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Poker Lessons from World Champion Tom McEvoy

1 May 2006

Why learn how to play poker from a book when you can get a private lesson from the player who literally wrote the book?

Tom McEvoy, World Series of Poker Champion and author of 14 books on game strategy, offers personal poker lessons at his Las Vegas home and lessons over the phone for those who can't make the trip to Nevada.

For $200 an hour, an aspiring amateur can learn some of the moves that made McEvoy a legend in the poker world. His insight gives players of any level a chance to up their poker knowledge.

"I still like playing the most, but I love teaching people the game almost as much," McEvoy said. "It's always thrilling for me to see the light bulb go off in peoples' heads. Everyone can learn something to improve their play."

McEvoy has been giving lessons for more than two decades. It's a part-time occupation he fell into by accident. After he wrote his first book "How to Win at Tournament Poker" in 1985, players kept coming to him for playing instructions. He was happy to comply and eventually there were so many takers, the title of teacher became inevitable. Although he has no formal teaching education, thousands of poker players have benefited from his lessons.

His most famous student is professional tournament player Kathy Liebert. Before she became a household name, Liebert used McEvoy's instructions to learn tournament poker.

Currently ranked number six on the Bluff Magazine/ESPN Poker Room tournament power rankings, Liebert is the number one ranked woman in tournament poker and is generally considered to be one of the best tournament players in the world.

A regular on the World Poker Tour, Liebert is the tour's highest-ranking female player. Her third place finish at the 2005 Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship is the best finish by a female competitor in an open WPT main event. Although McEvoy knows she has moved far beyond the things he taught her long ago, he still follows her career and is proud of the influence he had on her game.

"There is no question she is the greatest female No-Limit Hold'Em tournament player in the world," McEvoy said. "The results prove my point. She was a student of mine a long time ago and its hard not to feel a sense of pride whenever she does well."

Typically, students ask McEvoy for one or two lessons. His students are generally intermediate level players. Some come looking for ways to increase their winnings while others are looking to convert their cash game skills into tournament success. McEvoy said he's taught players of all abilities, some even better than himself.

Others seek McEvoy for longer periods of instruction. Recently, McEvoy flew to Oregon to work with a student over a four-day period. Playing 10-12 hours a day for a week allowed this poker newcomer a chance to become an effective player almost immediately. In unique situations like this, McEvoy said his price structure varies from the normal amount.

"I have students who only want one lesson and I have students who want a series of lessons over a long period of time," McEvoy said. "Usually, a person gets one lesson, likes what they hear, then comes back for a couple more."

For the lesson fee, McEvoy logs onto one of his eight online poker accounts and sits down at the game of the student's choice. He is versed in every type of poker, but his most common request is No-Limit Hold'Em.

If the lesson is in Las Vegas, McEvoy uses his personal computer and goes over each hand with his student. When the lesson is done over the phone, McEvoy signs onto the student's favorite online poker room, offering the same type of instruction, only slightly varied due to the student's inability to see McEvoy's hole cards. Although McEvoy prefers to give lessons in person, he said both methods are effective.

If No-Limit Hold'Em is your game, McEvoy will sit down at an online sit-and-go tournament and describe his hands and the reasons behind his actions. During the mini-tournament, McEvoy offers tidbits on poker in general, splicing those facts with hints on how to play certain hands depending on position, opponent play, blind levels, and stack size. He also regales his student with stories from the past, using his vast poker experience to prove his theories and his anecdotes to entertain.

Of course, the goal is to win money, but McEvoy said it's more important for his students to pick up a style of play that will make them winners over the long term.

"You can't teach someone the game in an hour or two," McEvoy said. "I'll go to my grave not knowing everything about the game. But what you can do is put a person on the right path to playing winning poker. From there, it's up to them to remain disciplined enough to craft a game that works for them."

Perhaps the greatest benefactor during the lesson transaction is McEvoy. The 61-year old professional said he learns things from his students all the time, constantly looking for ways to improve his game and picking up information to help his future students.

"I learn what I teach," McEvoy said. "By teaching all the time, I'm able to keep my own game solid and consistent. I love the challenge of teaching people how to play. No one approaches the game in the exact same way and it's always thrilling to find ways to make everyone a little bit better."

To receive a lesson from McEvoy, email him at tommcevoy@cox.net or play against him at www.pokerstars.com . McEvoy plays at Poker Stars under his own name and serves as an official spokesperson for the site.

Tips From Tom

1.) Playing J-10 suited – This is the most poorly played hand in tournament poker with the possible exception of A-K. At best, it's a drawing hand and is vulnerable to over cards, higher flush cards, and higher straight cards. He said it's a playable hand, but only if it can be played cheaply.

2.) Playing Big SlickThis is a drawing hand. McEvoy wanted me to emphasis this point. This is a DRAWING HAND . If you miss the flop with this hand, you have to be able to get away from it. It's also a hand that must be folded before the flop early in a tournament if facing a re-raise or two.

3.) Being First in the Pot – If you are the first person in a pot, you must raise. Raising gives you two chances to win and builds a larger pot if you make your hand on the flop. Raising also give you more options after the flop because you've represented a strong hand and can continue to do so even if the flop cards betray you.

4.) Having a Favorite Hand – It's important for players to not fall in love with any hand and McEvoy said he hates hearing people tell him about their "favorite hand." Even pockets Aces gets outdrawn some of the time. Every hand needs to be played while keeping a variety of circumstances in mind. Sticking to one strategy with any one particular hand is a losing proposition over time.

5.) Berating Other Players – Yelling at another player for the way they played their hand is childish. Even the best players make mistakes from time to time and there's a strong element of luck in poker. When upset at another player for giving you a bad beat, Tom says try to remember all the bad beats you've given out over the course of your career and move on to the next hand or tournament in a classy way.

Books By Tom McEvoy

"Championship Stud" By Tom McEvoy, Linda Johnson, and Max Stern (Not Yet Released)

"Championship Hold'em Tournament Hands: A Hand-by-Hand Strategy Guide to Winning Hold'em Tournaments" By Tom McEvoy and TJ Cloutier (2005)

"Championship Omaha" By Tom McEvoy and TJ Cloutier (2005)

"Win Your Way into Big Money No Limit-Texas Hold'em Tournaments: How to Beat Casino and Online Satellite Poker Tournaments" By Tom McEvoy and Brad Daugherty (2005)

"How to Win No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments" By Tom McEvoy and Don Vines (2005)

"Championship Tournament Poker" By Tom McEvoy (2004)

"Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em" By Tom McEvoy (2004)

"The Championship Table: At the World Series of Poker (1970-2003)" By Dana Smith, Tom McEvoy, and Ralph Wheeler (2004)

"Championship Hold'em" By Tom McEvoy and TJ Cloutier (2004)

"Beat Texas Hold'em" By Tom McEvoy and Shane Smith (2004)

"No Limit Hold'em: The New Players Guide to Winning Poker's Biggest Game" By Tom McEvoy and Brad Daugherty (2004)

"Championship Omaha: Omaha Hi-Lo, Omaha Hi, and Omaha Pot-Limit" By Tom McEvoy and TJ Cloutier (1999)

"Championship Stud: 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo, Stud/8, and Razz" By Tom McEvoy, TJ Cloutier, and Max Stern (1998)

"How to Win at Tournament Poker" By Tom McEvoy (1985)

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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.