I recently joined the team at Ivey League, the training site for Ivey Poker and Team Ivey. Of course, I was excited to be part of the team, and an association with Ivey League looks great on a resume, but the biggest thing for me was the opportunity to learn. I have always learned from the other coaches when I was part of other training sites, and being part of a site with Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Jen Harmon, Griffin Benger, and twenty six more incredible coaches is going to be very good for my game.
The key to being a long-term winner is staying ahead of the curve. That means taking lessons, buying books, watching training videos, and learning from your peers in tough games. Players who just want to play, and that is all they do, don’t have a chance. We love those players. No matter how gifted they may be, they are going to feed money to those of us who do our homework.
I’ve never understood why so many players try to skate by on their wits and gumption and try to make real money playing poker. No matter how gifted you might be as a lawyer, trying to do the job without the education would be ridiculous. The same is true of any high-paying job. You have to study and work with people who already know how to do the job or you are destined to fail.
Tiger has a coach…
In any tough competitive endeavor, the best competitors have countless hours of training, personal coaches, and a support team. Tiger Woods has a swing coach. Michael Jordan had a coach. The best chess players and the best boxers give credit to the great coaches and trainers who help them play their best. No one in those professions thrives on their own without a coach and a lot of work. But so many poker players think they can go it alone. And they fail.
The first video series that Ivey League requested from me was on the basics of Pot-Limit Omaha. I almost turned them down. I used to openly state that PLO was my weakest game, but over the past year or so I have worked hard on my PLO game, and I have always been a winning PLO player, so I decided to accept the challenge and work on my PLO game.
I don’t expect to make advanced PLO videos for Ivey League any time soon. Not with Patrik Antonius and Cole South making videos on the game, but I reread the important books on the subject, spent some time with an equity calculator running simulations, and I took some PLO lessons.
After four lessons with four different players from different backgrounds and lots of study time, I feel like I can call myself a competent coach for beginning PLO players. I wouldn’t work with advanced players yet, but my first video has been well-received and the next two are in the works.
That willingness to take lessons and study to improve my game, along with the knowledge that I was not already a great PLO expert, are the reason I survive. I’m not the perfect poker player. I was not born with a remarkable gift for cards. I didn’t play poker every night with my family growing up. But I know how to learn and I know that I need to keep learning. And that is all you need to know if you want to make real money playing poker. You need to know that you probably don’t know much yet and that getting there will require some work.
The worst home game ever
A good example of the other way to approach things comes from a home game in Minnesota with two great players who were coaches at major training sites. A young player at the table heard us joking about how bad it was for the game that three coaches were playing at the same table at a little home game in Minnesota, and asked us –
“Are those training sites any good? Can you really learn anything from a website?”
We all looked at each other, amused smiles on our faces. I helped him out.
Look at the three biggest stacks on this table,” I said. “There are three coaches at this table, and we have all the chips. I’m a member of both of their training sites and have learned a lot from them.”
The other two coaches admitted that they were members of the other two coaches’ sites as well, meaning we were all learning from each other on a regular basis. The kid looked impressed, but I still play with him sometimes, and I know that he never joined a training site and he is still a losing player. He lost a few buy-ins to us that night and bemoaned his luck. If he had listened to us and looked at his skill level instead of worrying about his luck, he might have made a lot of money by now.
Lucky for us, he didn’t take our words to heart. And lucky for me, neither will most of you. Most players hear me talk about how to improve, make a few mental notes, or maybe order a book or Google a free training video, and then go back to playing poker. They may get slightly better, but they aren’t going to keep up with those of us who constantly work on our games. They may have just enough education to beat the worst players out of a few dollars, but they are never going to beat the rake for enough to grow a serious bankroll.