Coaching

I am presently available for coaching live, low stakes cash game players.

As a card player who plays 1/2, 1/3, 3/5, and 5/10 for a living, I have developed a philosophy which, in a difficult game, makes execution relatively easy and removes some of the mystery of the full ring. The basis is in understanding, before you sit down at the table, the nature of NLHE, still the most common game and the usual basis of a live poker win rate, and how it revolves around position, stack size, and community cards.

I don’t think coaching is for everyone, never mind my coaching; I just don’t see the need. Observe that most players lose because they just don’t work or think or try very hard or even care: pretty simple.

While I have insight into the mental game, I’m not particularly interested in coaching it or giving life lessons unless it really is necessary – my model is focused on poker strategy and excellence.

However, if that is not you, if you are stuck and know at heart you can get there, a mentor is one of the the fast tracks out. What’s more, if you fall into my general categories of why you are struggling, I can help you with all of the erroneous thought processes I list.

Essentials

The essence of my strategy for the game of NLHE poker is playing all my hands according to their natural alignment with position, stack size, and community cards. This is what I call synchronicity. This separates my particular style from TAGs, value hounds, nits, small ballers, the equity blasters that litter poker forums, and other common styles; the list goes on. It also means I have a basic and coherent understanding of the game and am not just clicking buttons or following some guide. This is important- and should become more important to you.

  1. Each spot in a ring game is valued or devalued relative to the button, the most desirable position in poker. This will in part inform how and what hands (and at what frequency) are played at the most basic level- and suggest alternatives. Critically, this dictates that when we break ranks and synchronicity, we know we have to take steps later in the hand to account for our intentional deviation or error.
  2. Stack size, like position, also inform what types of hands can be played most effectively. Stacks are in my view, even more important than position, and certainly more important than preflop equity, the bugaboo of many players, and one that ties them to their cards and the hopeless quest to find a perfect preflop range.
  3. The most complicated aspect of NLHE is postflop play because of its endless, potentially confusing action.  One coherent strategy, the one that I employ, will delimit the confusion by being heavily based in points 1 and 2 rather than being focused on thin value extraction or improvisation.

In other words, position and stack size will dictate perceived and played hand ranges, not just preflop equities. Therefore we will veer away from looking at hands grouped by percentile, which is common and useful for thinking in generalities, but instead look to coordinate our actions with these basic facts of poker as I describe them. Perceived ranges interact with the board to determine what hands are representable, not just our own cards. Playing these three components- position, stack size, and community cards in synchronicity is one way, my way, to beat low stakes games for substantial, regular wins. Because this philosophy is coherent and explainable, we will not wonder why we won or lost, but almost always know what happened, what we can improve, what we need to do to beat the next level of play, and avoid the mental confusion known as tilt.

I do not believe in making poker complicated; we could stop right here and move forward to winning NLHE, or in fact, almost any poker game with community cards. I do not believe you need a shelf full of poker books, especially if they frustrate and intimidate, although I encourage you to think on your own and not accept any one player or coach or writer as the ultimate authority. Simplicity is key: all my thoughts on poker will revolve around these three complementary aspects of the game, because in the end, we are performers, not theorists. We need to be flexible and active and not weighed down with complex and numerous ideas. We are, above all, players.

How will coaching work?

We will be working remotely.

I need to start with getting a sense of your game and/or your issues. The most successful coaching experience is one where we both know what we are working toward, whether it is one theme or an entire overhaul of your game.

Once we decide on what that is, I will decide whether I can help you or not. I will refer you elsewhere if we are not a good fit.

If it looks like I can help, we will agree to a month of service where we are in constant communication. We will use email, instant messaging, and Skype.

If you are struggling or want to improve at 1/2 or the lowest stakes, I will very likely suggest a diagnostic session which I will analyze.

In any case, I will very likely want to see samples of your “body of work” – hand histories.

For the minority of students, especially those with highly specific challenges, our methodology will differ.

The hourly model does not work for me and probably not for you. Poker ideas take time to resonate and develop. If a mentor is what you need, you will likely have many questions and not want to feel pressured to squeeze them into an hour of my time or your time.

Lastly, students will be given access to a group chat which we use for study, support and group discussion.

Contact me for more details with the form below. If you need references, ask.

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The above is enough to get you there. It sounds almost ridiculously simple! However, the following sub-concepts are useful for an even more nuanced understanding, which may interest you, depending on your level of play or perhaps when facing certain games, opponents and challenges. They are like filters or magnifying glasses we can use to zero in on our problems in the game, once we have a firm grasp of the three pillars.

Purpose

This is inherent to playing in synchronicity with stacks and positions, and right away separates the winning player from the losing ones. Purpose trumps much. For example, many times low stakes players are overwhelmed by the poker education industry. “Be Aggressive!” “Well Not In This Spot!” “Play in Position!” “Mix It Up From the Blinds” etc. All of this – all of it- is ultimately a cover up, a well meaning pedagogical effort which never addresses the fundamental question: Do you know why you are doing what you are about to do? 

Admittedly, probably not. There are no tips or top five lists or ranges to play that will make you a great player, but having purpose in all your actions might fill in some of the many blanks of a poker education.

Reciprocity

One of the most important concepts in poker is that no matter what strategy we employ, all situations will potentially be shared by me and my opponents. Therefore it is not the situations which play themselves that are most important, but all the situations where I can find an advantage.  However, that is not enough: even apparently reciprocal spots can also be played better by finding and using more information, and using better tactics to maximize or minimize losses. In fact, this is so important that we can turn reciprocity on its head by saying: our goal should be to reduce all reciprocal situations to as few as possible. This is, in fact, such a deep concern it is the outline of a true strategy that is informed by, but is not, the golden calf of GTO.

Claiming Equity

As I wrote, to win this battle of reciprocity, my strategy must preclude sharing as many of these reciprocal spots as possible. I will not be passive when they are; I will not spew when they spew. Most commonly, this can be accomplished by either shutting out my opponent from realizing his equity or choosing not to realize my own. Both are equally important. Because of this, bluffcatching will not be my primary mode of creating pots. Passive play is both more novice and more advanced, at once: we will meet low stakes players at their level, not pretending they are worse or better than they are. This will again separate our strategy from GTO, where an optimal but impossible to find calling frequency is theorized.

Aggression and Passivity

There is less purpose, therefore, facing normal opposition, for me to passively play hands that have limited but winning equity, such as straight draws or flush draws, when the situation allows for claiming the pot without showdown. However, the community cards may preclude this possibility, based on the hands that are in my or my opponents’ perceived ranges. (This is, in fact, the difference between a good bluff catching strat and a bad one, a good betting range and a bad one, etc..) A compelling implication of playing very aggressively is that I must in fact limit my range, not widen it, in order to be most effective. This is a key difference not understood by many loose and aggressive players, who do not measure their equity against multiple streets of action. I must come up with ranges in spots that work in synchronicity with the board yet still include bluffs with the most equity possible. Yet slowplay can be one of our most effective tactics once we identify our targets, and a player with an excellent understanding of stacks and position will naturally fit it into his game.

The Leveling Implication of Range Play

When we focus on our range, not statically as from a guide, but relative to the board, a strange thing happens: we simultaneously go to the next level of understanding, because the range works with our opponents’ holdings. Yet, when we focus on a single hand in our range, alternatively, we must pay more attention to our opponents’ holdings. Being aware of this simple shift in understanding can be a great aid in our play by helping us be aware of what we are trying to accomplish and clearing up mental confusion, as if turning the nob on a microscope, and critically- getting us away from our defensive baseline.

Information

A deciding factor in poker profitability is observing the simply overwhelming amount of information available in live games, organizing it, and employing as much of it as we can. This requires tremendous concentration and effort, and must constantly be revisited and encouraged.

Possibilities

The process of thinking about hands is ultimately more useful than sticking to any one tactic, even though this may not be immediately clear to a novice or intermediate player, because no situation will ever be repeated. The past is only important because the future is. There are no lines or tactics that I teach, although like every player, I have some baseline strategies that I both use and encourage.

Visibility

I do not need to be at the mercy of the runout or ever be in a position to play a hand without a coherent strategy. For instance, when I check a hand from the blinds and flop equity, or if I have a squeezing hand versus an extremely tight range, I am not necessarily incentivized to pursue this hand, as I have no control or visibility from this position. It is often better to surrender in situations that create errors or false choices, and to adhere to my strategy on my own terms. Obviously here we will deviate strongly from GTO defense ideas and instead, think more about playability.

Hard vs. Soft

In fact, it is nearly always best to play a strategy rather than improvise or play off our equity, even when the deck seems to be favoring us, such as these scenarios from the blinds. Improvisation often leads to unplanned imbalances and bluffcatching; these are what I call “soft” strategies, and include that error of exploitation before information. A strategy of claiming equity and attempting to play our ranges coherently I call “hard.” This is why non-visible hands, such as accidental but unclear equity from the blinds, are not important to me in many games. This Hard Strategy concept is closer to a GTO concept, even if it precludes trying to defend every out of position piece of equity.

Countering Difficult Opponents and Game Conditions

One of the most profound revelations you will have as a player is the concept of Reciprocity, yet it will likely not be enough for you to completely overhaul your approach to common spots and questions. Yet there are Villains who are so good or situations so unusual or difficult that they will force us to break out of our comfort zone and derive a truly different strategy. No tactic, even open limping, feared and loathed by robotic players, the TAG industry of poker educators, and most of all, by your garden variety equity pusher, will be off the table when we come up against difficult opponents and games. Having purpose frees us from dogma and makes us stronger.

Variety

While I don’t feel qualified to instruct in games other than NLHE, I constantly play mixed games and pot limit games, not merely for enjoyment, but to expand my poker mind. I highly recommend this. Struggles in one game can point to deficiencies in another. The idea of Push/Pull in O8, for example, can make you rethink NLHE situations in an extremely powerful way. If you break even at NL, but always lose at LHE, this is a strong indicator you do not understand positional alignment and is a window into improving your game right away. If you can’t seem to win at PLO, you are probably struggling with handreading, preflop considerations, and positional alignment.   Natural overbetting in Stud5 and 5card draw give you insight into the math and purpose of larger than normal wagers and indifference concepts.

The Mental Aspect: Playing your “Our” Game

The most important concept in preparing oneself for the game is to realize that wherever you are at mentally, whatever you have been focusing on the most, this is what you will bring to the table. Poker is not a sport but it is a performance. We will be in the midst of the war, acting and fighting, and because of this tremendous strain our subconscious will rise to the surface almost immediately. Therefore, we must both prepare to play and be aware of what our current focus is. We are not much of a mystery, we humans, and we can predict what we will do, if we choose to be smart about it. This is the mental game in action. From this vantage point, there is no A game, or B game, or C game; these are arbitrary designations that themselves could be redefined infinitely, or as is the usual case, retroactively when we are dissatisfied with ourselves. Making a good play one night and a bad one does not mean your best self arrived at the former and not the latter – all your greatest stupidities are yours to own and learn from. Poker is the great mirror and when working on our game together we will be looking at it very honestly.  In reality, there is only the very best we can do at any one time… and that is our game.

Strengths and Weaknesses

It is crucial in poker to shore up one’s weaknesses as much as it is necessary to play to one’s strengths. We start by recognizing what they are. When I wrote this, I felt I was not being as aggressive as I could be in many situations, and had dialed myself back significantly, perhaps unwisely, but the answer as to why is clear. 1) I am not always employing my strategy of claiming equity in super action games, and 2) I do not always study enough situations to have prior knowledge of what I will do in difficult and unusual spots. This also leads to passivity, because passivity is best defined as realizing equity rather than claiming it. That was my past sore spot at one time. This week, I find myself autoplaying certain spots and am not engaged.

My point is this: knowing exactly where we are at makes change not only possible, but probable.

As for potential students, low stakes players have many leaks – I spend my days marveling and being grateful for easily fixed, weak play. The single biggest leak among live, low stakes players is being stack size and positionally indifferent. In words, they play almost oppositely from me. This applies to even experienced players who think know what they are doing. Thus, they cannot even approach a reasonable level of synchronicity- this makes the game very hard and very confusing for them- especially postflop.

I can fix this better than others. Strength. What I can’t help you to do better than someone else is to use Flopzilla better or memorize static ranges or tell you off the top of my head what an 18% PFR looks like from a 21%. Weakness.

A second massive leak of low stakes players is their indifference to information. There is not a lack of information in live poker, there is actually too much of it. By focusing and correlating actions, players can easily add many blinds to their win rate – even if they are already winning more than 10/bbs hr. I notice almost too much to deal with and can get distracted or missort information. Strength and Weakness.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? If you don’t know, what do you even know about your game? Have you been just playing in a cloud of misinformation and clouded thinking your entire poker career?

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Summary

The synchronicity of hands to position, stack size, and community cards is the basis of my game and a great foundation for any player who wants a straightforward strategy for winning. I put a premium on information, because it is what leads to positive expectation deviation from theoretical equilibrium play or our baseline: maximum profit. Focusing on these basics, learning to pay careful attention, and at our most technical, studying what runouts mean, will allow a player to claim more dollars in cash games, or really, any poker game.

If you like what you read here, we may have the basis for a beneficial relationship. I will want to talk mainly about the three pillars, but if you are an advanced player, or if the related concepts I think about are important or pressing to you, let me know.

Thanks for your time – Persuadeo, July 2016

 

Learning, Coaching, & Relearning