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Binger, Winston form coaching service
The speculation can end now that Michael Binger and Roy Winston announced the formation of Oracle Poker Consulting, a new company focusing on poker coaching and player education.
I spoke to Winston by phone this week and he put to rest any idea that those looking to coach Main Event final tablists would use "ambulance chaser" tactics to land a client.
"We're actually looking at it in the reverse way," he said.
"We think that with our reputations, one of the players will come to us. There's going to be several months between getting to the final nine and when play resumes, so there's going to be a lot of time for game development during that period."
So what sort of development plan will Oracle Poker Consulting put into action to create the next World Champion?
"The first thing is to critically evaluate where the person is," said Winston. "So we're going to look at their strengths, look at their weaknesses, and really try to bring up to speed any weaknesses that we do find."
The other component will be creating a book on everyone who makes the final table by watching them over the final days of the Main Event, an approach Winston compares to that of his friend John Smoltz, the veteran pitcher for Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves.
"Smoltz has books and books on every hitter. Before he pitches to a team he reviews his books, and he adds to them after he pitches to the team. That's one of the things we don't do in poker."
Responding to critics
When asked how he responds to critics who say there shouldn't be any delay between the Main Event and its final table, much less any sort of coaching for players who make that final table, Winston points out that purists have decried other changes in poker that ended up being good for the game.
"When they first started showing hole cards on TV, people said, 'Oh, that's going to ruin poker. It'll be the end of everything,'" says Winston. "And it turned out that was one of the things that brought people to poker."
Winston continued, "And you know, when they said they were going to postpone the final table for three or four months, my initial reaction was, 'That's so ridiculous!' But I think the motivation for Harrah's here is to get more people into poker, because right now poker has plateaued and is maybe even on a bit of a downswing, if you look at major event turnout. So to have an idea to create something better is good."
As for those who say that lesser-known players will get an unfair advantage over any pros at the final table by receiving such coaching, Winston says that they're worrying over nothing.
"We'll work with anybody," he says. "I think that anybody who makes the final table will be trying to improve their game. You can't tell me that Well-Known Pro X isn't going to try to get as much information on the players he's up against as possible.
"Everyone is going to be doing this, whether they do it openly or not, so Michael and I thought it would be an interesting way to evolve the whole process."
Coaching after the WSOP
Winston and Binger plan to continue building their coaching business after the WSOP is finished by holding seminars and giving more introductory-level game-building services to novice players around the country. So for instance, if the WPT goes to Atlantic City for a tournament, the two would offer a seminar in Atlantic City around the same time.
"The key is to increase people's success and happiness through education," says Winston. "You know, if you're playing poker and losing and having trouble, it's not so much fun. People are very competitive, which is why we play, and I think we all want to feel like we have a way to improve ourselves. And I think with poker that's been tough (up to now)."
Winston says that the academic backgrounds he and his partner bring to the table - his own as a medical school professor, and Binger's as a Ph.D.-level physicist - are what will really give their students the biggest edge.
"I think that when you're an educator, designing a curriculum and delivering it to your students is something you're skilled in," he says.
"Are there better players out there than Michael Binger and me? If you look around, surely there must be. But are there better players who can be better teachers than the two of us? I think that's where we really will shine - our ability to teach and disseminate information."
Through their approach, Winston says he and Binger hope to open up higher-level thinking processes of the game to players who up till now have not necessarily taken them into account.
"You know, when I'm sitting in a cash game or a tournament, I'm not just looking at my cards and folding or playing based on them, I'm doing a hundred other things. Those are the things that a lot of players miss… and the things that [will be] valuable in education."