Poker fantasy camp with Linda Johnson.

Just returned from a week I knew would be great, but was even better than I expected. I was in Las Vegas to be coached by Linda Johnson who you probably know as the announcer on the WPT and as a world-class poker player.

Here’s what my training included:

I watched Linda play at the Venetian. Somewhat limited in usefulness since the game was mixed and included many games I don’t play (like Omaha and Razz).

Linda watched me play a $2/$5 NL game at the Venetian. Hard-to-imagine useful! Reading books is good. Watching poker on television helps. Playing and getting experience is a must. But having someone like Linda critique your play beats everything. She took notes (which she didn’t really need since she remembered every card, bet and nuance of every hand), then she gave it to me straight. If our training ended right there, I’d consider it one of the best poker experiences possible .

Linda tells me one millionth of what she knows. Sitting on the swing in her relaxing yard on a beautiful day, Linda shared as much of her knowledge with me as she thought I could take. It was mind-boggling and she knew it, so she told me what she thought I could absorb and use. Again, priceless.

Linda’s for a party…and poker. This was fun! A really terrific group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a friendly, interesting, fun collection. I wanted to spend an evening with each of them. We had a great dinner then sat down to a poker game which, to my surprise, everyone took seriously. We played $1/2 NL and, again, it was a great learning experience. I won $135 which was nice, although over the long run I don’t think this would be a winning table situation for me. Short term, luck was on my side.

Dinner with Linda and Jan Fisher at the Venetian. More information and some follow-up questions. Nice to spend time with Jan who I met before. She’s very funny. She’s partners with Linda on Card Player Cruises

Binion’s for a Wednesday poker club meeting. Again, fun and useful. These players meet every Wednesday and have been for 6 years. They discuss…..more like dissect… poker hands. I wish I could do this every week. It would be one of the great benefits of living in Las Vegas. You really see how many ways there are not just to play a hand, but to think about it. Also, it was interesting to notice the difference in outlook between the people who played for a living and the more recreational players. If you’re ever in Vegas on a Wednesday at 2 p.m., go! These are smart people willing to share what they know.

Linda’s for online play. I watched her, she watched me. It was stressful. I had lots of new thoughts loaded in my brain over the week and was caught somewhere between what I would have done before and what I knew I should do now….with a timer going and not being used to using a PC (I’m a Mac person unfortunately since I’m in a graphic-oriented business). I think I scared Linda and I could see her re-evaluating any positive thoughts she might have had about me as a player!

I won’t go into detail here about specific tips since that’s a whole article in itself (and will be in Poker Pro and hopefully some other publications).

If you’re lucky, at some point you can have a coach like Linda. She’s a generous, fun, kind person who included me in her life for a great week. The downside when you play with someone as talented as Linda is you realize how far the road is to just be competitive. I’ll never be near the level of Linda and many of the people I met, but I’ll be good enough to have a great time and win a few sessions, even with a few pros at the table.

Learning with Linda article