WCOOP 2011: The coach and the uncoached

wcoop2009-thumb.jpgThere was a period of time in the not so distant past in which the phrase "poker coach" didn't exist as more than a joke or very niche pastime of a guy who hung out at Binions Gambling Hall too much. Since the advent of online poker, that's changed. People like Mike Leah can leave an entire career behind to play poker and teach other people how to play.

Leah, now 36 years old, gave up a 16-year career in sales to play poker. He's won more than $1.5 million playing online. A Canadian hockey fan (hence the screen name and Twitter handle "goleafsgoeh") he's a brutal enforcer on the felt, and a patient coach to the people who pay him for advice on the Tournament Poker Edge training site.

The poker world has come a long way since Leah started learning to play.

"I didn't really know there were sites like 2+2, P5's or training sites back when I was learning," he said. "I think there are many more avenues for players to learn now."

His trial and error approach has earned him a lot of money during his new career, including a WCOOP bracelet this year in the $320 Badugi event.

"I have over $1.5 million in online winnings and many larger cashes, but this was one of my more special wins," he said of his bracelet.

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Mike Leah

Contrast that with a man who only wants to be known as Olkku. He's a lifelong gambler who recently won $43,214 playing Event #10 of the 2011 WCOOP, a PLO Knock-Out game. Oikku doesn't teach. He absorbs information from wherever he can, including his experience as a chess player. After a life of playing games, that's all he needed.

"It was just a new way to gamble," Oikku said. "After a while, I read a few books."

But when it came down to it, Oikku played by feel and experience. He's not alone.

Romnia's Andrei "extasyman" One won $216,227 in Event #9. To do it, he had to beat out Team PokerStars Pro Pat Pezzin at the final table. He's not only proud of the WCOOP bracelet. He's also proud of the fact he did it on his own.

"I never read a poker book, I never watched a poker training video and I never took lessons from anyone," he said. "I think everybody should find his style by himself with a good and rigorous self analysis. I don't have any heroes. All the players are just people I compete with."

Coach, coached, or uncoached, the potential for WCOOP glory is still out there. Nine days remain in the world's biggest online poker tournament series. To see all the details and remaining schedule, visit the WCOOP website.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP