Kevin Rabichow was introduced to online poker in college while at the University of Chicago, and by 2008 was playing full time while completing his economics degree. He left for Toronto in 2011 after Black Friday to pursue poker, and he’s already earned his spot in mid-to-high-stakes No-Limit heads-up games.
To date, Rabichow has played over 2 million hands online, made over $1 million in cash game winnings and earned over $5 million in live and online tournaments. His biggest score in 2021 came at World Series of Pokerwhen he finished runner-up in the $100,000 Super High Roller Game for $1,210,487.
In 2014, he joined Run it once Training as an elite trainer to produce educational content. From 2015 to 2017, he coached a small group of heads-up players from $50 and $100 buy-in levels to over $500,000 in team earnings. Rabichow’s current students range from six to a maximum of online professionals, enthusiasts of direct criticism, and dedicated MTT Mills.
After hundreds of hours working with students of all skill levels, he developed the tools to help players tackle their biggest leaks with confidence and efficiency. You can check out his new track, The Game Plan, at RunItOnce.com.
card player I caught up with Rabichow to talk about what it takes to reach the highest levels of professional poker today.
Craig Tapscott: How does a player build an educational game plan to continually improve their game at the tables, online and live?
Kevin Rabichoe: The first thing to recognize is that there is a lot to learn at one time. Poker is a beautifully complex game, and in order to keep getting better, you have to break it down into smaller pieces. Most coaches separate pre-flop from playing after the flop, and in each category we can sort by the different branches of the game tree.
The pre-flip may need to be divided by stack size, location, pre-structure, etc. Post flop can be single raised pots, with or without lead, facing different move sequences or bet sizes. Once you have separated your game tree into smaller parts, you can start evaluating.
What are you good at in this game? This may seem like a strange question to a professional poker player, but many have not taken the time to determine where this feature comes from. Do you locate good places to cheat and win without confrontation? Are you more patient than your opponents and get your salary in good hands? These are general questions, but the stronger you are a player, the more specific information you will get. How confident are you when you are out of position at the turn? What is your general approach to three-stake pots when checking out? By doing a complete assessment of your game, you begin to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
This is where my course – the game plan – provides the most value. Honestly assess where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Take your weaknesses and turn them into a study plan. Take your strength and turn it into a game plan. I give my students a system for prioritizing their studies, so they can work on just a few things at a time and know that those few things will have the most immediate impact on their results. Anything more advanced or complex can be tackled after the basics are in order.
If this process seems confusing to you, it would be wise to reach out to other poker players for help or get a consultation with a coach. It is important that your self-assessment is comprehensive and honest, otherwise you may be held back by your weaknesses. You don’t know what you don’t know, and I’ve seen many players go years without realizing that they’ve neglected an entire portion of the game tree. If you feel unclear how to make progress, it’s time to reach out to others for help.
Craig Tapscott: Some players feel overwhelmed with all the poker tools available to them to help advance their game. Where do they start and what are the most useful tools to start mastering?
Kevin Rabichoe: Most importantly, don’t feel obligated to use tools you don’t understand. There is enough variety on the market that I’ve always been able to find one that fits my students’ needs.
Tracking software is an obvious place to start. If you are a live player or a recreational online player, you may not have felt the need to get a Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager, but I highly recommend it. I often rate my students’ skill based on the stats in their online database, as it is the quickest way to see the full picture of their gameplay. Even for small data sets, it is important to have a complete record of the hands you play and your results. You won’t have any concrete material to review without a hand date.
Preflop solutions are mandatory for serious players, but finding the right ones can be challenging. Do you play the same format day in and day out? How often do the stack depths vary? The most reliable solutions to buy from a website are the 100 online blind cash games, which I recommend if there is not much variance in your game structure. If you’re more advanced, you might look for some of the 150 blind or 200 blind options as well, or a triple blind solution with antes for high stakes live games. I’ve bought from Range Converters in the past and there are people you can contact for custom solutions as well.
If you don’t play the same game every day, buying a set of charts may not be the answer. I also believe that memorizing the blueprints is only half the battle when it comes to being a good front end player. For a more complete package, you should look into a subscription to a browser tool like Preflop Academy or Floptimal. These are web programs that have a variety of pre-made solutions, hosted on cloud servers at a monthly cost. I often recommend these for living MTT players, so you have a resource with any ante place you may need to review, accessible on your phone while you’re at the casino. These also happen to be great study tools for training your intuition on less frequent pre-recursion scenarios.
GTO Training has been one of the greatest advancements in poker tools in the past few years, and if you are not doing any type of training yet, I cannot recommend it enough. The outputs of these tools can be confusing to the untrained eye but running the iteration against a bot will still have a positive effect.
If you’re just getting started with trainers, just focus on one thing: the EV. Make plays that feel right to you, and that you’ll really do at the table, rather than guessing what the bot wants you to do. When your actions lose EV value, pay attention, and over time you’ll gather information about where your most costly mistakes occurred. This is tangible data for your self-correction!
The most advanced tools are dedicated solvers, such as Piosolver for cash games, or HRC for tournament players, which I encourage for anyone who feels confident with the input or feels limited by the above programs. Using these tools gives you the highest understanding of how game theory works but the process can be very time consuming. I have dedicated many of the videos in the game plan to my approach when using these programs for players looking to make the leap.
(You can find the game plan at RunItOnce.com, a training site founded by legendary high-stakes professional Phil Galfond. Enter code “CARDPLAYER” at checkout to save 25% on your first month of elite membership.)
Craig Tapscott: How would you advise players on the best way to deal with fluctuations and variance on a daily basis?
Kevin Rabichoe: Any struggles with contrast stem from our emotional attachment to the results. If we are not satisfied with a lost day, or are frustrated by a longer period of bad luck, we are likely to feel some doubt about our skill, or fear that this will go on forever. We have to know this for what it is and admit that it’s a totally normal feeling to experience. The best players in the world routinely question their abilities, and such is the nature of the game that results don’t directly reward your progress.
The most impactful mental shift for me was emphasizing the quality of decision-making in my daily assessment. By introducing a new way to measure success, especially one that was completely under my control, I had less value in short-term results. You don’t have to hide your results or pretend that you weren’t hurt by the loss, but you can’t let those results carry all of your self-worth. Taking pride in the quality of your decision-making is ingrained in something you can control and work to improve over time.
Also think about how to discuss poker with friends. “How did your session go?” or “How does the show treat you?” They are the types of questions you might be asked that are aimed directly at your results. Take these interactions as an opportunity to enhance your mind transformation. Don’t stop at winning and losing – evaluate the tough decisions you’ve faced and talk about any doubts in your mind. Tell the story of the most interesting hand you ever played or watched. By involving our friends in strategy and decision making, we foster an emotional connection to progress.
Craig Tapscott: If I don’t aim to focus on results, how will I know if I’m making progress?
Kevin Rabichoe: It’s an interesting question, because it suggests that the results were a good indicator of progress in the first place. They are often misguided, I would argue, and we simply feel more confident about our game when we win than we do when we lose. With very large sample sizes we can measure improvement by changes in your win rate, but on a weekly or monthly basis I look for other metrics.
Those I convinced to use some kind GTO The trainer has one great way to track progress, as there is no difference in your results versus the bot. I encourage my students to categorize their training, putting as much volume as possible into the scenarios they struggle with on the table. For example, someone who knows to fold often in the big blind could design an exercise to play the raised pots repeatedly out of position. As their EV scores improve, and their confidence soars, there is no doubt that they have made progress.
If you have created a database in your tracker, you can track changes in your database statistics and get feedback from your peers or hire a coach. Having specific goals to increase the frequency of volatility lift or decrease the river fold percentage are great ways to set progression goals. This is one of my favorite coaching tools, but it’s hard to achieve without mentoring. At a minimum, download or take a screenshot of your stats every few months, and note any changing values. If the changes to your data are in line with your strategic goals, then you’ve made progress.
Finally, at the risk of looking silly, I think almost all players can sense when they’re making progress. I don’t mean to say that good luck can’t give you a false sense of progress, because it can and will. However, it has been my experience that you mitigate this effect by setting intentional goals for improvement. I’ve found that by simply creating a document for my students to keep track of what they’re working on, they enter our next session with a confident understanding of whether or not they’ve made progress. Identify the weaknesses you need to address and design a study plan to get you there. You’ll know when you’re ready to move on to the next task.
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* Some images courtesy of PokerGO.