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How to Make the Most Out of Coaching

December 16, 2019
by Pete Clarke

Hiring a coach can be a big investment of both time and money. A good coach will not just teach you during session time, but will assign you homework, while setting you tasks and deadlines. Your coach should motivate you to take poker more seriously in order to achieve life changing results. Although I have been improving my private coaching for nearly a decade now, some students are still destined to fail due to their own approach to coaching and poker. Let’s learn how to get the most out of this valuable experience.

Come Prepared

Before the first lesson it is important to come prepared with a list of the areas you think represent your biggest roadblocks. What would you like to get out of coaching and why have you not been successful on your own? Which technical areas do you find the most difficult to understand and apply in-game? What mental game leaks have been holding you back despite your technical advances? Where would you like to be six months from now and what might stop you getting there? I allow my students to record their lessons and so turning up with some screen recording software ready to is always advantageous.

Send Over your Database in Advance

If you are running some sort of tracking software, it will give your coach an immediate head-start if you send over a sample of your play before the first lesson. Not only will this speed up the technical process of running diagnostic reports and filtering for relevant hands; but it also gives me a chance to get to know my new student’s game before we meet for the first time. If you are a live player, who does not have a database, then send over some annotated hands you have played recently to give your coach an idea about how you think about spots.

Come to Coaching Open to Criticism

Being able to accept feedback without your ego interfering is a common trait among successful students. There is a sweet spot between being overly harsh on yourself and defending your play to the ends of the earth that will yield the best results. You want to accept accountability but to do so in a motivated way. When your coach points out some of your leaks, try to see it as a fascinating step in the journey, not as an attack and not as a reason to feel bad about yourself. The most prosperous students are both responsible and curious about their shortcomings.

Articulate and Apply Concepts from Coaching

When I teach a student a brand-new idea, he goes through several stages of comprehension. First, he will understand the information passively. The ideas will start to make sense to him but at this stage there will be almost no ability to articulate the concept in his own words, let alone to use it in-game. Next, there will come a stronger conscious understanding where the student can relay the information to others out of game and can make use of it to analyse hands. Finally, we come to subconscious competence which allows for such a natural and effortless understanding of the new material, that the student can access the information at the tables and identify the relevant spots to apply his new skills. Getting from no understanding to subconscious competence takes a lot of hard work. The most important step in this is to make sure that you produce the thought processes on your own. Recorded sessions with commentary are a great way to do this and explaining things to poker peers will help. Passive learning simply won’t cut it.

Do Not Let Variance Affect your Motivation

Sometimes students expect results too quickly. They have a flawed subconscious belief that coaching will miraculously cause them to win right from the start. Sometimes they coincidentally run good after a little coaching and write me a massive thank you email. To their dismay, I invariably write back refusing to accept accountability for variance handing them a pay-check. If I accept the glory for you winning over 5000 hands, do I have to apologise when you run bad next week and tilt off twice as much?

The biggest financial blunder some students make is quitting the game after purchasing a block of coaching due to one bad stretch. Your goal as a student of the game is to lose or break even for a while until you become strong enough to win. This means accepting some nasty stretches of poor results and continuing to improve undeterred. The saddest thing is that many of the students who quit coaching and poker before even using their full block of lessons are guys with a lot of potential who could have made it had they possessed the grit to survive the rough patches. Coaching is a journey. The hands you play while being coached are your practical homework. Do not worry about winning or losing while in the initial stages of  a coaching package.

Large Stack of Poker Chips

Do Not Postpone Coaching

Sometimes a student will write to me asking if they should get coaching right away or wait until they have played X thousands of hands or watched Y videos. The trap here is forming bad habits. When you leave the right track early on in your poker career, you will find yourself constantly taking dubious actions as a matter of habit. The more bad habits that creep into your game, the harder it will be to develop a solid framework for decision-making. By getting coached as soon as possible you stay clear of many a pitfall and ensure that your fundamentals will always be strong enough to support new concepts as you grow as a player. Even if you just buy five hours or so of coaching to lay the groundwork and show you how things fit together, you will shed months or years from your poker journey.

Why do it all alone and risk getting lost when you can hire a specialist to make sure you get the best possible start to your career. Contrary to the opinion of some players, coaching is most valuable at the beginning when you lack the skills needed to walk, let alone run. It is easier to go from walking to running on your own than it is to stand up for the first time.

Coaching from Pete Clarke

Pete has been coaching for nearly a decade with great success. He has helped many players make the transition from losing micro-stakes players to winning midstakes players. You can check out Pete’s coaching packages here:

To contact Pete for coaching fill out the form on his page or shoot an email over to with any questions you might have.

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