By David Wade

April 11, 2008

You know poker is popular when Hollywood gets interested. The movie “21”, which follows some crafty card sharks from M.I.T, has been number one at the box office for the past two weeks.  Now players of all levels are looking for ways to improve their game. Hector Roman has hired a professional poker coach to help him sharpen his skills.  “I felt that having a coach in particular could customize my game to my strengths, and improve my weaknesses,” Roman said.  He now works with Wendeen Eolis, a tournament professional. She says she might “talk about one particular strategy. We might talk about conduct. We might talk about how to observe people.”

It’s easy to find poker coaches and classes online for as low as $20 a month, but prices might range from $50 to $500 an hour. Another option is something called poker boot camp, which can cost $1,600 for a two-day session.  Boot camp coach Linda Johnson says, “There are a lot of lectures. There are also a lot of live labs where the instructors deal to the students and critique their play. There’s a tournament.” Players who make this investment of time and money say it’s worth it, whether they are just starting out or refining their techniques. But the National Council on Problem Gambling worries that players are getting a false sense of security.

Keith Whyte says, “From our perspective, the majority of the outcomes of poker games are determined from chance, and that is something that no coach can improve.”  Another concern is that anyone can call themselves a coach. Eolis, who is vice chairman of the World Poker Association, says that players should be careful before hiring anyone. Steps to take include asking for references, verifying teaching experience, and checking credentials.She adds, “Do the reading, do the looking online, read the magazines, pay attention to the forums, and be ready to ask specific questions.”

The World Poker Tour Boot Camp will be at Foxwoods in the beginning of May. To find out more information, go to

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