Meet Our Instructors
"I think my goal whenever I go into a camp is to present the information in a way that everybody will understand, and to make it a class that all levels of players can use to improve their games."
- High-stakes cash game player
- Became one of the World Poker Tour's first instructors in 2005
- Poker columnist, Bluff Magazine, All-In, Casino Player
“I think my goal whenever I go into a camp is to present the information in a way that everybody will understand, and to make it a class that all levels of players can use to improve their games.”
That’s the teaching philosophy of WPT Boot Camp instructor Rick Fuller, a professional cash game player and poker columnist who has had a lifelong love affair with poker. Rick plays full-time—but for Rick, playing is not enough. He also wants to share the game he loves with others.
“I just enjoy seeing people succeed. I enjoy seeing people improve,” he says. A dedicated teacher, Rick spends a lot of time thinking about the best ways to explain poker concepts. The things he learned the hard way, he’d like to help others learn the easy way.
Of course, his dedication has its selfish side. “The more I analyze poker concepts for others, the more my own game improves,” Rick says. “That’s what I want to teach people: never stop thinking about how to improve your game.”
A Poker Childhood
Rick was first introduced to poker at the tender age of eight. And less than a year later, at the age of 9, he went broke.
“I lost my life savings to my uncle playing heads-up, and I still remember the amount: it was $9.35,” he says. “Unfortunately, that was the first of many, many times…” He laughs. “I learned at an early age that you have to make sure to learn something every time you lose. That’s how you end up a winner.”
Rick played poker with his large, extended family all through his childhood. “Whenever we got together, we all played poker,” he says. “And it was serious poker. They didn’t let the kids win, they didn’t give the money back. We were always encouraged to play well, and to understand what it meant to lose.”
Then, when Rick was 17, several cardrooms opened up in his part of Washington state. Although the legal age for playing was 18, Rick started sneaking in as soon as he could. As a freshman at the University of Washington, he frequently skipped class to play poker. Finally, he got a letter from the dean threatening to expel him if his grades didn’t improve. Rick decided that he preferred poker, left school, and began playing every spare minute he could.
The Poker Cop
Soon, Rick got on the right side of the law—he became a police officer, a job he held for several years. Always, though, he played poker on nights and weekends, trying hard to improve at the game he loved.
“For a while, I was a losing player,” he confesses. “That was the real learning curve, and my introduction to the game."
“In some ways it was a lot harder back then, because you didn’t have any way to really learn. There weren’t very many books about cash-game poker, so it was all just self-analysis. I learned by doing something, feeling like it was wrong, and changing it. That was a long, hard process.” In fact, that slow learning curve is part of why he’s so committed to teaching other people today.
“Everyone can improve if they work hard enough,” he says. “But it helps to have someone give you a boost along the way.”
Becoming a Pro
Rick didn’t ever intend to turn pro. But he had gotten tired of being a cop and was looking for something else to do. “I decided, while I figured it out, to play poker,” he says. “I especially wanted to travel and play in some tournaments, which I had never done before.” Returning to police work was always on the back burner.
Then, in his first three months of professional play, Rick made $80,000. “So I thought about going back to a job where I made $60,000 a year, and since I had just made $80,000 in three months, I decided I would just wait and not look for a job. Somehow three or four years went by and I finally realized I had become a professional poker player, without ever meaning to be.”
Rick loved the freedom of being a pro, and he definitely enjoyed the money. But what attracted him most about his new profession was the challenge.
“The thing I enjoy about it is that it’s a game that you cannot master,” he says. “There’s always something to be learned. So I enjoy the fact that every time I sit down and play, I get to learn and get to improve.”
Reading His Opponents…and His Students
One of Rick’s key strengths at the table is his willingness to take big risks. “In a tournament, I’m always more interested in winning than in cashing,” he says. “But you’ve got to balance that with a strong sense of how to defend yourself and survive. You should always know what the risks are and what the rewards are and always be evaluating your stack size. I enjoy the challenge of constantly adjusting your play based on the ever-changing variables in a tournament.”
Both Rick’s offense and his defense are based on his ability to understand what his opponents are doing. “I’m very good at reading people and putting them on a range of hands. Figuring out my opponents means I’m able to adjust my style, able to change gears very easily and very comfortably.”
Just as Rick the player reads his opponents, so does Rick the teacher read his students. “I’m constantly looking at people’s expressions,” he says. “If I see a lot of confusion, I try to word things differently. So I’m constantly changing the way I present things, speeding up, slowing down, going by everybody’s reaction to the material, trying to make sure everybody is getting the most out of it.”
A Lifetime Game
Since he’s turned pro, Rick has had his share of tournament success, including two WSOP final tables and more than half a million dollars in tournament winnings. He’s written on poker strategy for Bluff, All-In, and Casino Player. However, his real bread and butter continues to be his cash game, which has benefited hugely from playing online, where he can carefully analyze and refine his strategy.
The thing that intrigues Rick about poker now is pretty much what attracted him at the age of eight: the challenge of a game so complex and demanding that it can never be fully understood.
“I want to master it, even though I understand that I can’t, ever—no one can,” he says. “All you can ever do is always keep improving. Of course, it’s nice that I’m able to make money while I’m trying to improve!”