Poker Coaching Questions & Answers

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I was emailing back and forth with a prospective student and he sent a very long email with a bunch of excellent questions.  These are pretty common questions from students, and thus I thought they deserved a public answer.  So his poker coaching questions are in orange and my answers will be in black.  If you have follow-up questions, or any other questions, feel free to ask below in the comments!

If I could hire you to coach me fulltime, what would your coaching look like and what would you expect me to do to maximize the outcome?

I consider full-time coaching to be structured with 5-10hrs/week for 2-4 weeks.  With this kind of immersive study I like doing a mixture of sweat sessions (where I watch you play and you talk about your lines and real-time rationale), hand history analysis, and theory/concept discussions.  Full-time poker coaching consists of a lot of hours, so mixing up the session types is good to ensure the sessions aren’t boring as hell.  Also, these 3 types of sessions hit each type of learner (visual, audio, and hands-on), so I think it’s the best overall approach.  As for the student, I simply expect they will work hard, ask questions whenever they have them, and put in time off the table.  By putting time off the table you run into spots/concepts that you need extra work on…which helps me formulate sessions that can help you better!

What are the biggest mistakes poker beginners make when playing poker or learning?

I could probably write a book on beginner poker mistakes to be honest.  I think the biggest issue poker beginners make while playing is not understanding why they bet or raise, which of course boils down to misunderstanding the true strength of their hand.  When it comes to learning I think many beginner players look towards coaching as a “magic pill” that they take and then BOOM, they are great poker players.  Nothing in poker (not books, not videos, not coaching) is a magic pill.  Becoming a great poker player takes a lot of study and work…and nothing will instantly take you from losing to winning…

Successful professional players; what mistakes would be most common?

Awesome question.  I would say it’s one of two things: either massively under-adjusting, or massively over-adjusting.  By under-adjusting I mean that they are taking lines against better hand readers who will be able to read their line/range and maximize accordingly.  Or over-adjusting by thinking that everyone is messing with them and they react by spewing (usually in an overly aggressive way).

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What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in attempting to become a consistently profitable poker player?

Here are a bunch of things I see.  Thinking they have to be a LAG in order to profit.  Thinking that 6max plays 400% more aggressive than full ring (it plays closer to 200%, not 400%!).  Thinking they have to keep X stat at a certain level (common culprits are 3bet%, Fv3bet%, FlopCB%, TurnCB%, etc.).  Thinking that they can’t fold top-pair ever.  Thinking that everyone uses the same exact range they they do.  And one of the biggest mistakes I see is players spending 90% of their poker time playing…and too little time studying.

What are the biggest wastes of time regarding becoming a consistent profitable player?

Learning things that aren’t useful for your game, and won’t be useful for a long time.  For instance, 10NL players who are focusing on playing closer to GTO.  Or 25NL players that are spending a lot of time creating a river CR range.  It’s not to say that these things can’t be useful, nor that they won’t be useful later on in their poker careers…but in the smaller limits learning a bunch of complicated strategy isn’t particularly useful.  You will rarely get a chance to use it, and rather than spending those hours learning GTO strategies you could have been improving your flop game in 3bet pots…something that is much more common and much more useful.

How important are emotional factors, like belief or doubt in success? Can negative beliefs be changed over time with practice?

The mental game is a huge factor for most players.  I’ve said this to many students and I 100% believe it, but I can teach someone every bit of strategy I know…but if at the end of the day they are tilting off 1-2BI/session…they won’t be a winning player.  Tilt, and other mental hinderances, act as a drag on your WR.  If that drag is too intense, you won’t be able to win enough to counteract all the spew.  The good thing is that you can certainly work on and improve tilt.  For something like that I suggest Jared Tendler’s book “Mental Game Of Poker“…or consider coaching.  I’ve personally taken mental coaching with Elliot Roe and 100% feel it was worth every penny.

Did you have students who did very poorly in the beginning and evolved being very successful playing?

Many.  I’ve worked with many students who started at 10NL, took a few hours of coaching, and worked their way up to 100NL+.  These are students that put in a lot of work, asked a lot of great questions during our sessions, and put in a ton of hours on and off the table.

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Did you have students who did very well starting out but then couldn’t build on it?

Yes.  Often times it would boil back to either tilt issues or bordom with the game.  As I mentioned before, quite a few players take coaching hoping it will be the “magic pill”…and when they realize it will take 100s of hours to improve to get to a point where they could really go pro…they quit and do something else.  Not to say that there is anything wrong with that…but many people think you can learn to crush poker in 5 hours…and anyone who is still reading this knows that isn’t the case.

What are the key principles for consistent profits in NL FR cash games?

Discipline, hand reading, discipline, value v SDV, and discipline.  Discipline is huge for a variety of reasons such as discipline to study, discipline to play tight at first, discipline to fold when you know you are behind.  Hand reading is obvious, as it influences our lines both preflop and postflop.  And understanding when a hand is value or SDV is huge, and creates lots of issues for new players.  I think improvement in these 3 things alone will create a lot of confidence and acceleration for any poker player.

Would you say that anyone can be successful beating the micro stakes with hard work?

I do, yes.  So long as you can put in the effort to manage tilt, put in the effort to study, and put in the effort to make the right plays in real-time, I think anyone can crush micro-stakes poker.  But if a player isn’t willing to put in the work, I think they are destined to fail at poker.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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