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Picking a Poker Coach

I'm going to go a little Flash Dance on your butts here, but the decision to invest in a coach means you are committed to doing one thing: taking your passion, and making it happen. It is a great step for anyone who really wants to make a living at the tables - or even just make some extra cash. The act of actually handing over your hard-earned dough to someone else is only going to heighten your drive and make you even more serious about optimizing your edge. Moreover, it will encourage you to stick with it and do everything you can to improve. Think of it as like hiring a personal trainer: you’ve put in the money, so you’re going to make sure you get to the gym – no excuses.

I remember reading some of Phil Galfond’s posts, and he said hiring a poker coach was the best decision he ever made and that the year he hired his coach was the year his poker career really took off. Coincidence? I think not.

So how do you pick the right poker coach?

Let’s start by talking money; it's important to find the right price. Understand, you are paying for the coach's time and for how much s/he is going to benefit you. You're not paying for the stakes you're playing at; I would charge the same to coach someone at $25 NL, $2 NL or $200 NL. Of course, it wouldn't really make financial sense for a $2 NL player to hire me, but the point is I’m giving up the same amount of time and my price point should remain fixed. I know there are a few coaches out there who will charge less for lower stakes, which is a great discount if you can get it. I can’t speak for everyone, but to ballpark it, a $25 NL player would probably be looking at paying around $25-$50 dollars an hour for a coach.
Now, as I said, you won’t be playing for the stakes YOU play at, but you will probably be paying for the stakes at which your coach plays. Here’s what I mean: most coaches will charge slightly less than their hourly rate for playing since their time is variance free. It’s for this reason that higher stakes coaches will cost more than lower stake coaches; on average, high stakes players make more per hour than their lower stakes counterparts.

The BIG question: how much are you willing to invest in yourself?

Private poker coaching is one of the biggest and most important investments you can make: it costs more than a membership to a training site, more than a book, certainly more than my Gripsed poker videos. However, the value of training experience will be much greater. Private coaching means you're getting one-on-one training. It's instant feedback that's all about you and you don't have to figure stuff out on your own. The person you're working with has been through what you have, and they save you the time and money making the mistakes they did.

So who's the right coach for you?

Not all great players will be great coaches. Some players just know what they do, but they can't transmit the information to you in any useful, illuminating way. A good coach should be a good teacher and have a good resume. There's simply no substitute for experience.
A coach should also care about your success. Are they willing to chat with you outside of your game? Do they seem engaged and empathetic the whole time?
You also want to hire someone who plays similar limits to you and understands your leaks. Again, this will ensure they know what you are going through and can impart useful wisdom.
Above all, take your time choosing a coach. These guys aren’t going to fill up their available hours right away; you have time. You have to make sure you're ready and receptive for coaching or you'll only be getting about 5% of a return on your investment. If you're only going to get one session out of it, or your heart’s not in it, then forgo the expense. Don't get a coach just because you think you should have one. You have to WANT one.

The Cost of Excellence

People often think the cost of a high-level coach is prohibitive. Some even go so far to say it’s not worth it – and that might be true, for some people. Depending on the stage you are at in your poker life, coaching may not be the best option, but if you’re serious about optimizing your game in the long-run, there will be a time and place where you can benefit from the experience and wisdom of these elite players. The expense of coaching will pay for itself in short order.

As I’ve mentioned already, it's important to not get a coach that's too removed from your current level; that's why training videos, books and practice should be used intermittently before securing a coach. A coach is not someone you run to in order to solve your problems; they're someone you seek out when you are making an effort to work though your challenges and want a second set of eyes.

Where are the best places to find a coach?

If you want to find experienced coaches who are already firmly entrenched in the poker world, here are the best coaching directories:
Gripsed Poker Coaching (for simple reasons – it’s just the best!)
• Deuces Cracked
• Two Plus Two
In the case of Two Plus Two, the site can look a little spammy since they are really trying to sell-sell-sell. It’s important you do your due diligence, check them all out, take your time and do what works for you.
Lastly, if you have a player you really respect and look up to, ask them if they coach or if they had a coach they'd refer you to. I'm not talking about the TV pros, since they are going to be hard to get a hold of, but someone you play with and respect.

The final word...

While you should definitely take your time with hiring a coach, there is absolutely no harm in looking into one and getting a feel for what's out there. You may decide that now’s not the time to invest, but it’s good to have a feel for your options. Remember, hiring a poker coach could be one of the most important decisions you make for your game. If you’re serious about turning your passion into your profession, you owe it to yourself to do a little research on the subject.
Written by Evan Jarvis, lead instructor for Gripsed Poker Coaching