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Kevin Rabichow: Recognizing Your Strengths And Improving Your Weaknesses At The Poker Table

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Kevin Rabichow was introduced to online poker in college while at the University of Chicago, and by 2008 was playing fulltime while completing his degree in economics. He left for Toronto in 2011 after Black Friday to pursue poker, already holding his own in mid- to high-stakes heads-up no-limit games.

To date, Rabichow has played over two million hands online, and has earned more than $1 million in cash game profits and cashed for more than $5 million in live and online tournaments. His biggest score came in 2021 at the World Series of Poker, when he finished runner-up in the $100,000 buy-in super high roller for $1,210,487.

In 2014, he joined Run It Once training as an elite coach to produce instructional content. From 2015 to 2017, he coached a small group of heads-up cash players starting from the $50 and $100 buy-in level to more than $500,000 in collective earnings. Rabichow’s current students range from online six-max professionals, live cash enthusiasts, and dedicated MTT grinders.

After hundreds of hours working with students of all skill levels, he’s developed the tools to help players address their biggest leaks confidently and efficiently. You can check out his new course, The Game Plan, on RunItOnce.com.

Card Player caught up with Rabichow to talk about what it takes to get to the highest levels of professional poker today.

Craig Tapscott: How does a player build an educational game plan to consistently improve their play at the tables, online and live?

Kevin Rabichow: The first thing to recognize is that there’s too much to learn at once. Poker is a beautifully complex game, and to keep improving, you’re going to have to break it down into smaller pieces. Most coaches will do this by separating preflop from post-flop play, and within each category we can sort by different branches of the game tree.

Preflop might need to be broken down by stack size, position, ante structure, etc. Post-flop could be single-raised pots, with or without the lead, facing different action sequences or bet sizes. Once you have the game tree separated into smaller pieces, you can begin an evaluation.

What are you good at in this game? It might seem like a strange question to a professional poker player, but many haven’t taken the time to identify where their edge comes from. Are you identifying good spots to bluff and winning without showdown? Are you more patient than your opponents and getting paid off on good hands? These are broad questions, but the stronger you are as a player, the more specific you can get. How confident are you when out-of-position on the turn? What’s your general approach in three-bet pots when checked to? By going through a complete evaluation of your game, you start to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

This is where my course – The Game Plan – provides the most value. Evaluate honestly where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Take your weaknesses and turn them into a study plan. Take your strengths and turn them into a game plan. I give my students a system for prioritizing their study, so that they can work on just a few things at a time and know that those few things will have the largest immediate impact on their results. Anything that is more advanced, or complex can be addressed after the fundamentals are in order.

If this process sounds overwhelming to you, it would be wise to reach out to other poker players for help or get a consultation with a coach. It’s important that your self-assessment is comprehensive and honest, or else you might be held back by your blind spots. You don’t know what you don’t know, and I’ve seen many players go years without recognizing that they’ve neglected an entire part of the game tree. If you feel that it’s unclear how to make progress, it is the time to reach out to others for help.

Craig Tapscott: Some players are overwhelmed with all the poker tools available to them to assist the growth in their game. Where do they begin and what are the most advantageous tools to begin to master?

Kevin Rabichow: Most importantly, don’t feel the obligation to use tools that you don’t understand. There is enough variety in the marketplace that I’ve always been able to find the right fit for my student’s needs.

Tracking software is an obvious place to start. If you are a live player or a recreational online player, you may not have felt the need to get Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager, but I would strongly recommend it. I often evaluate my students’ skill based on the stats in their online database, as it’s the fastest way to see the full picture of how they’re playing. Even for small data sets, it’s important to have a complete record of the hands you’re playing and your results. You won’t have any tangible material to review without hand histories.

Preflop solutions are mandatory for serious players, but finding the right ones can be tricky. Are you playing the same format day in and day out? How often do stack depths vary? The most reliable solutions to purchase from a website are for 100-big blind online cash games, which I’d recommend if there’s not much variability to your game structure. If you’re more advanced, you might seek out some 150-big blind or 200-big blind options as well, or a three-blind solution with antes for high-stakes live games. I’ve purchased from Range Converter in the past and there are people you can contact for custom solutions as well.

If you’re not playing the same game every day, buying a set of charts might not be the answer. I also believe memorizing charts is only half the battle when it comes to being a good preflop player. For a more complete package, you should look at a subscription to a browser tool like Preflop Academy or Floptimal. These are web programs that have a wider variety of preflop solutions, hosted on cloud servers for a monthly cost. I most often recommend these to live MTT players, so that you have a resource with any preflop spot you might need to review, accessible on your phone while you’re at the casino. These also happen to be fantastic study tools for training your intuition in less-frequent preflop scenarios.

GTO Training has been one of the greatest advancements in poker tools of the last few years, and if you aren’t doing any type of training yet, I can’t recommend it enough. The outputs from these tools can be confusing to the untrained eye but playing repetitions against the bot will still have a positive impact.

If you’re just getting started with trainers, focus only on one thing: EV. Make the plays that feel right to you, that you’d truly make at the table, rather than guessing at what the robot wants you to do. When your actions lose you EV, take note, and over time you’ll accumulate information on where your most costly mistakes are happening. This is tangible data for your self-evaluation!

The most advanced tools are custom solvers, such as Piosolver for cash games, or HRC for tournament players, which I encourage for anyone who feels confident with the inputs or feels limited by the aforementioned programs. Using these tools will give you the highest understanding of how game theory works but the process can be quite time intensive. I dedicated several videos in The Game Plan to my approach when using these programs for players looking to make the jump.

(You can find The Game Plan at RunItOnce.com, a training site founded by legendary high-stakes pro Phil Galfond. Enter the code ‘CARDPLAYER’ at checkout to save 25% on your first month of an elite membership.)

Craig Tapscott: How do you recommend players best deal with downswings and variance on a day-to-day basis?  

Kevin Rabichow: Any struggles with variance stem from our emotional connection to results. If we’re not satisfied with a losing day, or frustrated by a longer stretch of bad luck, we’re likely feeling some doubt about our skill, or becoming afraid that this will go on forever. We should recognize this for what it is and acknowledge that it’s a totally normal feeling to experience. The best players in the world are routinely doubting their abilities, and that’s the nature of a game where the results don’t directly reward your progress.

The most impactful mindset shift for me was to emphasize quality of decision making when evaluating my day. By introducing a new way to measure success, especially one that was completely under my control, I had less value wrapped up in short term results. You don’t need to hide your results or pretend that you aren’t hurt by the loss, but you can’t let those results hold all of your self-worth. Taking pride in the quality of your decision making keeps you grounded to something that you can control and can work to improve over time.

Think also about how you discuss poker with friends. “How did your session go?” or “How’s the series been treating you?” are the types of questions you might be asked that aim straight at your results. Take these interactions as an opportunity to reinforce your mindset shift. Don’t stop at the profit and loss – take stock of the difficult decisions you faced and talk through any doubts running through your mind. Tell a story of the most interesting hand you played or witnessed. By engaging our friends with strategy and decision making, we’re reinforcing an emotional connection with progress.

Craig Tapscott: If I’m aiming not to be results oriented, how will I know if I’m making progress or not?

Kevin Rabichow: It’s an interesting question, because it implies that results were a good indication of progress in the first place. I’d argue they’re often misleading, and we simply feel more confident about our game when we’re winning than when we’re losing. Over very large sample sizes, we could measure improvement by changes in your win rate, but on a weekly or monthly basis I look for other metrics.

Those of you who I’ve convinced to use some kind of GTO trainer have one great method for tracking progress, as there’s no variance to your results against the bot. I encourage my students to categorize their training, putting in as much volume as possible in the scenarios they struggle with at the table. For example, someone who knows they are folding too much in the big blind can design a drill to repeatedly play single-raised pots out-of-position. As their EV scores improve, and their confidence goes up, there is no doubt they’ve made progress.

If you’ve built up a database in your tracker, you could track changes in your database stats and seek feedback from peers or hire a coach. Having specific targets for increasing your flop check-raise frequency or decreasing your river fold percentage are great ways to set progress goals. This is one of my favorite coaching tools, but it’s difficult to accomplish this one without guidance. At a minimum, download or screenshot your stats every few months, and take note of any changing values. If the changes in your data align with your strategic goals, then you’ve made progress.

Lastly, at the risk of sounding silly, I believe almost all players can feel when they are making progress. I don’t mean to say that good fortune can’t give you a false sense of progress, because it absolutely can and will. It’s been my experience, however, that you mitigate this effect by setting intentional goals for improvement. I’ve found by simply creating a document for my students to keep track of what they’re working on, they enter our next session with a confident understanding of whether or not they’ve made progress. Define the weakness you need to address and design a study plan that gets you there. You’ll know when you’re ready to move on to the next task.

Sign up for Run It Once training today and use the code ‘CARDPLAYER’ for big savings.

*Some photos courtesy of PokerGO.