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The 3 Things You MUST Do Before Hiring a Poker Coach


Sky Matsuhashi

on June 24, 2021

So, you're thinking about hiring a poker coach? Great idea.

Your coach will figure out your areas of opportunity, give you strategies to improve your skills and he’ll help you grow into the player you want to be.

However, your coach will naturally begin by tackling all your easy-to-spot areas of opportunity: the low hanging fruit (poker leaks).

If you call too frequently in the blinds, you lose when calling cbets or you never 3bet bluff, these are easy for a coach to spot and correct.

The thing about low hanging fruit is that it’s easy to spot for yourself if you know what you’re looking for.

Listen to this podcast episode as you follow along below:

I'm about to give you 3 things you MUST do before hiring a poker coach to help you pick the low hanging fruit for yourself.

Doing these 3 things will prepare you to get the most from your 1-on-1 sessions with your coach. You've already done a lot of improvement for yourself, so he's going to dig deeper and help you plug more difficult leaks.

Thing 1: Measure Your Statistics and Win Rates Every 5,000 Hands

Measuring your statistics and win rates and analyzing them will clue you in to your areas of weakness. And this is exactly what many coaches do.

You send them your database, they review your numbers to find the low hanging fruit. Then together during your sessions, you pick the fruit off the tree one at a time.

But, this is something you can do for yourself.

Let’s say you run the numbers and find that when you call flop cbets, your win rate is -220bb/100 hands. That means every time you call, on average, you’re losing 2.2bb’s. Your coach would see this and address it by giving you better calling strategies to use.

But, if you noticed this leak for yourself, you could find some resources to study to improve your calls. Videos on YouTube, podcasts, a chapter from a book or online strategy articles.

In, I have a video in the Finding the Fold Course called “You Have Options” and in that video, I give you the strategies you need to make profitable cbet calls.

So you find your area of opportunity, study strategies on your own and work to apply them. Hopefully when you measure your stats after another few thousand hands, your numbers will improve.


This video will help you fill out the tracker:

Thing 2: Pick the Low Hanging Fruit

So, you’re measuring your numbers every 5,000 hands and you found some potential low hanging fruit:

  1. The gap between your VPIP and PFR is very high, you’re a 28/14 player. You now realize that you’re one of the fishy marks at the table. That huge 14% gap means that you’re calling just as often as you’re raising.
  2. Your win rates when calling in the blinds: -230bb/100 hands in the BB and -184bb/100 hands in the SB. Holy cow! What's going on here? You know these are terrible win rates because if you had folded every BB you'd be at -100bb/100 hands. And folding every SB would put you at -50bb/100 hands. You are more than tripling your folding losses out of the SB and more than doubling them out of the BB. You gotta pick this fruit.
  3. Your win rate when calling cbets on all 3 streets are -220bb/100 hands on the flop, -465 on the turn and -1,845 on the river. Whoa! Another important fruit to pick.

Which of these 3 low hanging fruits will you pick first?

I always recommend to work from early to late and big to small.

This means you tackle preflop first, because this naturally improves post-flop play. And, you want to address the most common and costly spots first.

I think you must work on your blind calling strategies first.

Looking at the big picture from the 3 leaks above, these losses all probably stem from calling way too much out of the blinds. This keeps that VPIP and PFR gap really big and has you seeing lots of flops OOP as the preflop caller. This is anti-Bread & Butter poker. Your blind calls are putting you in the least profitable situations over and over again.

6-Part Improvement Plan

  1. Find content to study for better blind calling strategies (video, podcast, article, book chapter).
  2. Study and take notes.
  3. Take action with what you learn. Actively employ the strategies you studied.
  4. Review tagged hands to refine your strategies.
  5. Re-measure your results after 3-5K hands.
  6. Continue working until things turn positive.

Thing 3: Get the Most Out of Your Favorite Poker Book

Before hiring a coach, it would be a good idea to train yourself to take direction from a coach.

Grab your favorite poker book (hopefully it’s one of mine).

Treat this book like the author is your coach and each chapter is a 1-on-1 weekly session with him. So, 10 chapters is 10 weeks of work with your new coach.

Each week, this is what you do:

  1. Read the chapter and take notes. Imagine this is your coach talking to you, addressing the things you need to do to become a better player.
  2. Create action steps for the week (I give you action steps in my books, but for most other authors, you’ll have to create your own action steps).
  3. Take action every day with your action steps.
  4. Repeat the process next week with the next chapter.

Two “Coaching From A Book” Examples

Why Alex Beats Bobbie at Poker by Duncan Palamourdas (episode 332). In Chapter 8, Duncan gives Alex’s strategies for exploiting limpers:

  • Alex’s standard iso-raise is 3bb+1, probably the same as yours.
  • Alex also iso-raises larger to punish the non-folders.
  • She also iso-raises larger from OOP.
  • And, she also iso-raises larger when stacks are deeper.
  • The Action Step you create: test larger iso-raise sizes when the right elements are in place.

Post-flop Online Poker by Sky Matsuhashi. In Chapter 13, I discuss using the idea of Expected Value to help you make better post-flop decisions.

  • You are introduced to the EV Spectrum (picture below).
  • “It’s your job to make the most +EV decision at every opportunity”.
  • You draw out the EV Spectrum.
  • In your next play session, you gauge the EV of each option (folding, calling or raising) and visualize them along the spectrum.
  • You force yourself to make the most +EV decision.

If you can take instruction from a book and treat it like it's your coach interacting with you, you're going to be a much stronger player for it. Plus, you’ll be more prepared to take instruction from your future coach.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

If you’re thinking about hiring a poker coach, do all 3 things I discussed today.

If you don’t want to hire a coach, that’s totally cool. But at a minimum, be your own coach and find your low hanging fruit by downloading the 41 Stats and Win Rates tracker and measuring your numbers. This is going to tell you where you should be directing your studies so that you can pick the fruit for yourself.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

These incredible poker peeps threw some support my way when they purchased one or more of my Smart Poker Study books:

  • Purchased all 4 books: Ben Rhodes, Eleftherios Milios, Nancy Johnson, Werner Taschner and Glen Terris
  • Preflop Online Poker: Krista, Roy Owings, Chayakon, Hauptmann Von Koepenick, Zach Marcy, Mark Hall and Perpetual Oyster
  • Post-flop Online Poker: Hauptmann Von Koepenick, Chanlon, Zach Marcy and Perpetual Oyster
  • How to Study Poker Volume 1: Roman, James Johnson, Jamie, Dave, Piano, Buster Bamford and Johnny Smith
  • How to Study Poker Volume 2: Louis Montgomery Jr., Ian Crotty, Roy Owings, Askold Nassar, Buster Bamford and Johnny Smith


Sky Matsuhashi

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