Olympics, coaching, and poker

by PokerAnon ~ February 23rd, 2010. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker and life, Poker psychology, Weaknesses.

I’m on the mailing list for a former co-worker of mine who has gone into the business of coaching managers. Every couple of weeks he sends out an email writing about various management related topics and his thoughts on them.

Recently he was reflecting on the Olympics that are taking place and how top tier athletes are the ones that hire coaches and not the more average level athletes. He says that it’s because the top athletes want it more, which is true, but the top athletes are also the ones who are going to get more value from coaching. They actually have less room for improvement because they are already close to as good as they can be, but any tiny improvement can mean the difference between being the best in the world or fourth best, or fourth best versus not making the national team at all. Like an MTT, the value is highly skewed toward the top end so if you’re at all close then getting help to improve a tiny bit can mean a huge return on the investment. Of course, the reason that my friend mentions this is to state that top managers are like top athletes; they recognize the need for good coaching (and implying the question aren’t I a top manager, so don’t I feel the need for some good coaching?)


Compare this with a recreational skier, or better yet a recreational tennis player or golfer. Hiring a regular coach is going to improve your performance, but what’s the value of the return on your investment? You can now ski better than your spouse? Beat your friend at tennis or golf? There’s definitely some potential for value, especially if your skills are significantly lower than your partner(s) to the point that it’s not competitive or fun for you or them so the coaching just brings you up to their level. And you’ll likely just feel better about your game if you improve in general and perhaps can beat your regular golf or tennis partners slightly more often.

In poker a marginal improvement at any level has monetary value because we’re playing with money to begin with. If the investment in a book helps us improve 1 bb/100 it may pay itself off in short time. A couple sessions with a coach may improve our ROI and be the difference between simply ITMing in a big tournament versus making the final table. It becomes a matter of at what point and in what fashion is investing more going to give us a good bang for our buck. For a beginner the best option is probably reading books. For an intermediate player, maybe a membership with a coaching site. To get to advanced, probably paying for some sessions with coach.


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