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The number one coaching site that has stirred up the most debate in the poker world lately is certainly Ivey League. Once Mr. Ivey declared his intention to get into the coaching business, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he would gather the best crew available to make a great product. The entire poker community was naturally pumped up about the site, but since it went public there has been an ongoing discussion on whether the site is really good for poker or whether it will do more damage than good.

The whole coaching project was preceded by the Ivey Poker Facebook app, which clearly indicated that they were targeting recreational players. The main idea of Ivey Poker was to offer people from around the world an opportunity to play against the best players in the world without having to risk thousands of dollars.

Although the design and functionalities of the app are of quite high standard for a Facebook poker app, the reach is probably not as big as expected. The app page has about 13,000 likes and there are usually a few dozen active players, but these numbers pale in comparison to the main competitor in this area, Zynga Poker.

This did not prevent Ivey from expanding his impressive roaster of signed pros, clearly showing that there was a much bigger plan behind the project than creating a cool poker application. Names associated with Ivey Poker now include Greg Merson, Cole South, Patrik Antonius, Jen Harman, Toby Lewis, James Dempsey – to name just a few. The Ivey League site was announced at the end of October 2013, promising coaching videos from truly the best in the business and the Ivey Poker app and page served as a marketing platform for the site.

Aggressive Business Model

From day one of the project, Ivey was insistent that he would create the best coaching site yet. His actions were in line with the idea, as he proceeded to sign all the big names that he could get and also invested money in purchasing LeggoPoker, a coaching site with a very good reputation. Through this acquisition he has ensured that a few more players got on board as coaches and created the solid foundation for his own site, making sure there was no lack of content on launch.

In my opinion, LeggoPoker is one of the best teaching sites on the market. Quote Phil Ivey

From the customers’ standpoint, this all sounds good, but how can a project of this magnitude be feasible with the highest yearly subscription being $500 a year (or $75/month) for the Masters tier that includes all the videos? Considering that some high stakes players charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for one hour of coaching, one doesn’t need to be a math genius to figure out it would take a huge number of subscribers to meet these expectations. And if expectations are not met, will the content suffer? Even Aaron Jones, the former Leggo coach and the new content manager for the Ivey League, said (albeit as a joke) something on the topic in an interview with Pokerfuse.

Making three videos a month used to be exhausting, I’m now hoping to get down to one or two. He laughed at the suggestion that it would be like “herding cats,” but pointed out that the large number of coaches Ivey has assembled would make the job easier. Quote Pokerfuse

Why Ivey would decide to go for the social poker platform and paid coaching site instead of expanding Ivey Poker for real money play while offering some bonus videos along the way is hard to understand. Maybe it is a challenge that’s driving Ivey, as he was always the type of person to go for the number one place, and becoming the number one coaching site with all the competition already out there – like Runitonce, Deucescracked, Cardrunners – to mention a few, is certainly a worthy challenge.

In the words of Lee Davy from CalvinAyre.com:

What is going to set them apart from their peers, other than the current USP of having Phil Ivey at your disposal? After all, aren’t we tired of the same old videos being pushed through cyber space? Quote Lee Davy

It will certainly be interesting to follow the development of the Ivey League and see what path they go down. It is a tough market out there, and although big names are great for attracting signups, maintaining membership will require a constant influx of new and quality videos.

‘I want poker to be as tough as it can be’

This is Ivey’s statement from one of the recent interviews he gave for Bluff Magazine and it certainly created mixed feelings to say the least. While many observe poker as a competitive environment where they come to seek mental challenge, during the last decade, the game has also become the profession and main source of income for a great number of players. While Ivey perhaps doesn’t mind for poker games to get tougher, it is a safe bet that other players may not share his enthusiasm.

It is probably much easier for someone who has made millions at the tables to say ‘hey, these games are too easy, let’s make it more fun,’ but for those grinding their behinds off day in and day out to make marginally decent ROIs, games are probably enough of a challenge as it is.

The Ivey League concept created quite a debate on 2+2 forums, with some users maintaining that it would hurt the bottom line for many regulars in the game, while others are certain that it doesn’t matter all that much, because the proverbial fish are not capable of properly applying all the complicated concepts and thought processes.

It is probably a more reasonable conclusion that a lot of new players will be attracted to the game because of Ivey and the likes of Antonius, than that these videos would create a bunch of super tough players that would seriously hurt the poker economy. Plus, it’s not like every amateur out there is just waiting to give $75 out of their pocket for a couple of videos, even if they are featuring Ivey himself.

Good or Bad?

It is really hard to give a definite answer to this, as there are always two sides to every coin. On the one hand, games are bound to get tougher with all those resources readily available at affordable prices. On the other hand, everybody’s always going on and on about how there is not enough fresh blood coming into the poker eco system. Ivey League will certainly help with popularization of games and attract some new players or help activate those who were more of once-a-week guys or girls.

As far as the content goes, the free membership gets you some of the low level stuff, but not much more than that. Bachelor’s access costs $9/mo and lets you watch most of the Leggo videos and some of the Ivey League content, but for the high end stuff, like Ivey’s videos, you’ll need a Master’s subscription. As things stand now, there is not much of the high end of content but the promise is that there will be more as the site moves along. One thing that seems to bother users a lot at this point in time is not being able to download videos for later viewing. Although the site may change their policy when it comes to some lower tier videos, they are adamant about keeping their videos from the best pros and only viewable on site to protect the content.

Bottom line is this: those who really want to get better in poker have found ways before this site and will find them regardless of how scarce the resources are. The average player might get better overall, but on the other hand, there was no guarantee that poker would never become harder anyway. Games are getting tougher nearly every day and availability of resources has become a standard, so those wanting to survive will simply have to come to terms with this and keep up the pace.

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Ivan Potocki

Ivan is an aspiring journalist writer from Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a degree in English Literature and a fiery work ethic, Ivan adds a dynamic and flexible element to the PokerUpdate writing staff.

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