Poker Coaching and Backing by Abhishek Rathod – An Insightful Talk

poker-coaching-backing-abhishek-rathodA mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and persuades that it can be obtained. In every walk of life, we need someone to guide us and the same holds true for a career in poker. Most of us need someone to guide through in the early stages of playing poker. While professional poker coaching is in nascent phase in India, some of the industry pros and established players run their personal coaching and backing programs. One of them is Abhishek Rathod who recently announced a coaching-cum-backing program for players in online SNGs and MTTs.

OPN had a chat with Abhishek who now lives in Sweden about this coaching and backing program. He shared his experiences of poker coaching from past and his plans to run his 2nd edition of coaching-cum-backing program.

Q1. You’re doing well at the online felt personally as well as you are in the on-going $100K challenge with Arsh. So, why do you get into coaching and backing other players?

AR – About 2 years ago I used to run a blog on pokerstrategy when I mainly used to play 9m Turbo SNGs along with occasional MTTs. I did quite well and had a lot of players following the blog. Some of the players asked me to help them improve their game. I helped a few friends from there to get into SNGs and beat the micro stakes. Soon after that, I had to reduce the amount of time I could give to poker due to real life commitments. That’s when I decided to start backing + coaching players for micro/low stakes SNGs that way I still stay connected to the game and make money on the side. I saw a lot of young players with a lot of talent but no guidance. They have a lot of potential and if given right direction they can grow as a player. It’s really nice to see them grow and make money for themselves and the stable.
I did this till Feb 2015 when I stopped backing as I was relocating to Sweden. Now that I have settled here I and a few friends decided it’s a good time to restart the stable with good funds to support MTT players.

Q2. You received 18 applicants on you forum post. How many have been finalized?

AR – We do not have a set number of applications to select as of now. We have enough bank roll to support quite a few players but we are reviewing each application and will select based on their past performance, time they can dedicate, commitment and dedication to improve and various other factors. From the current list we at least have 5 good potential players that are likely to make it into our stable provided we both agree on the terms.

Q3. How does this coaching-cum-backing deal work out with players?

AR – It’s quite simple. We are the stable who will invest money/time/coaching into players and help them grow. We will invest 100% of the funds required by them to play the agreed upon games. For SNG players we will chop the profits once a week while for MTT players we will chop the profits anytime they are in profit. This is after the makeup has been covered.
Makeup is basically the amount of money the stable has invested in you. Say for example, we invest $100 and the makeup is $100. The player loses the money and we reload him for another $100 now the makeup is $200. The player first has to win $200 before the profit is chopped. The player now wins a tournament for $500. He will first return the $200 makeup to us. Then, the remaining $300 is chopped between the backer and the player 50/50 which is usually the deal we provide to all players. After this if they still continue and the backer reloads the player for $100 the makeup is now again $100. One thing to note in almost all agreements is if the player wants to quit the stake and if he is in makeup of $100 he has to pay the makeup to leave the stake. It doesn’t matter how much profit the player previously made every time you chop the profit the makeup is reset. Some players confuse this as a loan but it is not a loan. What it really means is the player has to give back the amount invested by the stable before the profit is chopped. In case we as a stable decide to drop the player then the player has no liability to pay back the MU.

Q4. Now, as a backer and coach what will be your additional responsibilities?

AR – From my previous experiences taking new players and grooming them is a really tough job. But most players who come to me have been very serious about the game and are hard-working themselves which helps a lot. Previously, I used to back part time casual players but now we are only going to back players who are serious and want to make it big. This not only means that the player has to put in effort but I as a backer also need to support them enough during good and bad times to help them grow and make money for both of us.

Q5. What problems do backers face with new players specially?

AR – There are plenty. I won’t go much into detail about this but I’ll give the most common scenarios:

  1. Players may lose interest and don’t want to play which is really hard for a backer since the amount of time and money that he has invested goes waste.
  2. Some players don’t play seriously since it’s not their own funds and start spewing and playing without making any rational sense.
  3. A few players might over rate themselves and want to play higher than what they can actually beat and get disappointed when backers don’t allow.
  4. The reverse of the above is also bad where players are afraid to move up due to makeup when they can beat higher games. It means less money for the time and money invested by the stable and is unfair to the stable.
  5. Then, there is always the risk of player stealing funds. Fortunately that has only happened to me once and for a very small amount. It’s still quite disheartening when players break trust like that.

Q6. Last year you coached & backed Sahil Chutani and Sharad Rao. A few words about their current status.

AR – They were both quite good horses and both highly motivated and hardworking and it was very nice to see them grow from playing <1$ buyin games to playing full time for a living. Both of them have been crushing MTTs this year. Sahil was by far the best player I have had till date. The amount of hours he put into studying was very impressive. I took him when he was playing on Zynga and 0.25cent SNGs on PokerStars and he quickly moved up to playing mid stakes SNGs and low stakes MTTs. We ended our deal because he wanted to move up to play MTTs and I wasn’t backing for MTTs at that time. He still bugs me a lot every day with hands that he has questions and it’s really satisfying to see how he has progressed.

Q7. What will you suggest for the new player looking for backing?

AR – First of all be sincere about the stake. Understand people’s time and money is being invested in you. Stables don’t expect you to win over night but they expect you to put in hard work and volume. There is no quick money in poker and only hard work will pay in the long run.
Be honest about your past results and do not try to hide them.
Develop a level of trust with your backer. If you believe that you can compete in high stakes MTTs but your backer thinks you can only player in low stakes MTTs respect it and trust the backer. If you’re looking to play without any game selection backing is not for you

Q8. Your thoughts on professional poker coaching scenario in India.

AR – It’s still in a very early stage. But I personally feel backing and coaching in India will grow in the future. We see so many new players coming up and making deep runs. Some of these players will want to improve and/or play full time. Coaching is the most essential part in growth and the first place they are going to look is established Indian players who can guide them since they will feel a lot more connected to Indian coaches than coaches from abroad.
As these players move up and start playing full time variance will be tough to handle and they will start looking for backing and would prefer Indian stables over others at least at micro stakes games.