Editor's note: In the run-up to the WSOP Main Event final table, Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst coached final table player Jesse Sylvia who eventually finished runner-up for $5,292,889. Here she explains how it's helped her think about her own game.
Since returning home from WSOP Europe, I've been thinking about my own game a lot as part of helping Jesse Sylvia prepare to play out the WSOP Main Event final table.
I keep asking myself, "What do I do that works?" A lot of times, especially the last couple of years, I've done things differently than other pros. I've taken very unconventional lines, and experimented to see which things work and which things don't. But I haven't had to articulate those things to anyone. Now that I'm trying to articulate the underlying reasons behind why I make various plays, I'm thinking a bit deeper and much more specifically about what it is I'm doing and why it works. While ultimately the idea was to help Jesse become a better player and dominate the WSOP Main Event final table, it has the nice benefit of helping me to become a better player as well. I find that whenever I'm talking about poker a lot - whether it's with friends or when I'm coaching someone - I play better and I take more creative lines. I don't fall into that monotonous, robotic style of play that a lot of people, myself included, can fall into sometimes.
It's fun to talk about poker, especially with people that are getting better. Their wheels are constantly turning and you see them thinking at a higher and higher level. Watching a student make that progress is inspiring, and it becomes really enjoyable to be able to move forward with more advanced concepts. I've coached probably more than 80 students in my lifetime, and coaching someone who has a knack for the game and gets it is still one of my favorite parts of my career.
Obviously I didn't teach Jesse everything. He's a really good poker player and was before he came to me. But preparation for his Main Event final table was important. There's so much information available before going in. It's not every day you can prepare for a multi-million dollar stakes game knowing exactly what the chip stacks will be, who your opponents will be, and how they've played in the past based on your own experience.
There was also another interesting twist to the final table - because it aired live, the hole cards were streamed 15 minutes after the hand ends. Everybody had so much information about how everybody else was playing.
So, some of our conversations were geared toward making adjustments based on the information he had. Learning how to make adjustments based on new information before other people react to the same information is a new, fun challenge that doesn't often come up in a poker tournament.