Players who are interested in improving their game usually consider taking poker lessons at one point or another. Poker lessons, or coaching, can be great value…but you need to fully understand your goals and skills to get the most from these sessions. The obvious reason to get a coach is to improve your strategy and then make more money at the tables. If you are able to increase your winrate and thus win more money, you will be able to move up the levels and possibly consider going pro later down the line. But is coaching going to be best for you?
There are plenty of alternatives to lessons. For instance, you could read a poker book, watch videos, sign up for training sites, use forums, enter discussion groups, etc. Coaching isn’t the only way to improve, but it can be more efficient than other methods due to one simple fact: it’s customized to you. A video isn’t customized to you and your skill level, a book can obviously age with time, and forums are usually filled with players who don’t 100% know what they are talking about. A poker coach is able to assess your current skills and leaks to create customized plans and lessons. The value in this is incredible and alone shows why coaching is a serious consideration for any serious player.
That all being said, coaching is usually more expensive than other forms of training. A monthly membership at a training site is usually around $30/month, books are usually around $20, and while forums are free…you sometimes get what you pay for. A good coach is usually going to be $50+/hour, although you can certainly find some quality micro/niche coaches for less…so it’s easy to see how the cost of a few hours of coaching can add up. But would coaching be beneficial? Well let’s take a quick example: Say you are winning at 2bb/100 but you have some leaks in your game. A coach is able to assess the leaks and shows you how to fix them resulting in a long run increase of just 1b/100. Now 1bb/100 may not seem like a lot, but if you are playing 25NL and win an extra 1bb/100 over the next 50k hands, you’ve made an extra $125. If you play 1M hands after coaching with that increased winrate you’ve made an extra $2500. So if you take 5 lessons at $75/hr for $375…you’ve gotten a sick ROI over the course of your poker lifetime!
Before getting a coach you want to really consider your goals. Are you looking to grind out a ton of hands over your lifetime or are you just looking to play a little better the next time you visit Vegas? If you aren’t playing much poker and don’t anticipate playing much poker over your lifetime, lessons may not be the best investment. But if you play a lot and want to try to improve your winrate over your future play, coaching can be a great option. The tough thing for most students to accept though is that coaching is a long-term approach. You don’t take 2 lessons, automatically have your WR increase 200%, and then print money and never again have a losing session. Lessons help you find leaks, fix leaks, and make better decisions in the future…but as we all know with poker…making the best decision doesn’t always result in a single-instance win (hell, if you get AA all-in preflop against 72o you will still lose 12% of the time!).
You also need to do basic cost analysis to ensure this is a good decision for you. If you are playing 10NL it’s probably not a great idea to hire a crushing 400NL coach for $300/hr. First off, each hour costs you 30BI, which is likely larger than your allocated poker bankroll. Secondly, some of the stuff he teaches you may not fully apply to your limit. And lastly, you want to make sure coaching will be +EV longterm. It would take thousands of hours of crushing micro limit poker just to breakeven on the cost of coaching…yet alone to make profit.
I would also suggest you consider lessons sooner than later. The reason is simply based upon opportunity cost. Sure you could take the next 3 months and put a ton of time into studying, reading, watching videos, and trying to dissect your own game…but could you also get a lot of that information from 5-10 hours of coaching? You certainly want to understand the basics before taking coaching (if you don’t know that a flush beats a straight or that being in position is superior to being OOP you likely won’t benefit as much from coaching), but a coach should be able to find leaks in your game and help you fix them. Getting leaks found quickly, and of course patched quickly, allows you to really start increasing your winrate quicker. And little improvements, such as understanding 3betting better, offers tangential benefits to other areas of your game (such as 4betting, calling 3bets, math, etc.).
So should you get poker lessons? If you are a serious player that is serious on improving your game (and ideally moving up as well!), then poker coaching is a solid consideration. Get a coach who has a solid reputation and can help bring your game to the next level. If you are just a casual player and/or aren’t going to put in many hands over your lifetime, coaching is likely not the best solution for you. But for players looking to find their leaks and figure out strategies on patching those leaks, getting a few poker lessons can be a great option!