Coach or be coached

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JGiles | Poker and Life, Poker Articles

Have you ever had to teach something to someone? It can be anything at all from how to tie your shoes or kick a soccer ball to how something in your car works or some complicated aspect of your business works? I think we’ve all been in that situation on some level or another but maybe we never thought of it as teaching or coaching. When we explain something that we have come to take for granted we are forced to think about it in a way that we normally wouldn’t, which is why I think that one of the best ways to get better at poker is to find someone to teach the game to and also to look for someone whose game is at least as good as yours and see what they can teach you.

Have you ever heard of poker sweat sessions? As it happens, I discovered sweat sessions before I knew what they were called. About a year ago my girlfriend expressed an interest in learning more about poker and the approach I took with coaching her really ended up helping my game a lot as well. I found out later that the approach I took with teaching her is sometimes called a sweat session. I’ll explain how it started and what it has become and hope you’ll recognize the benefits of the approach.

Here’s how it started. She would come into the office to watch while I was playing a tournament and would ask stuff like “why did you raise with that?” and I would usually give some answer like “I have been playing very tight and this guy has folded to every raise so far and this guy seems to be just trying to last until the bubble bursts”. Then she’d comment on how she wouldn’t notice that kind of stuff or ask another question. After a while she’d sit down at the start of the tournament and I’d just start talking about what I am doing and why, basically like being a commentator on my own game. And when I say commenting on the game I really mean it, I would talk about everything going on in the game whether I was in the hand or not, stuff like “this guy is raising too much” she’d ask why I thought that “nobody gets good cards that often so clearly he is raising with just about anything or strictly based on position, but who can blame him, we’re all folding every time… I am going to wait for a hand I am willing to die with and re-raise him large when I get it”. She encouraged it because she was learning about the game but the real kicker is that I might have been learning as much or more than she was.

Not long after she started watching me play she jumped in and began playing games on my account, at a lower limit mind you, and I would basically comment on what was happening the same way we did when I was playing. Keep in mind that she had been playing in our home game for years, and watched a lot of poker on television and we have talked about the game a lot so she already had a solid foundation, so when I say I commented on the game I wouldn’t comment on what she should to with 2 5 under the gun or whether she had to call someone’s all in when she had the nuts, she had that stuff covered. She’s learned so much that the commenting has suibsided somewhat but we still talk about unusual or difficult situations or tough reads whether she is playing or I am and we continue to learn together.

Call them sweat sessions, coaching, teaching or whatever you want, I recommend you try this approach with someone and stick with it. Whether you pair up with someone who knows more or less than you about poker I predict you’ll be surprised how much you learn when you start thinking about the game in this way. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic because I am eager to learn what other people are doing to improve their game.

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2 Comments to Coach or be coached

September 23, 2008

Good post! It is very true when they say that if you really want to know something, try teaching it. This reminds me that we should look at doing another sweat session as it has been a few months since our last one.

September 23, 2008

Hi Giles

Really good post, when I first scimmed through it I suspected it of being kinky….poker, girlfriend and sweat sessions.
Having read through it closely I happily realized that there was nothing kinky about it what so ever. I actually suggested my girlfriend that we play a big Friday tournament together…and she said yes!!!! (of course promising her to split my winnings down the middle).
You guys might have read my last post about my great poker weekend. Having read your article I came to realize that this was actual a mutual coaching session between my friend and I. Thinking more about it I really think sessions like this can improve your game considerably. It’s all about seeing the game from other people’s perspectives.

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