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How do you define success?

by The Poker Academy |  Published: May 19, '15

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I recently made a claim on Twitter that I thought I was probably one of the top five poker instructors in the world. Ridiculous claim, right? The Twitterverse sure seemed to think so, and maybe all of you do too. It’s possible that it is a ridiculous claim… It’s subjective at the very least and I admitted that. It’s something that’s probably impossible to prove and much like GOAT, or best poker player ever, it is something that could be debated extensively.

When I made the claim, I was ridiculed because of my stats in the poker world. Less than $1 million in lifetime earnings, no major titles; the Twitter kids had a field day with that Tweet. Their opinion seemed to be that without gold bracelets on my wrists and millions in the bank, I couldn’t be a top tier poker instructor. That, to me, is a much more ridiculous stand than the one that I took.

The best poker instructor I have ever seen is a guy who none of the big name pros ridiculing me for my post has probably ever heard of. His lifetime earnings in poker tournaments are less than $200k and he has never won a major title. His name is Nick Brancato and I would put him up against any instructor you would like to choose. I have had the honor and privilege of teaching poker with some of the top names in the game and they would all agree that Nick is the best instructor they’ve seen.

So the question is, is a poker résumé any indication of ability to teach poker? The answer is almost certainly no.

Some of the best coaches in the NFL, probably most of the best coaches in the NFL, never actually played in the NFL. They weren’t good enough. Who’s your favorite golfer? He has a coach that you’ve probably never heard of. That coach can probably play golf better than you can, but they’re not good enough to play at an elite level. Would I like to learn golf from Tiger Woods? For sure, it would be a cool experience that I would remember for the rest of my life, but would he actually help my game and take me to the next level? If that’s what I’m looking for, then I would prefer to learn golf from Tiger’s coach, the guy who helps him every day with his swing. That’s the guy who knows how to teach the game.

The other part of my Tweet said that I had experienced thousands of success stories with my students. One well-known pro decided to mock that by posing the question, “Are there even 1000’s of success stories in NLH poker?”

The answer is a resounding, yes.

Here’s the thing that these cyber geniuses don’t seem to grasp… Everybody plays poker for a different reason. To some, like the person who posed that question on Twitter and the multitude that retweeted it and favorited it, success in poker apparently only means performing at the highest level and winning the most money and titles. There’s nothing wrong with defining your success along those parameters. But please don’t forget that your goals are not everybody’s goals. Some people just want to get better at poker so they can beat their home games. Others just want to be able to win a tournament at their local casino, or be able to cash in the WSOP main event, or make the final table in the Senior’s event or the Lady’s event. If somebody achieves one of these things as their goal, what right do you have to make the claim that they have not achieved success? Don’t put your expectations of success on other people; it’s not right or fair. Are there thousands of success stories in poker? Absolutely. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. I’ve had the privilege of being able to see the excitement of accomplishing dreams from hundreds of people, and heard about how my instruction has helped many hundreds more who I probably didn’t even remember teaching. I’ve had the honor of sharing the skills I know, in the game I love, with thousands of students over the years. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for one of your titles.

So, am I one of the top five poker instructors in the world? I would say that’s impossible to prove or disprove, but I do know that there are hundreds of my former students who would stand up and vouch for that claim. If I’m not, I would like to be and that is a goal that I strive for every time I sit down with someone and listen to a hand story and try to show them the mistakes they made. If I can achieve the success that I desire, then I help grow the game we all love. What are you doing to help?

-Rick Fuller

Rick Fuller and Rep Porter are content creators and instructors at ThePokerAcademy.com.

Fuller has been a professional poker player for more than a decade. He has made four final tables at the WSOP, two in no-limit Hold’em, one in razz, and one in Omaha eight-or-better. Rick is a gifted communicator and teacher, actively involved in poker education for the past decade, teaching poker to thousands of students around the world. A former Police Officer, Rick is an adventure junkie, a private pilot, a skydiver with hundreds of jumps, and a certified SCUBA diver. He currently resides in Washington State.

Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner with over $2.4 million in tournament winnings. He won his first bracelet in 2008 in six-handed no-limit hold’em and his second bracelet in 2011 in razz. He also finished 12th in the 2013 Main Event, taking home $573,204. Rep is a graduate of the University of Washington and worked as an equity options trader. Rep has played poker professionally for 17 years.

 
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