Texas Holdem Coaching and Training
During the height of the poker boom of 2003 through 2006, millions of beginners took to Texas holdem tables all over the world.
These players largely learned the game by watching along with top pros of the day on ESPN's broadcasts of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), following the escapades of legends like Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Ivey.
But as one might expect, inexperienced players approaching a complex game like Texas holdem with the same strategies and styles used by elite pros wasn't the right recipe for success.
At the same time, sharp poker minds soon realized that the boom and its bevy of beginners presented the perfect opportunity for instruction and coaching. Soon enough, the poker landscape was littered with online training courses like PokerXFactor, in person coaching like the "Poker Brat's" Camp Hellmuth, circuit based classes like WSOP Academy, and countless other iterations on the theme. Every program out there offered its own shtick or selling point, and the quality of instruction varied wildly, but poker rookies now had plenty of opportunity to improve their game.
These instructional programs served a tremendous demand during the poker boom, presenting higher level Texas holdem theories to a willing audience eager to learn and sharpen their skills. Over the next decade, the poker boom itself faded away, and the game returned to its status as a relatively niche endeavor.
Even so, the influence of many years' worth of poker teaching provided by a diverse range of sources had a tremendous impact. Today, the caliber of play exhibited by the average "fish" is higher than that displayed by skilled players back during the boom days. The learning curve has accelerated rapidly even over the last few years alone, with the advent of Twitch live streaming and other technological advancements connecting students to the highest quality poker minds of the day.
Modern poker pros often engage in spirited debates with their predecessors from the pre boom days, wondering just how significant the skill gap between then and now really is. During a recent interview with PokerNews, old school poker legend Gus Hansen commented on this notion in blunt terms, pointing out that the average poker player today simply knows much more than members of the previous generation ever did:
"Poker players in 2016 are just much, much better than they were in 2003. It's like you can take pretty much anyone in the room here at the non pro Big One for One Drop tournament, and put them in a 1985 setting, they would be the best player in the world."
Texas holdem today is played with such clinical precision by even recreational players for one basic reason: the breadth and scope of poker instruction has improved exponentially since the boom era.
Back then, many poker classes were nothing more than money grabs, as down on their luck pros attempted to parlay name recognition into a few easy bucks. Rather than focus fully on imparting their accumulated poker wisdom to ready learners, these teachers just went through the motions, rehashing outdated strategies and underselling their student's ability to grasp high level concepts.
It's a whole new world in 2016 though, and today many of the top minds in Texas holdem (and many other poker variants for that matter) have dedicated themselves to the task of teaching. With a few clicks of your mouse, the collective poker knowledge of successful cash game and tournament pros like Jason Somerville, Jonathan Little, Doug Polk, and even Negreanu can be accessed and absorbed.
And these classes aren't like those money grabs we discussed earlier. Instead, the new generation of poker teachers takes the job seriously, competing with one another to generate the most insightful, informative, and interesting instructional content on a regular basis. As a result, poker players today have the ability to expand their skill set like never before, taking advice directly from the real money sessions played by top pros, before integrating the strategies into their own game.
This page has been put together to provide an introduction to the best and brightest poker teachers taking the industry by storm. We'll cover the instructor themselves, along with their preferred method of teaching, their focus and areas of expertise, and even a link directly to their personal coaching platform.
Jason Somerville - Run It Up
Recognized as the forerunner of Twitch streamed poker instruction, WSOP bracelet winner and veteran pro Jason Somerville was one of the first players to recognize the live streaming platform's potential within the poker industry.
For those of you who don't know, Twitch is the world's leading live streaming service, allowing anyone with a camera and an internet connection to broadcast directly to audiences all around the world. Although the concept was pioneered to allow viewers to watch along with video gaming and eSports luminaries, Somerville and other early adoptees of Twitch realized that a Counter Strike match streamed from one's laptop or desktop doesn't really differ all that much from an online poker session.
Playing under the screenname "JCarver," Somerville has worked tirelessly to build his Run It Up brand, dedicating 12 hours a day for several consecutive months over the last few years to streaming his personal poker sessions. Through the use of a brief time delay, Somerville is able to show viewers every hole card he plays during a session, which offers a comprehensive view of the game's many variables.
Somerville has amassed $3,613,321 in reported live earnings since notching his first cash in 2005, and as a PokerStars Team Pro, he has added $2,245,196 in online tournament cashes. Throw in millions more earned competing in high stakes cash games, and Somerville has earned every bit of his reputation as a top tier poker talent.
Members of his Run It Up legion tune in loyally to Somerville's streams because he is, simply put, the best in the business when it comes to actual poker instruction. Whether he's firing up a small stakes cash game, or a $1,000 buy in major tournament on PokerStars, Somerville always goes to great lengths to explain his thought processes at every juncture.
In a particularly tricky hand that he wound up losing, Somerville displays the thorough, detailed explanations of how elite poker players approach every street, every card, and every hand. Here, he flops a straight flush draw holding 4 6 of diamonds on a flop reading 3d 5d Jh, before running through multiple scenarios as he plays the hand out. And as you'll see, even Somerville himself finds that one decision which appears to be correct can soon evolve into something different upon further analysis.
Somerville's casual tone and conversational approach to explaining high level poker concepts has proven to be a hit with beginners and experienced players alike. By injecting humor and levity into often tense tournament situations, Somerville never takes himself too seriously, and as a result his students are treated to an intensive poker instructional course that feels much more like sweating a friend over their shoulder.
With more than 400 videos in his Twitch archive already - many spanning more than half the day as Somerville runs deep - his JCarver channel is home to nearly 200,000 followers. Subscribers can pay just $4.99 per month to enjoy exclusive access to certain content, and even a 30 day free trial to try things out. But even without paying a dime, viewers can log on to Somerville's channels during his streaming schedule to watch him compete against top notch competition in major cash games and tournaments.
Jonathan Little - Float the Turn
Although he has yet to claim his first WSOP gold bracelet, pro Jonathan Little has managed to earn $6,389,127 in reported live tournament cashes since 2006.
Among the major titles on his resume are a pair of $10,000 buy in World Poker Tour (WPT) Main Events in 2007 and 2008 - each good for more than $1 million in winnings. Known for his studious appearance and serious tone, Little has been exploring the world of poker instruction since before Twitch ever launched.
Sure enough though, Little does maintain a Twitch channel of his own, but his main platform for disseminating poker knowledge is through his personal Float the Turn brand.
A prolific producer of video clips and poker books, Little is the author of seminal titles like "Jonathan Little's Excelling at No Limit holdem: Leading Poker Experts Discuss How to Study, Play and Master NLHE" and "Bluffs: How to Intelligently Apply Aggression to Increase Your Profits from Poker."
By visiting his author's archive page at PokerNews https://www.pokernews.com/editors/jonathan little/, readers will find dozens of articles on poker instruction which focus on a particular hand, scenario, or concept. With titles like "You River a Backdoor Straight and Face a Bet Raise or Call?" and "Jonathan Little Hero Calling Versus a Tight Aggressive Player," Little's articles generally combine text and video clips to bring students right there into the hand.
Little's approach is known to be more scientific and analytical than that of other popular poker coaches, and he regularly whips out his handy PokerStove equity calculator to run the numbers on likely opponent hand ranges. Learners interested in absorbing the mathematics inherent to successful poker usually gravitate towards Little's lessons, because he consistently relies on the science of the game to guide his decision making process.
The price of a subscription to Little's Float the Turn coaching system runs $10 up front, followed by $10 per month. For that price, Little promises students will receive access to resources including more than 1,000 training videos, a new video lesson published every four days, and even two live coaching "webinars" which provide direct access to Little and his coaching team for question and answer sessions. The site also offers a full 60 day money back guarantee, so you can feel free to try it out before making any further commitments.
Phil Galfond - Run It Once
At one point in time Phil Galfond was widely considered to be the best poker player on the planet.
With a pair of WSOP gold bracelets to his name, along with a runner up finish and several WSOP final tables, Galfond has piled up $2,339,619 in reported live earnings since 2006. But under the deceptively innocent screenname "OMGClayAiken," Galfond was one of the top ranked online poker players on the planet just a few years ago.
In 2013, Galfond became just the third player (at the time) to eclipse the coveted $10 million plateau in terms of online winnings. Today, that number has dipped to $6.6 million or so, but as one of the true "nosebleed" stakes players in the world, Galfond is known to experience massive swings.
The sudden decline in Galfond's online graph would usually be a cause for concern, but in December of 2012, he decided to devote his full attention to a new poker training platform called Run It Once.
Using a strategy based on combining much of the online poker world's top talent under one umbrella, Galfond has brought several of the highest ranked players in the world into the Run It Once stable. That star studded cast of instructors includes Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky, Jens "Jeans89" Kyllönen, Jason "NovaSky" Koon, and Stephen "stevie444" Chidwick - each of whom has dominated the highest stake online games during the last few years.
The actual Run It Once platform is among the most advanced and polished you'll find, as Galfond has devoted considerable resources to creating a cutting edge instructional model. Subscribers can engage in running discussion threads - organized by topics like NLHE, multi table tournaments, and many other subjects - in order to talk through tricky spots, analyze prior hands, and seek input from knowledgeable sources.
Just one look at the Videos section alone is enough to show you the depth and scope of Galfond's teachings. Along with contributions from his stable of instructors, Galfond himself regularly posts video seminars like "WCOOP Sunday Warmup Final Table Review," in which he runs through a full final table session from PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) series.
The Run It Once program is divided into three distinct tiers, each offering increased access to the full range of lessons and material found on the site. The Basic level costs nothing at all, and allows students a free look opportunity to engage in the discussion forums. From there, the Essential plan runs $9.99 per month, and for that students enjoy one new video from Galfond himself each month, along with full access to all Essential Pro video content. Next up is the Elite tier, which encompasses the entirety of Run It Once resources, including access to all Essential and Elite Pro video content.
Galfond's venture into poker instruction has proved to be a hit with students and fellow pros alike, and he has set the standard for what a full fledged poker coaching program can become. The company has excelled so much that Galfond recently announced plans to launch his own Run It Once online poker room. Although it won't be available to U.S. customers initially, Galfond hopes to parlay his training sessions into a major online poker room which can eventually rival PokerStars at some point down the road.
Doug Polk and Ryan Fee - Upswing Poker
A relatively new addition to the poker coaching landscape, Upswing Poker was launched in late 2015 by a trio of young poker pros: Doug Polk and Ryan Fee.
For most poker enthusiasts, however, Polk's name is the one turning heads, as the brash online beast known as "WGCRider" has become one of the most proficient heads up Texas holdem players in the game.
In 2013, Polk took on fellow high stakes crusher Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky in a $100,000 heads up challenge, with the pair playing $100/$200 NLHE for a minimum of 15,000 hands. When the finish line was finally crossed a few weeks later, Polk notched a $740,000 profit from the actual match, along with the $100,000 prize for winning the challenge.
At one point, Polk was ranked as the top online player in the world, but he has since opted out of long term results tracking.
Polk partnered with his friend and fellow pro Fee to launch Upswing Poker, and Fee is no slouch on the felt either. With $3,035,453 in reported live earnings - almost all of which was won since 2014 - Fee is an accomplished tournament player in his own right.
Together, Polk and Fee embarked on a "viral" marketing campaign to garner Upswing Poker exposure with the poker masses. One of their more successful gambits involved posting a Twitch stream of Polk playing a major PokerStars tournament alongside Team Pro Jason Mercier. When viewers noticed that Polk had tagged Mercier as a "bad reg" using his color coded system, social media exploded in delight, hoping the two players would butt heads once Mercier learned of the slight.
The pair did engage in a brief back and forth online during the run up to the 2016 WSOP, but after Mercier put up his now famous 1 2 1 run, winning two gold bracelets with a runner up finish in between - in three consecutive tournaments - the debate was effectively silenced.
Polk and Fee also put their money where their mouth was at the WSOP, taking part in the series' first ever Tag Team tournament. In this poker format, each member of a team (between two and four players) sat and played at any one time, alternating throughout the day while trying to build the same chip stack. When it was all said and done, the self proclaimed "Evil Empire" mowed down 862 other teams to claim the inaugural WSOP Tag Team bracelets - along with $76,679 in shared prize money.
Speaking with PokerNews immediately after securing the win, Polk and Fee mentioned that coaching through Upswing Poker provided ample motivation to back up their boasts about being the best:
Polk: "We thought it would be really good to help promote our coaching site. We're the two content guys, and if we teamed up, it would be a cool story."
Fee: "Especially if we won."
Polk: "And then we won."
The structure of Upswing Poker closely follows that of Galfond's Run It Once platform, consisting of a main web portal and several different sections of interactive content. The first tier of the coaching program comes free of charge, consisting of eight individual Preflop Poker Charts.
Polk and Fee firmly believe in the power of hand range charting to offer inexperienced players clear and consistent guidelines regarding hand strength requirements, so charts form a major portion of their instructional material.
For just $7 students can access the Upswing Poker Postflop Poker Engine, a system which pledges to impart the following five skills:
- Make correct poker decisions in 60 seconds (or less)
- Quickly place your hands into their correct categories
- Find the best decision based on which category a hand falls into
- Turn "I don't know what to do here" spots into money generating situations
- Locate and execute the best play, even against the toughest opponents
Finally, students can also sign up for the full fledged Upswing Poker Lab, which provides full access to the site's wealth of videos, webinars, and charts. The pricing options for the Upswing Poker Lab run from $27 per month, to $199 for six months, and $299 for a full year.
What to Avoid
Now that we've covered the cream of the coaching crop, let's run through a few red flags to watch out for when looking for Texas holdem lessons.
As you scour the internet for the latest poker instruction, you'll invariably stumble upon unknown names doing the very same thing as the pros mentioned earlier: live streaming online sessions via Twitch.
These players typically promise to show subscribers the "path to poker profit," or some such claim purporting to unlock the secrets of Texas holdem strategy. But whereas names like Somerville and Little have established their poker bona fides by accumulating millions of dollars in earnings, winning major championships, and excelling on a consistent basis over several years, the new class of would be poker teachers are simply trying to hitch their wagon to an industry with clear momentum.
Always be sure to run a prospective poker coach's name through the Hendon Mob live tournament results database, and the HighStakesDB database for online results. Unless they have a documented record of sustained success on the felt, you probably shouldn't be considering paying them a single cent for poker instruction. After all, why would they need to hustle for $5 subscriptions via Twitch if they were printing money by playing high stakes poker?
The top pros listed above have transitioned into poker instruction for one reason: their love of the game. Sure, they derive a profit through subscriptions and donations, but this money pales in comparison to the winnings they could be chasing down at the high stakes cash tables or in major tournament series. With financial freedom long since ensured, the best poker coaches devote themselves to teaching because it provides them with a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the game.
As you consider your poker coaching options, never settle for second rate knowledge when first class pros are eagerly embracing their new role as mentors for the next generation.
It is 2016 after all, so seeking Texas holdem coaching via technological means like Twitch and online platforms makes perfect sense. The interaction is immediate, the content is constantly updated, and students can dictate the pace of their own instruction.
Along with the personality driven training programs listed above, which are owned and operated by well known pros, you'll also find several options that seem to be more anonymous in nature. These instructional courses aren't led by a familiar face, but even so, many are more than capable of providing cutting edge poker lessons designed to serve a wide range of the player community.
We've listed a few of the more reliable and respected poker coaching sites doing business today, along with a brief description of their services and bona fides:
If you watched Qui "Tommy Gun" Nguyen storm through this year's WSOP Main Event final table en route to becoming poker's World Champion, the thought of winning over $8 million in one event probably caught your attention. Nguyen's impressive, bluff filled run through poker's premier tournament was fueled by Advanced Poker Training, which bills itself as "the world's number one poker training site."
The conceit of Advanced Poker Training is quite innovative, as the site provides simulations of full tables, single hands, and even individual streets to help students analyze their own play. After making decisions in a simulated scenario, the site will generate odds and statistics to help you see whether or not you're adhering to "game theory optimal" strategy.
Prices for Advanced Poker Training subscriptions range from $12.49 per month in the 12 month yearly package, $16.66 per month for a six month run, $29.97 for a monthly trial, and $399 for a lifetime pass.
Designed for the rawest of rookies, the PokerSchoolOnline by PokerStars is a product of the world's leading online poker room.
The site offers the following lessons completely free of charge, as a way of encouraging beginners to get in the game:
Access to interactive learning tools and strategy articles
Live training sessions with top poker coaches
Quizzes, tournaments and contests with real cash, bonuses and ticket prizes
Advice, support and friendly discussion in our Forums
Falling under the PokerStars umbrella, PokerSchoolOnline ensures a relaxed, friendly vibe that leaves aside much of the jargon that intimidates new players. If you're still on the fence about even learning the play the game, PokerSchoolOnline by PokerStars is the perfect entry point.
When you start looking for a Texas holdem poker coach your choices may seem overwhelming. Take your time, o your research starting with the information above, and don't be in a hurry. It's more important to find the right coach than to get started in a hurry.