My First Time Coaching Poker

By Shannon Mack
March 26, 2018

There was a reality show that I watched a while back called 2 Months 2 Million. Maybe some of you have heard of it? The idea was that these four online poker players sharing a house in Las Vegas were going to attempt to make $2 million in two months playing online poker. I was fascinated by this show! Here was a show that was going to illustrate for me exactly what it looks like to be an online poker professional, something I have dreamed about since taking up poker seriously five years ago.

Seeing these guys sitting down in front of their computers and multi-tabling day in and day out brought the idea from abstract to reality for me. Seeing them do it made it feel possible and gave me the extra oomph I needed to press on in my pursuit. It also gave me ideas and strategies I hadn’t read about in a typical poker strategy book. One of the ideas came from an episode where the guys were on the struggle bus and went on a serious down slide. They were posting significant losses as a group for several sessions over a week or so.

The strategy they used to get out of the red and back into the black was to take on a poker student and coach them. The idea was that coaching someone brings you back to basics and grounds you back into foundational poker strategy principles that you may have gotten complacent about. It is easy to slip into default mode when we’re just so used to playing on autopilot. I wanted to avoid doing that, so I decided to investigate the brand new and exciting world of poker coaching.

poker coach

Illustrative image: That’s not really what a poker coach does!

I Can Coach Poker… I Think

My plan has ROI in a few different ways: it should help with my tendency to hide away like a hermit, it is a cash gig, and I get the benefits from freshening up on my poker fundamentals. That is a win-win-win! I placed the ad on Craigslist a month or so ago and had one victim, er, I mean student, respond. I kid because I honestly wasn’t even sure I had the credentials to coach someone. I have looked into getting a poker coach before and their credentials are extensive. Most of the coaches that I looked up are they themselves professionals who had boasted $100,000+ online winnings, a book deal, and had already worked with hundreds of students.

Then there’s me. By contrast, I have not yet made my acquaintance with the Hendon Mob, and I have zero students under my belt. I do, however, have one awesome accolade: I am humbled to say that I am a contributor to one of the greatest poker blogs out there! So, I have that, and that’s a big deal. (Editor’s note: I swear I did not pay Shannon to say that!) I may not have written any books, but I have read quite a few and have had the privilege and opportunity to write reviews for them right here at Cardplayer Lifestyle.

I remember when I first started looking into playing poker more seriously I read an article about what steps to take and it stressed the importance of reading books, watching videos, and doing off-the-felt work. Indeed, I have also had the opportunity to review several amazing video series and I studied every hand that those videos were dissecting. It was a lot of hard work. After all, off-the-table study can get nitty gritty, just like that article I had read said it would. Yet, here I am five years later ready and gearing up to do some poker coaching for the first time!

I'm ready

All Prepped and Ready to Go

I am ready to go, I feel confident I have the knowledge to teach someone how to play better poker and I have a student all lined up. Now the question is… can I teach!? It is one thing to have the information, it is another thing to be equipped to relay that information well. I felt like I was equipped to teach poker from some prior experience I have training people at work. I knew being organized was going to be key. I had read enough books to see a common pattern emerge of a good general order of concepts that build well on one another. I highlighted the concepts laid out in a couple books, wrote down key formulas, and printed out resources in order. I have a list of websites and some reputable hand analysis forums, as well as recommendations for some great software, like Equilab, that are key to studying poker.

So, the only thing left was just the execution. A person can only be so prepared, you just have to jump in and do it. The real learning always comes from experience. Well, experience and a feedback loop. It’s important to get feedback from the person to see what worked and what didn’t work. You can have your own ideas of things you should have done differently, but having someone else’s input is invaluable to really round off the process.

Meeting My First Student, Jeff

As mentioned, I had posted an ad in Craigslist a few months ago advertising that I was open for business and looking to take on poker students for a whopping $25 for a two-hour session. I landed on $25 because it was my first time. I didn’t want to go with free because then it wouldn’t have any value, and I believe I did have a product that was worth paying a little money for. I even included a guarantee that “after one two-hour session your game would be improved or your money back.”

I have seen coaching go for as little as $75 an hour up to $200 an hour. I know that world-class poker professionals can charge even more! I had pretty much forgot I had posted the ad when I got a response from a gentleman named Jeff Diedrich. At first, I thought it was a hoax. Really, your name is Diedrich!? What a perfect poker name (reread it slowly if you don’t get it). So, we scheduled a time and place at a local coffee shop. When the day finally came after a couple reschedules due to some winter weather here in Minnesota, I was very nervous.

Self Assessment of My First Coaching Session

I am a pro at not showing outwardly that I am nervous after dealing with being an introvert for all these years, but it sometimes does come out via some of the ridiculous things that I say. I get flustered and if there is silence I fill the void with whatever random thing pops out. I didn’t feel I did too badly. At one point I said to C-bet every time no matter what. Right after the words came out of my mouth I said to myself “that isn’t right.” Jeff even asked, “I am supposed to C-bet every single time?” When I said “no,” you could just see the confusion all over poor Jeff’s face. I had to backpedal and clarify that from what I have learned, 70% is the frequency we want to C-bet at. Besides that, I think I did alright except that rather than follow the step-by-step template that I had prepared, I just shot from the hip. So yeah, I learned quite a bit from that experience.

All in all, I think I got out of it everything I wanted to get out of my first poker coaching session. I asked Jeff what he thought, and he remarked, “Yes, it was helpful. You answered a lot of questions and helped me with a new aspect of poker. I’ve just been working on betting the correct amount. We will have to plan another lesson soon.” So, there you have it; I got a return customer!

cha ching

Overall Lessons

Even if you aren’t ready to take on a student and do some poker coaching I recommend getting together with some like-minded people to talk poker. Like I mentioned earlier, coaching or just talking poker and going over past hands with some friends really solidifies those strategies that work for you and weeds out those leaks.

A great quote I love is “Practice makes permanent.” Basically, if you don’t talk about what you are doing at the table with someone or post hands in forums, you are going to solidify incorrect strategies. Another quote I love is, “If you can’t spot who the fish is, you are the fish.”

The moral of the story, boys and girls, is to do what you have to do to get to the next level; read the books, watch the videos, participate in forums, study your hand history using software like Equilab, and get together with people and talk poker. Or you can do what I did and coach someone! From just that one experience I was able to hit the tables even harder and really dominate with authority… and you can do the same!



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Shannon Mack poker author
Written By.

Shannon Mack

Born in the Midwest in Bemidji, Minnesota, first city on the Mississippi, in 1978 in the disco era. Shannon has fond memories of playing poker during Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays with family as a child in the 80s; everybody was bluffing and nobody was folding! After getting his degree in Mechanical Design from St. Cloud […]


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