It's not always about the money

I have never actually blogged about any private coaching experiences I have had, as most of the things I discuss or review with my clients will usually be confidential and they would rather not have me write about it.

Last week when I was staying at Atlantis during my first PCA 2014 I had breakfast with my Team Online mate André "acoimbra" Coimbra and we were talking about and exchanging ideas about our coaching philosophies. I told him this story from one of my clients and he suggested I should turn this into a blog. So, I asked my student if he would be ok if I put it out there without mentioning his name, and he agreed. So here's the story. For the sake of names, I will call him John.

John has always been a live poker player with very good success at mid- to high stakes cash games. One day he decided that it would be fun to finally learn how to play and become a decent winner at online 6-max cash games. John was completely financially independent and had some free time which he wanted to spend learning the game with my support.

When I started working with him I wanted to set up a plan for bankroll management. He told me he wanted to start at 100NL 6-max right off the bat. I advised strictly against this idea telling him that a) he would need at least 4-5 grand as a roll b) be prepared to go through some rough swings adjusting not only to the completely new online dynamics but also to regulars far more aggressive and tougher than the ones he knew from his live games. He told me he wanted to do it, challenge himself, and even be prepared to lose this kind of money. After all, in his early online poker mind, four grand would be no more than 2-4 stacks in the live games he played.

Against my voice of reason John took the shot and lost it all. I received a pretty depressed Skype message the next day from him starting with "I did something terrible..."

He then told me about how he felt completely crushed and destroyed by his opponents, the fast pace of online poker decision making, and his own thought processes and emotions.

Instead of giving him the "I told you so!" speech, I tried to rebuild his confidence and thought about handing him a very basic game plan that he could use to get started at lower stakes. I felt like the best thing to do right now was work on his online game in such a way that he avoids making larger mistakes to get more and more confident on basic decision making in relevant spots.

I told him to invest just one more grand, drop down to 25NL 6-max, and abide by this basic plan only deviating from it as soon as his reads were fairly strong. I knew he would have issues with the small size of these stakes but I also let him know that all he should care about is become a winner first and build his confidence up to a level where he can comfortably take shots at higher stakes again.

He followed my advice for a couple of weeks and his Skype messages kept improving in terms of positive mental attitude. By the end of the month he was telling me how successful he had been making more than 20 stacks and feeling like he could finally become a winner at online cash games. Then one day, when I thought that he had finally set sail in the right direction, I received another copy of the "I did something terrible..." messages, and I was scared he might have dropped his entire roll at higher stakes again.

He said, "I just dropped 4 stacks at 25NL!" first I thought he must be joking, but then he elaborated: "After all the hard work I put in with you to become a winner I feel really bad about losing four stacks. Even though it's just 100 bucks and I have lost 10 times as much effectively before, it feels much worse now that I see how good of a player I can be. It's not about the money, it's about playing the game right!"


Felix 'xflixx' Schneiders