I’ve been an indirect student of Jonathan Little’s for several years. From his Instapoker quizzes, to his Secrets of Tournament Poker series of books, and every subsequent book thereafter, and now with his site PokerCoaching.com (and Floattheturn.com).
As Jonathan has been pumping out training content for years, it’s near impossible to keep track of, let alone ingest, every article / video / webinar he’s provided. There’s a lot.
So, when I was tasked to write a review of one his latest video series, ‘25k Platinum Coaching Sessions’, I was eager, curious, and to be honest a bit skeptical. I mean, I didn’t really expect to learn anything I didn’t already know. But I’m not necessarily who the program is intended for. Yet here I was, plowing through the 6+ hours of videos and being wowed by just how many theories both fundamental and advanced are provided.
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The concept for the series is Little’s coaching of Nikhil Segel, a recreational player from India who won a Platinum Pass from then-PokerStars ambassador Jaime Staples for the site’s incredible Players Championship held earlier this year ahead of the PCA in the Bahamas. The tournament would be the largest $25k buy in tournament in poker history, with over 300 players winning entries through various means courtesy of PokerStars, along with over 700 more who put up the $25k themselves.
The mission: convert Nikhil from a (by his own admission) rank amateur who primarily played freerolls and microstakes tournaments into a contender for life-changing money in the biggest tournament of his life. No biggie.
The 15-video series is a progression of the duo’s work together, and at its core is a series of hand history breakdowns (with Nikhil’s input throughout), but given Nikhil’s inexperience, Little has to try to drill as much into his student as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And believe me, there’s a lot! As I mentioned, I was wowed, and at times, Nikhil said he was a bit overwhelmed.
Let’s get into it.
Section 1 (videos 1-4): We’ve got work to do
The first hand we see is our student open-raising 27x in a SB vs BB situation. Yup, work to do.
This is where my skepticism as an experienced poker player kicked in. I was expecting to see all sorts of random nonsense that Little would have to just turn into basic ABC poker instruction, but silly me, this is one of poker’s best coaches we’re talking about and he’s not going to dumb this down. Sure enough, 17 minutes later after completing the first video, the skepticism was gone, and the eagerness and curiosity took over as I couldn’t wait to see where this journey went.
Aside from hand 1, there certainly were some big holes that needed addressing immediately including bet sizing, limping and starting hand selection (you’ll want to fire any Ace-x hand you ever see again across a room before this is done) to name a few.
But as I said, Little doesn’t hold back, and by the end of video 1 of the 25K Platinum Coaching sessions those topics have been addressed, along with:
- considering your play based on player types
- an opponent taking the lead on a paired turn card
- river calls based on bluff vs. value combos
- playing suited connectors and board coverage
- blind play vs. different player types
- C-betting ace-high boards
- river bluffs on a scary run-out
- maximizing value with premium hands
- fold equity
- medium pairs pre-flop vs. a raise and a 3-bet shove
- betting for value vs. protection, and (most importantly)
- practicing like you’re playing the $25k and not a freeroll!
Each of the 15 videos is like this. Almost every hand Nikhil plays is analysed and critiqued accordingly.
Video 2 introduces some staples of poker training, Pokerstrategy.com’s Equilab program, and a pair of resources from Little’s Float the Turn site, his push/fold app, and fold equity calculator.
Little takes Nikhil’s propensity for playing Ace-x and breaks down the numbers for it in a few situations, with all results showing that Ace-x (with a non-shove stack) is generally garbage.
With the help of the push/fold app, charts, and fold equity calculator, Little emphasizes the importance of shoving or folding instead of calling in spots with hands like QJ.
Along with the introduction of these tools of the trade, several other concepts are discussed as well, including 3-bet sizing and calling ranges vs. a 3-bet.
Videos 3 and 4 continue with Nikhil’s first set of pre-coaching hand histories. Several more key situations are discussed including play from the blinds, as well as a spot where he obviously should be playing the Ace-x. There are also a couple of fun hands discussing pocket aces, and when you should slow play to induce bluffs and get max value.
This first section is really about examining Nikhil’s level of play, giving him the groundwork to be more successful in the tournaments he plays regularly, and to have a shot in the $25k event. Plenty of concepts you will know, but examining how someone of Nikhil’s skill level plays and presenting a higher level of thought to him by Little is very intriguing.
Section 2 (Videos 5-7): Let’s see what you’ve learned
The next 3 videos contain hand histories following Little’s first series of coaching sessions with Nikhil. Video 5 begins with an update from Nikhil, saying he’s working on trying to be tighter, with no more limping and not playing Ace-x (we’ll see about that…). Nikhil also says he still has concerns about his bet sizing, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, so let’s see how Little’s coaching is kicking in, shall we?
Immediately, we see that Nikhil’s hand selection is better, with a lot of trouble hands like KJo, QTo being played much more prudently by recognizing the strength of an early position raiser and folding.
His open-raise sizing is generally better as well with a few exceptions, notably in the small blind, where Little stresses the importance of increasing the sizing, given that you do not want to give the big blind pot odds to call, then having to play the hand out of position.
Flop bet sizing and board texture is also addressed in a couple of spots. Nikhil’s sizing in general is better, but he has the potential to get himself into trouble on highly coordinated boards that are likely to have hit his opponent’s range (see example below).
Now since the fundamentals are generally improving, how about we throw some high-level stuff in there to spice things up a bit? Little introduces an advanced play from the big blind, 3-betting ragged suited aces, kings and queens, then C-betting small on the flop! Yup, lots of fun things you can do in the blinds and here’s one of them!
Also, since we’ve got most of the issues out of the way with regards to weak aces and limping, now it’s time to introduce spots where it’s OK to do just that. The power of position!
Nikhil’s play shows improvement (“a million times better from the first session”, Little compliments), but there are still plenty of lessons to learn in this section, notably a couple of hard ones in post-flop play with suited connectors. Nikhil tends to overplay marginal made hands, which will be a point Little takes great care of working with him on throughout the series.
Section 3 (Video 8) An update from Nikhil / Overload
The 8th video of the 25K Platinum Coaching series stands on its own as an update on Nikhil’s mindset as the tournament approaches. It’s a good discussion on not overwhelming yourself and adding on unnecessary pressure.
Little goes through his student’s lengthy email, where he illustrates the amount of study and preparation he’s undergoing, including a breakdown of ‘strategies’ he’s preparing for the tournament. It’s obvious Nikhil is taking the upcoming tournament very seriously, but Little suggests he may be overwhelming himself with the amount of work he’s doing not only with him, but with other coaching sites. Little’s advice is to just prepare as best he can and play solid fundamental poker.
Another great point about mindset is brought up as Nikhil suggests several times that if he’s feeling overwhelmed or tilted at the table he will walk away and take a break. Little acknowledges this can be good at certain times, but with the amount of instances Nikhil suggests he’d leave, he’d be better to just sit there and “be sane” in most of them. Cooling off can be beneficial but missing too many hands would be detrimental.
Section 4 (Videos 9-11) 1 Month to go / old habits die hard
With the $25k fast approaching and Nikhil showing signs of mental fatigue from his hard work, some bad habits creep back into his game that Little must squash as he also adds to his student’s preparation.
Some poor hand selection and irregular pre-flop raise sizing pop up again, but post-flop play is where most of the work still needs to be done.
Nikhil’s post-flop tendencies to bet in poor spots or bet too large — allowing his opponents to play perfectly, while missing value in others — is really highlighted here. He tends to open himself up to getting blown off his hand too often when he should be looking to get to showdown (as illustrated below).
These situations are addressed and worked through very well with several situations showing a check-raise to be the optimal play (while others illustrate why it’s definitely not). This section will help any player with their post-flop game.
Video 11 deals primarily with short stack play and situations late in a tournament. Little wraps up this section acknowledging small blind raise sizing, short stack push/fold decisions and the marginal made hand trouble need to be worked on. As we get to the home stretch, let’s see what improvements are made.
Section 5 (Video 12) Standalone 6-handed tourney
The 12th video of the 25K Platinum Coaching series stands on its own as a 40-minute training session in shorthanded play as Nikhil navigates his way through a 6-max tournament.
In an email at the beginning, he acknowledges his concerns about regression, noting a recent series of bad results. Little tries to calm his fears with a reminder of how high-variance tournament poker is in general.
Adjustments when playing 6-handed are discussed throughout this video, hand selection will be somewhat looser, stats will appear wilder, but really 6-max is just like full ring with UTG, +1 and +2 removed.
That said, there’s still no excuse for what we see below, a stone bluff with air into a horror show of a board that could prove disastrous for our student!
Section 6 (Videos 13-15) Hard work pays off!
The final section of videos is a hand history of a tournament Nikhil wins shortly before he heads to the Bahamas. The main theme of this lesson is ‘take advantage of the mistakes your opponents will make’! Granted, this is still a micro stakes tournament, but the work Nikhil has put in shows, as he outplays his opponents and capitalizes on their egregious errors (see below).
One caveat – Ace-x still rears it’s ugly head and Little must implore him once more about the problems with reverse implied odds this hand can cause (“ask yourself, would you play K7o? The answer’s just no!”).
It is great to see how Nikhil has improved and how Little’s teachings have influenced his game. The final video deals with final table play, pressuring your opponents, more push/fold situations and ICM considerations.
Of course, there’s nothing like heading to the biggest tournament of your life coming off the high of a victory and seeing the fruits of your labour.
As I mentioned at the outset of this review, I was skeptical about what I may or may not learn from this video series. Now having watched the entire series, not only was I reminded of concepts that had maybe slid out of my game, but plenty more were introduced as well. The combo of a bombardment of information along with the story of Nikhil Segel’s progression throughout these lessons make for a tremendous training tool for poker players of all skill levels.
In summary, Jonathan Little’s 25k Platinum series is certainly one of the finest hand history training sessions available.
So I bet you’re wondering how Nikhil did at the PSPC in the Bahamas?!
He made it to day 2 with over 90,000 in chips from a starting stack of 60,000. However, his run ended there, but not in sadness as he called it “the best possible experience” and “one of the best days of his life”. Now if you don’t make the money, that’s about the best consolation prize you can get.
— Nikhil Segel (@NikhilSegel) January 7, 2019