Teaching the game

In addition to playing a pretty full schedule this year, I've gotten back into teaching poker more regularly as well, and it has really been rewarding to do so.

I obviously started out as an amateur player, then shortly after winning the WSOP Main Event in 2003 I began to play full-time. Then a couple of years after that I was approached by a couple of different sites to be an instructor, but I didn't choose to do it because honestly I didn't think I had the qualifications to teach poker. I was playing a lot, but really during those first couple of years I hadn't spent a great deal of time working on my game, so I didn't think it was right for me to try to teach others.

You actually see a lot of people teaching who either aren't winning players or probably don't have much business teaching. There are also examples of some people teaching now who may have been good 4-5 years ago but may not be so good anymore, especially if they haven't been keeping up with changes in the game. I really think players can be a lot worse off after getting bad teaching than if they never had any teaching at all.

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But the last couple of years I've been working hard on my game, and finally I reached a point where I felt more confident about doing some teaching. So in the last year I've begun working as a WPT Boot Camp instructor, and so far the people I've taught have done well and gotten some good results. Meanwhile, I'm also continuing to work on my game, too, which is very important, I think, when it comes to being an effective teacher.

Just going through the process of explaining various concepts or ideas to others can be tremendously helpful. If you can't articulate yourself well or be able to explain exactly why you do what you do at the tables, you probably shouldn't be trying to tell others what to do. Being able to explain to students the various factors that go into a particular decision not only helps them, but is a great way to review one's own thinking, too.

Overall I often will teach my students to play a little more cautiously than I tend to play. I'll take more chances than I necessarily want them to take. Then later, as they gain experience and establish their own styles, they can perhaps take their games further.

Face-to-face instruction I think can be very effective, and probably works better for most people than learning the game from strategy books. I do like and recommend some books, such as Elky's book The Raiser's Edge about tournament poker (which he wrote with a few others). But I tend to prefer instructional videos and more personal forms of instruction and I think a lot others are probably the same way.

It's humbling, too, to teach, especially when I'm thinking of mistakes I made in the past and find myself explicitly telling students to avoid making those same errors. But that's the value of experience, and if I can help someone in that way it's good for my student and it's good for me, too, as a reminder of what not to do.

Chris Moneymaker is a member of Team PokerStars Pro