Poker is a constant pursuit of perfection. Yet, perfection proves elusive and anyone with millions of dollars in earnings and years of experiences playing the game will tell you as much.
Today we have a person whose successes in poker are well-documented and his passion for teaching has benefited others, as much perhaps, as his own play. Poker is all about learning and evolving.
With the “meta” constantly changing and new players coming in to claim supremacy over the old stars, Jonathan Little is a great example of why the only way to stay competitive is to keep playing and learning from your mistakes.
Well, we can’t see Jonathan making too many mistakes to be where he is today, but it’s best to hear it from him.
Jonathan is the owner of Poker Coaching where he works on improving poker students’ understanding of fundamental strategies and tactics. He also placed first during the World Poker Finals Main Event in 2008 and was distinguished as 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year.
Q: So, $7 million later in live poker winnings, do you still make mistakes playing the game?
I do, but that is not a reason to be discouraged. Poker is an extremely complex game and if you think you play perfectly, you are fooling yourself.
Q: What is it about teaching poker that you enjoy the most? Is it the satisfaction of teaching others and turning them into competitive players or the opportunity to improve and analyze your own game?
Helping other players enjoy poker more and win potentially life-changing money is an awesome feeling. In addition to that, I learn a lot from the process of helping others learn. If you cannot explain something to someone else, you probably do not understand it too well. Teaching others has forced me to study situations that I previously did not fully understand. Also, talking to players of various skill levels helps me better understand how my opponents think about the game, allowing me to play better against them.
Q: What’s your proudest moment as a poker coach and teacher?
I have had numerous proud moments, but the proudest has to be when my student Blaz Zerjav turned $5 into $1,300,000 by winning his way into a $10,000 buy-in event on PartyPoker and then taking 3rd place. While he had to get extremely lucky to win so much from such a small investment, after he won the life-changing money, he diligently structured his finances such that he will be set for life. Since then, he has continued to excel at poker and I am sure he has a bright future ahead of him.
Q: When considering great examples of players who started from zero and built up, we can’t help but think Maria Konnikova. Do you reckon everyone should get a poker coach to study the game with like Maria did?
Hiring a coach is the best thing you can do to learn anything. However, it can be quite costly. If you do not have a lot of money to spend, there are numerous free or cheap resources online that will quickly get you up to speed, such as my free Mastering the Fundaments course at PokerCoaching. After you understand the fundamentals, you can then dive into the numerous interactive high-level training courses at PokerCoaching.
Q: Would you say that the game has evolved in terms of what is considered a “meta” today compared to five years ago, and why?
All games change over time, and poker is no different. Game theory optimal solvers now exist that can tell you the correct play in any situation, assuming you know your opponent’s strategy. This alone has allowed studious players the opportunity to improve at an incredibly fast rate, resulting in the game becoming more difficult to beat. You can also watch the best players in the world play in high buy-in events on PokerGo, letting you dissect each play they make so you can add it to your strategy.
Q: Do you see a correlation between having more opportunities to learn the game in a controlled, meaningful environment and more players joining the game?
The ability for anyone to learn how to play the game in a quick, simple, and free way has certainly helped poker continue to grow.
Q: Can anyone become a winner with proper coaching and determination, or should some of us stay away from the big poker showdown as avid fans instead?
With proper dedication, study, and discipline, almost anyone can win at poker. Really, all you have to do to win is find a game you can beat, play it a lot, and keep a proper bankroll. Doing those three things is easier said than done though. Most people want to play in games that are too tough for them (or they generally overestimate their skill level), they do not want to play a lot, and they want to play for more money than their bankroll allows.
Q: Is poker still growing in the United States and beyond or stagnant do you feel?
Poker is definitely still growing in the United States. There are now numerous poker shows available to watch on PokerGo and the games are thriving both live and online.
Q: How do you teach poker to players who want to excel both at online and in-person poker?
At its core, poker is a math game. While there is psychology involved, if you learn to play a fundamentally sound strategy and then adjust to whatever you observe your opponents doing incorrectly, you will succeed. So, I teach my students to play in a fundamentally sound manner and how to adjust according to their opponents’ weaknesses.
Q: Can we realistically expect poker to grow more over the next decade and see a unified poker market in the United States?
Government regulations have made it difficult for online poker to grow in America, but I am confident that these regulations eventually will be removed. Poker is an amazing game and I am sure it will continue to gain popularity indefinitely.
Q: As fellow bookworms, we must ask – what are some of the books you like the best from the shelves behind you that appear on your streaming show as background?
The poker book I recommend to all my students is Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em. It teaches you everything you need to know to think about poker like a strong professional, giving you the skills you need to win in essentially any game you encounter. I also like Mike Sexton’s Life’s a Gamble, which is his autobiography where he shares numerous fun and exciting gambling stories.