PokerNews Interview: Ryan Jones of Chip Leader Coaching
Among the many choices available to poker players seeking ways to improve their games these days are numerous poker coaching sites that feature a wide variety of teaching styles and learning strategies. One such site, Chip Leader Coaching, offers a somewhat different approach to helping multi-table tournament players in particular to improve their games.
Started by Chance Kornuth, who is one of the site's coaches, the site doesn't charge monthly or annual fees of their students. Instead those who join enter agreements with CLC directly related to their goals as players.
Currently the site has three different "teams" — a 500K Team (for which Kornuth is the lead instructor), a 250K Team, and a 100K Team. Students choose a team based on their desired goal for tournament winnings. For example, those working with coaches on the 100K Team make earning $100,000 worth of tournament cashes a tangible target for which they aim while working with their coach. In return for the coaching help and guidance, CLC gets a small percentage of those winnings.
Ryan Jones, one of CLC's 100K Team Instructors who came on as a coach late last year, recently spoke with PokerNews about the site and how CLC works. The North Carolina native has amassed over $975,000 in tournament winnings including winning two World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event titles.
PokerNews: How did you get involved with coaching and CLC?
Ryan Jones: I started out as a student myself. In fact, me and Ryan Leng both started out as students under Chance, and now we are 100K Team Coaches.
Explain how the different tiers work.
One unique thing about Chip Leader Coaching is we have different coaches for different tiers. There's a 100K tier, a 250K tier, and a 500K tier, with each one associated with how long a player in in the program. Really, once you're in the program, you always have access to the material, but the one-on-one coaching part of it subsides when you complete your contract. For example, if you're in the 100K tier, once you've earned $100,000 in tournament winnings, you've reached your target and are done.
That said, for someone who has reached that point with me where they've made it to $100,000, if they want to talk about a hand with me I'll certainly do it. But the sessions where we work on correcting leaks and other one-on-one coaching conclude once the player hits his or her goal.
So CLC doesn't get paid unless the players actually go out and cash in tournaments, then, right?
Right... we hold ourselves more accountable. Because at the end of the day we aren't paying money up front like with other coaching sites, but we only get paid once the students cash in tournaments. So we're incentivized to sign up people who are really serious and perhaps looking to do this for a living (or already do). We're not really looking for recreational players or those who are brand new to the game.
Let's say I've been playing tournament poker for a while and I'm committed to getting better — that I'm not just doing this on the side but genuine want to improve as a player and possibly make a career out of it. I come to you and want to sign on to be part of the 100K Team... what happens next?
We would start by getting you a contract sent over. We have a system set up where you'll have volume requirements every month in order to get your one-on-one sessions. For those in the 100K tier, for instance, you'd need to play 10 tournaments per month or $5,000 worth of total buy-ins. If you meet that requirement, you're entitled to two one-on-one sessions each month with your selected coach. Those sessions last 60-90 minutes, although sometimes they'll go longer (I know I sometimes go a couple of hours with my students). That's how it is in the 100K tier — the requirements are different in the other tiers.
The sessions are very interactive, with lots of back-and-forth and students sharing hands and asking questions as we try to plug leaks and work on specifics. There are group sessions also — each coach does at least a couple per month, and if you're in the 100K tier you can attend and participate in the sessions led by the 100K Team coaches. There we might talk about more general concepts and topics, but there's a lot of interaction in the group sessions as well.
You can also sit in on group sessions in the higher tiers, although just as an observer. There are no volume requirements for students to attend those, which is nice because sometimes things come up and a student might not be able to play tournaments in a given month.
Most of my students do fulfill their volume requirements, and so we do have our one-on-ones each month.
Last night, Ryan Leng of Chip Leader Coaching won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in Event #51: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Bounty, topping a field of 1,982 to win a first prize of $272,504 plus bounties.
And so we just continue until I reach that $100,000 in winnings, then, right? And CLC gets a percentage of my winnings?
That's right. We invoice at the end of every month looking at your recorded Hendon Mob cashes. Online tournaments don't count, so it's only those sanctioned tournaments that are recorded on Hendon Mob.
I assume the contract is set up in such a way that I can walk away if I'm not feeling like I'm getting what I need.
Correct. There's a 60-day trial period initially, but once that's passed, certainly. They're also set up so the coaches can terminate a contract if the coach feels like a student isn't putting in the work or is just kind of freerolling and not really interested in putting in the volume or taking the game seriously. That's pretty rare, though.
It sounds different from other sites as well in that CLC isn't just taking on everybody who wants to sign up.
That's true. Unlike other sites we're not soliciting more and more people to sign up all the time — we're really invite-only. We have a list of 100-150 applicants at any given time, and in truth we're not accepting the majority of them.... It's kind of an exclusive club. We're not just going to take anyone just because they want to give us some money to learn poker.
I have 12 students currently and in the process of getting a few more, but I won't be getting too many more. I could get 30 more students if I was interested in only putting cash in my pocket, but that's not what I'm looking for, nor would that really be in the students' interest. I'm looking to work with students who work hard and I'm very selective about who I bring on to join my group.
The analogy that comes to mind is really more like a school than a straight-up business. That people have to apply and be accepted — you don't just walk in and sit down and start taking classes.
Yeah, a little like an honors class.
But then the fact that the teachers only get paid if the students produce is kind of interesting.
That's why we kind of have to keep that eligibility termination in there, because if we feel someone has signed up just to get the content but isn't really interested to put in the work at the tables, it isn't really to our benefit to work with them.
Since you went through the program with Chance yourself and now you're teaching in it, talk a little about this method of learning tournament poker. Obviously it's good to talk with others about hands and review your play, but it sounds like joining a "team" like this probably has other benefits.
We use Discord [a online communication tool like Slack and others] and there are multiple channels for the different tiers and so on. But what's great is everyone has access to all of the material and all of the coaches. You can go from learning an exploitative style (or less game theory optimal) that plays to your opponents' strengths and weaknesses such as what Chance teaches, then you might go to another coach who is more GTO and uses solvers. Or you might learn from Joe McKeehen and Ryan Laplante — get exposed to different styles and take from them what you want. You still have your one-on-one coach, but you can also absorb insights from others who might not take the same approach to every hand or situation.
I have a student and in our lesson the other day she asked me what hands would I defend with after opening from the button and getting three-bet from the small blind. I gave her a range, then later that evening another coach gave her a different range. That's fine, because that's poker and no one plays the same way. But it's helpful for the student when she can come back to me and we can compare the difference and talk about the reasons behind those ranges.
And just having that community and support system, that sounds like an important part of it, too.
We have a channel in there for railing, too, say when someone is on a live stream, which is great. Everyone's pulling for each other and it's like a big family. Even though most of us haven't even met face-to-face, we know each other and so root each other on. That's a great aspect as well.
Even though a lot of poker players have their cliques or group of friends with whom they interact regularly, there are a lot of poker players who tend to be a little more introverted. So it's really cool to see everyone come together and pull for each other.
Thanks to Ryan Jones for taking the time. Those curious to learn more about CLC can visit the Chip Leader Coaching website.
Have you ever wanted to write your own articles about poker? Maybe you've got some experiences or opinions about poker that you'd like to share. PokerNews is proud to launch The PN Blog where you can have a platform to make your voice heard. Learn more here.