More thoughts on coaching; Vulnerability

by PokerAnon ~ February 27th, 2010. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker and life, Poker psychology, Weaknesses.

Continuing on from the previous post on coaching. I was an education major (amongst other things) in my undergraduate studies and have done some teaching in music. I’ve also taken classes and private lessons as an adult in music, martial arts, theatersports, and others.

The email from my former co-worker who is now a management coach goes on to talk about weaknesses, how weaknesses show up during performance, and how coaches need to create a safe practice environment to work on your weaknesses, how you need to be vulnerable to work with your weakness before taking risks with it.

Being vulnerable is not easy. It means being open to having our weaknesses pointed out, having a surgical probe stuck into it, looking at it, accepting it for what it is, then working on it like you would do with a painful muscle, the difference being that the pain will be mental and maybe emotional rather than physical. “Why did you call that?” “What was your plan for the turn?” “What range were you putting him on when you made that play?” “Did you consider raising that bet? Why not?” Are you ready to answer those questions? It’s hard enough to ask and answer these questions yourself (teaching myself to play another instrument comes to mind, or in poker to spending time reviewing your hands or posting them on a forum for open discussion) but to be asked these questions and to have your thought process or lack thereof questioned, possibly attacked means putting yourself out there for viewing, making yourself vulnerable.


My wife and I are going through this on a personal level with a couple that we know who are experiencing difficulties. It seems that the couple are not really speaking to each other anymore, are operating in two separate spheres of existence, and worst of all they have young kids that are spinning around in these spheres moving between these two worlds that are frozen over with respect to each other. Siblings or friends go through this type of situation regularly, and often teens go through this with respect to their parents, all of which are fairly common situations and if not long standing it’s well within the realm of normal life. But when young kids have to grow up in this atmosphere between their parents it’s worrisome. Neither parent seems to be willing to open up to outsiders, at least to our knowledge, and they just seemed trapped in their environment, just doing what is most necessary to keep going, if not healthy. They’re unwilling or unable to be vulnerable to outsiders and apparently with each other as well.


So, what’s my excuse for not having professional poker coaching? Well, I have done the other things; reading, participating in forums, getting a membership at coaching sites and watching videos, doing some hand analysis. I think that there are a number of items still holding me back.

  • my own arrogance thinking that there’s a lot that I can learn on my own
  • my own cheapness, not wanting to spend money if I can learn on my own
  • my fear of moving up in levels, where my financial risk increases and my win rate may decrease (the old Islewars 60% win rate syndrome that I’ve delineated many times in this blog)
  • my lack of focus; I keep moving my primary game every few months
  • my definition of poker as a hobby, not as a profession or obsession

In the email the management coach goes on to talk about his commitment to improving his mountain bike racing and hiring a coach to do so. He follows this up by suggesting that we (I) should make a financial commitment to improving. Good idea, when he’s trying to sell me on paying him money for coaching.

It’s true that if you spend money on improving or working on something that the money spent can increase our dedication to making use of the training. On the other hand how many people have purchased a membership at a gym, only to go twice and never get their money’s worth? Or signed up for a class and stopped going after the first one?

It may be different with private coaching compared with signing up with a gym or a class, but still, I don’t quite feel ready for a poker coach, yet.

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4 Responses to More thoughts on coaching; Vulnerability

  1. Pat

    Re: Poker coaching.

    I have the same worries/concerns about poker training too. I often wonder if the coach’s credentials are valid and if I’ll actually become a better player through their guidance. I know there are some dodgy ones out there.

    For me, the investment (which can often be a very hefty sum) versus the opportunity to get better isn’t balanced. I think I’ll give it some as well.

  2. Admin

    Yeah, I’m toying with the idea of trying either one or other friend of mine, both of whom I know are better players than me and one who is a coach and the other who has thought about coaching, or with one from Stox that impressed me with his videos. The problem with my friends is that they’re exclusively 6 max players these days, and I’m mostly FR.

    The thing is that a good player may not be a good listener/explainer/understander of your leaks or style. Without already being familiar with the person (for me would not be the case if I went with one of my friends) I’d need to see some videos, of how the person plays and thinks and explains, and hopefully also examples of them in sweat sessions or review sessions to see how they are at explaining and relating to their student.

    Other than CardRunners/Stox/Deuces Cracked/Leggo coaches, or someone that I already know, I wouldn’t even consider it.

    To compare, a few years back I watched a couple of videos from a new site (which, I’m pretty sure, sold my name and email to a spam list). In one video two coaches and two students took turns playing the hands of a 9 player SnG. The students were pretty bad (I’ll call and see a flop here … “No, no, all in” from the coach in the background; she had like 8 big blinds and KT or something). And another video of a coach replaying a SnG that he had played. Pretty mediocre skill and thinking level. Nothing comparable to even some of the better member supplied videos I’ve seen on 2+2 and other forums. I was not impressed, and “not impressed” enough that I can still remember these.

  3. Pat

    Another concern is whether or not the coach can remember how to play at a lower stakes level. If they primarily play mid-to-high stakes will they be able to sufficiently drop their level of thought to play micro stakes, for example? Empathy would be ever so important.

    Also, if they’re so good at poker why do they need to coach in the first place? Theoretically, I would assume they’d make more money from actually playing than coaching in the same amount of time.

    But, I can answer that question already, I suppose: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” et al.

  4. PokerAnon

    Yup. Most coaches that I would even consider using are ones that I’ve seen doing videos at the stakes that I play, so I can see how they think and how well the adjust to the level.

    There is that old adage, “if you can, do. If you can’t, you teach” or something like that. But there are a lot of successful professional sports coaches who spent their playing lives as backups or never made it beyond the college or senior amateur levels for various reasons. Coaching/teaching is different than doing, and besides not putting all your eggs in one basket, I think coaching gives a different type of satisfaction, and learning, than playing would. In other words I could see a successful poker player being more satisfied with their life because they spend half their time coaching others.

    For the levels that I play one wouldn’t have to be a professional poker player to be a good coach for me. Just someone with more experience and experience winning at somewhat higher levels than I’m at, which is no difficult achievement.


    btw, I have signed on for an introductory coaching session with someone. I’ll post about it when it actually happens.

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