In reality, those of us who recognize Phil Jackson as a great basketball coach do so because we can point to the players who he helped to make great.
This applies to poker coaches as well.
Some guys are great players, but not great teachers and are unable to transfer their knowledge to others and give them all the Texas hold'em tips they need. Those who can will likely be eager to show you examples of others like you whom they have helped.
If you are reading this article, then by definition you recognize the need to improve your skills and you need help to learn how to win online poker.
Getting a poker coach is a great way to expedite this process, but only if you find the right coach for your situation.
I hope my experience can help you recognize the traits you should consider during your search.