Long time student and now close friend, Gerard went on a journey that at first wasn’t initially on purpose, but as time pass by, working together as coach and student, it was inevitable.
The following is his story and experience that he shared on his blog/ web page.
Published by gerardplayspoker on November 3, 2019
I was tired of losing. And I wasn’t just losing. I was tired of losing and not really understanding what was going wrong. I was employing all of the strategies I was reading about online and taking in from poker videos on various places around the internet. I was doing everything I thought was right, and it wasn’t making any difference at the tables. I was still running bad against fish, playing scared against whales, and getting owned by the better regs. I didn’t know what to do.
So I got a coach.
In November 2017, I was on my way to work one morning while listening to the Red Chip Poker podcast. The guest of that episode was none other than Fausto Valdez, a budding 2/5 grinder who had quit his job in finance to pursue the poker dream. In the episode, he discussed his experience at Solve For Why Academy and how it completely changed his perspective and transformed his strategy. What compelled me most about his conversation was the way he emphasized generating action in order to get paid on your big hands. This is what I saw in the players who were owning me – the players who were 3-betting me with a wide range and getting there, punishing me with tough decisions for my stack on the river. And then a pivotal 2/5 session took place that pushed me over the edge.
I had opened EP with QQ to 20 off of 1k, and the SB 3-bet me to 75. He was an aggressive player who liked to 3-bet and run barrels, so I decided to flat to keep him wide. At the time, I wasn’t even considering factors like what the SPR would be, the formation (EP open vs. SB 3-bet), or having any sort of plan post. I just knew I wanted to trap this guy.
The flop came 433r which was a green light for me. He cbet, I called, and we went to a turn K. He bet again, and I hesitated. If he was bluffing with AK, he just got there, but he had to have other hands in his range. I didn’t know what those were, but I knew they had to be there. And for some reason, his turn bet size was the same as the flop. I was getting good odds, so I had to call, right?
The river Ace came, and he shoved. I distinctly remember the sizing – 380 into about 600. I had no idea what to do. I tanked forever. I wasn’t at the point yet where I could effectively range opponents, but I had read about “range merging on the river” and thought this guy must be doing it. What was range merging? Not really sure. But shit, all of his Ace high bluffs just got there. I ended up folding.
“Did you turn Jacks into a bluff?” I asked him after I mucked, thinking wildly.
“Nope, I turned 7-high into a bluff,” he replied, quickly flashing 7♣️6♣️ before mucking.
Not more than 20 tilted minutes later, I opened the CO with AA. Finally, my night was turning around. And another aggressive player 3-bet me from his BB. Gotta keep him wide, I thought again. I flatted.
The flop came 345r – I’m guessing you can see where this story ends? – and he cbet. I had an overpair, a gutshot, and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake I made last time. I raised him to 3x – that’s the sizing you’re supposed to choose, right? – and he shoved all-in. I happily snapped, the board ran out clean, and I proudly tabled my AA. He flipped over the exact same hand as my last opponent: 7♣️6♣️.
“Okay, that’s it for me,” I said, in the most dignified voice I could muster. I grabbed my bag and left.
I had never lost $2,000 in a single night before, but tonight, I torched 2k in under a half hour. And how could those guys just be 3-betting with 76s? I needed someone to help me make sense of it all. I needed Fausto.
My first session with Fausto was on November 13th, 2017. I remember it clearly because after my Poker Manager entry for that day, I just felt different. And in the three sessions I had following our first lesson, I made more at the tables than I had ever made (up until that point) in my life.
I was sitting in my classroom, grading papers after the kids had left for the day. About ten minutes before our coaching, I looked over the course schedule Fausto had planned for our five sessions. Today, it seemed, we were going to cover preflop construction, something I had considered myself well-versed in. And when he finally called me on Skype and we went through our first session, I realized I had no fucking idea about anything regarding preflop construction. All I had were some starting hand charts I read in a few poker books. Fausto explained the reasons we have preflop construction, how it fits into our overall strategy, and how gives us an advantage postflop. He promised that in our next session, he would start covering how to manifest that postflop advantage. We were going to wait at least a week or two so I could experiment with our preflop philosophy in game, but I couldn’t wait for our next meeting.
After our first session, I noticed that people started reacting to me differently at the tables. They would bah-humbug at my raises. They would start playing more erratically, start making more mistakes. Essentially, they were doing everything that I had been doing before I met Fausto. However, it wasn’t till our second session, where we covered board textures, that things really started to click for me. I had lightly studied board textures in Ed Miller’s The Course, but there was a lot missing in my brain. Fausto’s wisdom brought clarity to my postflop game, reducing the number of in game questions I would have for myself.
The latter three sessions helped me hone and refine my postflop strategy, and we discussed other intangible factors about the game, but we also usually spent the first twenty minutes of each session discussing interesting hands and situations that I had played since the previous session. In these moments, it felt like Fausto and I were uncovering parts of the game collaboratively, and those were the moments that accelerated my growth as a player the most.
Fast forward two years to now. Fausto and I have attended two S4Y Academies together, played in a handful of 1/2 meet up games, and discussed poker strategy to infinite depths. His coaching has led to me using poker as my primary source of income. Meeting him has led to meeting tons of other poker friends, going to the Academy, and finding many more ways to hone my game. At first, he was just my coach, but then he became my mentor, and now, I’m glad to call him one of my best friends.
“Uhh… what just happened?!” Doug said. “That was like… a hurricane.”
After my second session with Fausto, I headed straight to the casino. I got there at around 5 PM, bought in for 1k, and four hours later, I was leaving with nearly three times that. I ran pretty hot, but I also know that Fausto’s philosophy of generating action at the table helped me get paid on my big hands.
In one hand, after relentlessly putting pressure on this one woman, she decided to take a stand and check raised me all in for 80 BB on J84. I held AJ and snapped. She had 77.
In another hand, I flopped middle pair with QJ on AQ3, cbet out of position, and got called by an action player who was also getting frustrated by my new antics. He decided to barrel a clean turn and river against me, and I called twice, only to be shown K3. He angrily threw his cards into the muck and reloaded.
I shrugged at Doug. “Some days you just run good, I guess,” nodding at his chips. Doug, one of the better regs in the room, had amassed quite a stack himself that day.
“That wasn’t just running good,” he replied. “That was something else.”
It certainly was, man. It certainly was.
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