10 Tips before hiring a coach

1) Make a conscious decision to get coached (or not) – to Hire a coach or not

Haha, that “conscious thinking” stuff again. I´ll be preaching it like a mantra. But your decision to get coached by somebody should be clear and not out of pure actionism. You should have a plan, where you wanna go, why you need coaching. A good poker coach will setup a “roadmap” together with you.

2) Don´t get coaching only because you´ve just hit a downswing.

Get coaching because you feel you have big leaks to fix. And those leaks are best fixed by somebody competent from the outside. Everybody hits a downswing, and you´ll feel bad. You want to change the game you´re playing, change every habit, change… It’s not all bad, and giving the chance to reflect on things is very great. I´ve had most epiphanies on downswings (mostly playing bad) and without those, I´d have never reflected upon what I´m doing.

Nevertheless I believe – if possible – it’s best to make decisions out of strengths. When you´re weak, you´re often not in full control, you fall easily for cheap stuff, because your whole body is looking for an “easy way out”. Wait some time, take a few days off. If you still think you need coaching, go ahead.

3) Don´t get coaching because you adore the poker game of your coach.

Get coaching from him, because you think he can help you become a better player. You should look if the coach plays the same game that you do. If you´re playing 6max and your coach HU, with so many coaches out there, just choose one who wins at 6max. I advise to choose a poker coach who has played your limit and currently plays maximum 2 limits higher. I personally believe this is the best way to get most value.
I´ve had a client, who played fullring. I played HU. He booked some sessions. He liked how I thought about the game and some concepts that I had taught him. But ultimately I was the wrong choice, because he wanted to become something other than I could teach him. I learned for myself that in the future I was only going to accept HU students, or students who consciously decided to learn the skill set that an HU player has. Look at what your coach can teach you.

4) Calculate the price

Good coaches cost money. Most of the time they´re worth it. But often some other ways are cheaper. Check out poker training sites. They usually charge around $20-30/month, which is a bargain price, if you can profit in any way. Of course a private coach is something completely different, but consider that for 90% of cases, a training site pretty much does the job. A coach has to be significantly better and provide more value than a training site. In my book, only very good coaches do that job, which means you automatically should be prepared to pay a decent bill.

5) Bad wine can still be good vinegar, but why drink vinegar if you can have wine

“Those who can, do. Those who can´t, teach”. Although this is getting quoted everywhere, it remains to be very important.
Check out results of your coach. Ask him for bulletproof proof. Ask for references. But don´t look at people saying “he was a good coach”, “he helped my game”. Be more precise, ask what their leaks where before and after, ask if they improved. Ask them how their results changed. Be extremely critical. You want results. Don´t fall for reputation.
Not every good coach has to be a big winning player. But this should be a VERY rare exception. I often hear “Tiger Woods also has a coach”. Yes, he has, but he knows exactly the qualities of his coach, because this coach has some special expertise somewhere. If your coach is making less money than you, he better have some really strong expertise or a damn sick record of high profile references! Also, Tiger is the best golf player and has this rare dilemma of not finding a better player to mentor him. You´re probably not the best poker player. And there are dozens of better players out there.

6) Be willing to pay the price and seek for poker coaching advice

How much do you wanna spend on coaching? Look at your budget, set a price, then go shopping. Two things will happen. Either you´ll find somebody or what you want will cost more (yeah, what else lol). If you are not willing to pay good money to a good coach, don´t get coaching. In your development you haven´t reached the step where you are willing to pay a fair price for good service. What will often happen in those cases is that you´ll take a cheaper, mediocre coach, spend money and gain little. Negotiating is fine. But think twice about it. A good coach usually doesn´t need to take you as a student. He doesn´t need your money. If your coach seems desperate for students without a good reason, run. Run fast.
Be aware of special offers. Yes, some good offers exist, but usually you´ll be paying for what you´re getting if you did your homework. Oh yeah, don´t offer any of that bs with % of profits of future hands. Again, if you are looking for any of this, you´re not ready to spend this kind of money and you´re better off to wait.
I let a student of mine do that once, since it was a friend of a guy that I staked/coached long term. Basically it’s bs. It’s results oriented maybe, but if the student can´t pay the price upfront, he shouldn’t be your student. Took me experience to learn, but should actually be self-explanatory.

7) Take a “testing hour”, but look out for a long-term program

Don´t ever book more than one session before testing. No matter which discount you get. Plan for the long term, but give yourself a chance to re-evaluate after one hour. Sometimes the chemistry between coach and student is simply not right. If your personalities don´t get along, don´t do it. Also, in my opinion, you should be willing to invest at least 5-10 hours. You´re spending a lot anyways, but a one hour “quickie” is usually not going to do the job, if you´re looking for long-term improvement. My motto would be “pricy but perfect”.

8 ) Your coach is YOUR employee

Those coaches are YOUR employees. You want them to work as efficiently as possible. Overall, you´re paying royal fees, so you better get the most out of it. Usually your coach and yourself should have worked out some sort of “roadmap”  to get an idea what the goals are and where you are going. Had some person hire me and he insisted on me watching him play and comment. I think this way of coaching poker gives him terrible value for his money. (Why?  In short: You play, and get like 5 interesting hands/hour. While you’re discussing one hand, another tough spot comes up and things get mixed up. My advice: Record your play, same effect, but you can stop and talk whenever you want.) In a 10hour program, one hour live play can be justified, but should be an exception to the rule. Ok, back to my point. I told this to the student, but he wanted me to do it anyways.
So I did and hope he got something out of it or at least learned to listen to the coach next time.
In another way his decision was good. It was good, because he had a clear idea what he wanted. I told him, he can ask me to do whatever he wants in those 60min. If he wants me to rap, make a vid of myself cooking or just discuss about god & the world, I don´t care. Long story short:  You´re paying for the time, you´re the boss. The coach can suggest things, but you are the one who decides.

9) Obey your coach

Your coach is a very successful player. He´s doing something right. That’s why you´ve chosen him in the first place. If he tells you to do something. DO IT. Seems obvious, but I had students, who I told EXACTLY what their problem was. I laid out a way to overcome certain problems/mistakes. But they wouldn’t do it. I assume mostly because they were too lazy or did not fully believe me. Staying critical is cool, but you have to trust your coach a lot and sometimes simply treat his words like law. This is also the reason why I advise you to be making no compromises at all when picking your coach. He has to be THE man.

10) Give your coach constant feedback

A good coach honestly wants your best. So you´re not only doing yourself, but also your coach a great favor by giving constant good quality feedback. Be specific. Very good critique is something I can´t get enough of. Most of the time you get some dull answers like “I liked it”, “very good job”. I mean, nice compliments, but how is it really going to help you or your coach?
What do you think will make your coach have a smiling face and a heart full of joy?

” Thanks for the lesson, it was good”

or

” I liked how you explained your thought process by using practical examples that I could relate to. For the first time I really understood why I shouldn´t be overthinking too much. That was really helpful. Thank you!”

I hope it’s not a secret that this coach will be looking forward to every single session with you. I would at least. Not positive, but quality value feedback is encouraging. When coaching with a student is fun, I don´t look forward to when the 60minutes are over. Extra time is completely normal.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever gotten was from a guy that I advised to quit poker. We were talking about reasons why he played poker. At the end of this article I say how important it is to know ones motives. Anyways, we kept talking about this and I told him he´s better off quitting poker, because with his current attitude he´s going nowhere.
3 Months later, he called me and told me he wanted to use some hours. He had realized some of the mindset problems and started with a new attitude. For sure, I couldn’t wait to offer my help.

Negative feedback doesn´t always have a good effect. I still encourage you to do it. Not only for your own integrity, but also to help your coach. Some people might be pissed in the moment you tell, but will generally appreciate it. Again, quality is key.
I don´t get angry at low quality compliments. Being complimented never hurts ;) . Bad critique is terrible though. Not because it will make me unhappy, but more because it’s completly useless. Compare:

“Meh, wasn´t really good today”

with

” When you were trying to explain to me the concept of pot control, I felt that you were using examples that I can´t relate to. Other stuff that you told me, I have already heard many times on the forums. I still don´t understand what exactly you mean when you say xyxyxyxyx . I appreciate your effort, and I hope you don´t take this personally, but today I did not benefit from your lesson.”

Personally I´m not sure if I would refund 100%, but often out of a pure business perspective it’s smart (of the coach) to refund. Maybe I´ll give him an extra hour and try to improve and cater better to his specific needs. But this is only going to happen if you make it plausible to him. Say why you weren´t so happy. Whether your coach realizes this or not, it will benefit him greatly.

Nevertheless, keep in mind, that sometimes things simply don´t work out the way they should. That’s normal and part of the grand scheme of things.  But doing your homework reduces the chance of “fail” greatly.

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