Despite having played poker for nearly three years, I have never had even an hour of formal training. To rectify this, I travelled two hours by train from where I study in Germany to Köln to meet German poker pro and member of PokerStars Team Online Felix Schneiders.
He had advertised a “Sunday Seminar” of poker, where your online cash play would be critiqued by both himself and the other players attending. It turned out to be a bit of a microstakes-fest, as all four of us (including myself) played 10NL and lower, albeit one playing 5NL Zoom.
I have to admit that I was worried. Not only because I was scared of the other players really laying into my online play; I have never been a strong online cash player, but also I didn’t know precisely how good my German poker vocabulary was!
As it turns out, that wasn’t a problem. Say the poker phrases in a German accent, and add a ge- when it’s in the past tense. It still gets easy. “Ich habe seine 4-bet checkgeraised, und dann auf dem flop gefoldet“ …you get the picture!
After introducing ourselves we spent ~100 hands playing our normal limits. We were told in no uncertain terms to play our normal game. When we looked back over my hand histories afterwards, I was so afraid of playing my non-optimal game I forgot to open a suited ace on the button at a six-handed table.
However, after a few orbits I got into the swing of things. It was really handy to have them viewing my screen on another screen via a HDMI cable, rather than having them staring over my shoulders like vultures pointing out what I did wrong.
Everything was going well until I limped a small blind and the big blind raised me. I remember shaking my head and knowing full well that the guys on the other side of the table to me would have something to say about that!
The other players were all excellent. I hate to show off but I think I was the only player to end up in the black. However, Niklas very was unlucky to get QQ all-in preflop vs KK & A5, and the only female player Su made a good lay down of the bottom end of a straight on a paired board. The final player was Marco who was a 5NL Zoom player. On my notes I wrote “Plays Zoom differently to me.” I think that can only be a good thing!
After the seminar was over, we got to play a friendly home game with Felix in his office. It was strange to see the place where so much of the content I have viewed was actually produced. It was an uneventful home game as I busted second. I called getting 3.5 to 1 in the big blind with 94o. I peeled Marco’s bet with bottom pair on a 4JX board and a 9 came on the turn. I checked and Marco put out a pot sized bet. I moved all-in and he insta-called with JJ; a flopped set. GG me.
I spoke with Felix after the seminar a bit more about how he approaches training opportunities like these.
“I wanted these seminars to be an event for small, intimate groups of people where every participant has to present something and help work on developing new poker knowledge”
“My ultimate goal is to provide everyone involved with an opportunity to contribute and improve each other’s game – myself included! Being able to have a day of the week where you meet up with people to learn poker together in real life instead of hanging in front of your computer alone is worth a lot. ”
Felix is often found on the poker streaming site Twitch, and I asked him how different it is interacting with people in person rather than online.
“It’s completely different and it’s somewhat of a challenge for me as someone who is mostly used to training or teaching people online via a webcam or Skype. I have always been a little bit more introverted in real life so a seminar poses completely new interactive tasks for me to tackle.”
And what is Felix’s most often repeated advice for players who attend one of his seminars?
“At microstakes: valuebet relentlessly, don’t bluff that river! People call down here so much for the same reason they are not folding to your bluffs.”
“At higher stakes: stick to solid bankroll management! Moving down when you should without letting it affect your game mentally is one of the toughest tasks.”