Choosing a Coach
Choosing a poker coach is an important decision. You don’t want to waste money and time on a coach who doesn’t have the skill to beat the games or an understanding of how to impart that skill to their students. We know poker coaching is expensive, and it should be. It’s career training for a very lucrative job and any good coach already makes a very nice hourly rate, so they have to charge enough to make it worthwhile to get up from the tables and come teach you how to become a solid player and make their games even tougher. A good coach can charge anywhere from $50 to $250 per hour, and a few are even higher.
So how do you find a good coach, and how do you tell if a poker coach is really worth the money?
Your first step was a good one, you came to this site. We have faith in the coaches we put on our list, and they are all expert players. The next step is to find a coach that fits your game and your learning style. Narrow it down to two or three coaches who can teach the games you want to play and learn more about them. Google their name, check out their website if thy have one, and feel free to contact them with a few questions. Try to keep your initial email to a reasonable length, I can’t tell you how many two page life stories I have gotten from prospective students who thought they had to sell themselves to me.
What do you look for when you investigate these potential coaches?
You want a poker coach who is a serious winning player and has a provable track record. Sites where you can check on a player’s results include Sharkscope.com. officialpokerrankings.com, The Bluff Poker DB, The Cash DB, and internet poker rankings.
You also want a coach who communicates, so look for someone who replies to your initial email in a positive and articulate way. If your coach can’t take the time to write a few sentences then he isn’t going to give you a great value for your money. If he can’t write in an articulate way he may have trouble articulating his ideas when he is trying to explain what he does. Shaquille is a better basketball player than Phil Jackson, but Phil is the guy who you want to help you with your game.
Experience helps with finding a coach who knows how to communicate their ideas. Most people, unless they possess a degree in education, don’t have a good understanding of how to impart their ideas. There a few school teachers on our list, notably Ban Hayles and David Eisenstein, and all of the rest have extensive teaching experience to figure out what works.
You want a coach who teaches the stakes at which you are playing and a few levels above so that he can help you as you move up. You may have trouble finding a coach at the low or micro limits, but a mid-limit coach should be able to help you with those games. Phil Ivey might be able to teach you how to beat $1/2 no-limit Hold’em, but a coach who plays closer to that level will be much cheaper and probably understand how that game typically plays more than Ivey would.
What is the best way to get started?
Once you have decided to try out a coach, contact them and set up an initial session. After one session you will probably have a good feel for how they teach and whether the way they teach will fit well with the way that you learn. Some very good coaches might teach in a way that works for most of their students but doesn’t fit for you, so we recommend you take one lesson before you make further decisions. It’s fine to try out a few coaches before you decide on one.
While most good coaches have a curriculum and can take you through the entire learning process, it will be helpful for you to show up with questions of your own as well. The more ideas you have about things to work on, the more you may inspire your coach and the more information you will get for your money.
Why is having a poker coach so important?
If they are good enough for Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and every major competitor in the world, they are good enough for you. It’s very tough to succeed in a highly competitive endeavor without some help, and a coach is by far the best way to increase your chances of success in the world of professional poker. The great chess grandmasters have whole teams of coaches!
The simple fact is, your opponents are using them, and they have a huge advantage over you if you don’t have a coach. Most poker players love to see the game as a wild west test of guts and gumption, and they want to just try hard and win, without studying. Poker is a profession like any other, and trying to succeed as a poker player without a serious education is just as ridiculous as trying to be an engineer after reading a few books on the subject or trying to be a professional boxer without a trainer and years of practice.
At the low and mid-limits you will find most of your opponents aren’t using a coach or aren’t using one very often. This gives you a chance to invest a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in a learning process that gives you a significant advantage over all of those opponents. And much like going to college, the education pays for itself many times over.