Coaching might be a real asset to poker

October 03, 2017 3:00 AM


Becoming a great poker player has much in common with great coaching at the college level. I wonder if poker players could learn from the great basketball coaches.

Coaches at the elite level all seem to possess very similar traits. They can recruit and, most importantly, they can coach.

I remember watching a coach go through his basketball practice sessions, and I thought, how could players take that much tough love. 

The coach I watched was Al Kayo Willis a new coach at University of Alabama Huntsville or UAH.

Coach Willis was so hard on his players I did not understand how they would not walk out of practice or quit. It was brutal to watch. I even saw him try and trip his players running down the floor if they ran near the bench.

Some stories about Bobby Knight were similar. He gave tough love and demanded perfection.

Coach Willis took that team to the national championship game in NAIA basketball.

I remember watching the University of Tennessee basketball team. If a player turned the ball over, he had to leave the game to refocus. The player could go back in only if his replacement made a mistake. Tennessee had great programs under that coach.

The same discipline and pursuit of perfection makes great poker players. If they want to be the best, they need the same traits.

If Coach Willis or Knight were coaching you, I promise you would be a great player.

Maybe poker players need coaches.

I have sat with students to show them how to play perfect poker and the results were amazing. Teaching poker with tough love can make you into a winner.

I remember my son Jaden playing his first home game. A hand came up where he had pocket aces, but if he lost, he was out of game, so he folded and his opponent won the hand with a bluff.

The table joked with him, giving him the nickname “Aces.” I never really told him he made the right play. He based his decision on the simple fact that he could not lose.

I coached him before he started to play – which starting hands to play and when to fold – but I forgot to tell him the most important lesson of all: Always play to win.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in gaming. She has played poker professionally for over 10 years. Email: