Getting poker lessons for free

You may have heard the expression that "Everybody has to pay for their poker lessons". This is an old saying that acknowledged that most people learn to play poker by sitting at the table and playing. Needless to say, the lessons you learn at the table aren't free (and are sometimes painfully expensive).

But it's a new world, and you really don't have to pay through the nose for your poker lessons anymore. As Exhibit A, let me introduce you to Matt "hoenhiem88" Mulrooney, a distant descendent of Grace O'Malley, the famous Pirate Queen of Ireland. [1] Matt recently won a freeroll on PokerStars that got him a seat in one of the Ultra Satellites which are part of the Road to the Bahamas promotion for the PCA. But Matt wasn't just a random who happened to bink a tournament. He's been honing his craft using training opportunities that PokerStars provides for free; we thought it would be interesting to ask him about that.

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LeeJ: So Matt, a little about yourself please...

Matt: I'm Irish and I have recently returned home after several years in Australia. One of the contributing factors of which was the ban of online poker. My wife and I were also starting to miss family so we decided it was time to go home. I originally trained and worked as a chef and eventually owned my own award-winning business. That style of life though is very taxing on family. Upon returning home I'm looking at a career change which allows me more balance between work, family, and of course, poker.

LeeJ: So, congratulations on winning the PCA Ultra Seat in the Discord freeroll. It must have been pretty nerve-wracking to realize that second place was an $11 ticket and first place was a $530 ticket. Did you find the nerves getting to you or were you enjoying the pressure (and presumably the rail support from the Discord community)?

Matt: Honestly, I wasn't thinking about the ticket at the time, I was just trying to play good poker. I went into the final table as the short stack and just took my spots. My late stage game has been good of late as I implement a steal strategy of sorts. This means I open next to no hands but instead I attack the dead money in the pot by restealing over some limps or a standard open. I am effectively playing my opponent's call range and final table ICM keeps that very tight. Each time I pick up the pot uncontested I am adding 20% + to my stack. Soon I was sitting third in stack size without even seeing a flop. Though I do acknowledge that ICM wasn't a huge factor here due to there been no difference between 51st and 2nd place.

My heart was racing like it does during any deep run but I love it and the support from Discord was amazing.

I cannot say enough what a pleasure it is to be a part of such an amazing poker community. I was feeling the pressure when we got to the final three as we were all evenly stacked but I felt I had an edge over my opponents. My Heads-up game is strong as I put a lot of time and work into developing it mostly due to the fact I got so sick of second place finishes. Second place truly is the worst place in poker. I got heads-up after I picked up kings and opened for the opponent to 3-bet all in. I couldn't believe it, trying to get action with a monster that late is difficult. They held and we were heads-up.

I was heads up with a 3-1 chip lead and I wasn't nervous about a second-place finish because there was no way I was coming second now. I knew my Heads-up game was better, I had the chip lead and I was going to grind him down one pot at a time.

It wasn't just about winning a ticket anymore, there was more to it than that, I was going to win not just for myself but for discord. We all wanted a Discord regular to win it and they were laughing at me as I was telling them all week I was going to win it. I really mean it when I say it was a shared victory. Finally, we did it! The opponent made a bad call out of position which lead him to picking up a straight and put his stack in against my flush. All of Discord erupted and I'm sure I woke up my entire neighbourhood with the scream of joy I let out. I have told the mods at Discord when I win this PCA package I want a Stars/Discord hoodie so I can properly represent.

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LeeJ: Speaking of community, you're a regular poster in the channels where we discuss poker hands. What's been your experience with the Discord hand discussions?

Matt: I had been playing poker for many years before I really started to study it and take it seriously. Discovering Poker School Online has advanced my game in leaps and bounds; I spent hours every day first passing the courses available on the site. Then I worked my way through The Langolier's video library really getting to grasp an understanding of topics such as SPR, Fold Equity, Odds and so on. It was an amazing foundation course but it was just a foundation course. Hand experience is really the key to improving our game. That is what's so amazing about Discord. There are hands posted constantly and discussion about the best approach. Not everyone agrees with each other but that's also good you see multiple opinions so you are constantly learning from each other. Even if it's as simple as what not to do. It really helps you to start thinking on different levels and trying to approach your hand from the villain's point of view, not just your own. Discord has been invaluable to the development of my game not to mention it is the most enjoyment you can get out of poker without actually playing the game, so if you are not already involved you really should be.

LeeJ: Matt, not only are you all over our Discord platform, but you're a regular on the Poker School Online Twitch streams. Why don't you tell us a little about those - which ones you watch, and what you get out of them.

Matt: At the risk of sounding almost biased towards my interviewer, "Lee's Trout Stream" is my favourite. [LeeJ note: I did not - repeat not - ask him for this testimonial]. First and foremost, it is fun and engaging, not to mention watching Lee's facial expressions and reactions as he watches your play; it makes you laugh as you retreat for cover into the castle at the bottom of your fishbowl. Mostly though it is the thorough analysis of different types of hands from different types of players. Combine this with the engagement of players from beginner, competent to semi-professional this stream is one of the greatest assets and resources available to us. I would strongly recommend everybody to get involved; you might even win an $11 ticket. By the way I recommend you use that ticket on Progressive Knock Outs - it can really help your bankroll.

I also like watching "Talking Poker with Ross Jarvis". This for two reasons: first at the beginning he talks a lot of cash game strategy and my cash game is much weaker than my tournament game so I relish any opportunity to improve that. Secondly, his tournament in the home games club. This tournament is an excellent opportunity to improve your short stack game. You don't start very deep and the levels increase fast. To be successful in this type of tourney you really need to have a good understanding of shove/call ranges and on how to steal effectively. It is always an achievement winning this one. Last time I put the $11 ticket to good use by turning it into a 9th place finish in a 6max PKO. It's hard to complain when you turn play money into real cash.

If you ever see "The Langolier" or "JWK24" on the live training schedule it's a must-watch. Listening to those guys and talking through hands with them is some of the best couching you will ever get. Having two seasoned semi-professionals is the most valuable resource PSO offers. They are fantastic to engage with and are happy to answer any question you have.

I also enjoy the streams from members of Team Pro Online. Always good to watch these guys grind it out and listen to their thought process as they approach hands.

LeeJ: Wrapping it all up, do you think that participating in Discord and Twitch has helped you reach the point where you were able to win the Ultra Satellite seat, and have a solid feeling about your chances in the Ultra satellite?

Matt: There is no question about it. I wouldn't be the player I am now if it wasn't for Discord and Twitch. It is exciting and rewarding to see the development in my game especially over the last year. The key to my recent success has totally been hand analysis in the forums and discussions on Discord. The greatest tool you have is your hand history. The ability to go back over tournaments or cash games and really break down those hands or tricky spots. Post them and just chat about them. Personally, I'm constantly seeing areas where I could've played better or refined my play more. Stuff you don't usually see when you're playing. Discord has been amazing for that; I have even started to write strategy articles on my own PSO blog.

I've been asked several times by new players why I spend so much time in the forums or on Discord especially talking through hands with them. The answer is simple: that's what we are there for and I for one find it so fulfilling to be able to give back to a community that has helped me so much. I plan on being an actively involved for the foreseeable future.

I have a solid feeling about winning a package to the PCA but all I can do is play the best poker I can on the day. Sometimes, of course, you just need the cards to fall. I will say this if it hadn't been for Twitch and Discord I wouldn't have a hope. It is going to be a tough field but there are a lot of packages up for grabs.

It would be a real privilege for me to represent Discord and the PSO at the PCA. To see one of our own make it to the big leagues - it's nice to have an opportunity to be a part of that.

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Lee: To close, all of us from the PokerStars Twitch and Discord communities are incredibly happy for you and we'll be railing you for sure when you bink your $15k PCA package. Play well!

Matt: I really appreciate you asking me to do this interview. I know I have said this before but if I win this package it's going to be a massive win not just for me but for the PokerStars Discord Community also. How could I not bink a package having that crowd on my rail?

LeeJ note: Here's where to hook up with the PokerStars Discord and Poker School Online communities:



[1] I knew nothing of her. Go look her up.


Lee Jones first joined PokerStars in 2003 and has been part of the professional poker world for over 30 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones

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