Are You Setting The Correct Poker Goals and Targets?

Make sure your poker goals and targets are ambitious but achievable.

It is important to set yourself goals and targets in all walks of life. Setting goals helps you to progress in both your home and working lives and keeps you on track. Setting goals in poker is crucial to long term success, but ensure you are setting the correct poker goals.

Making a certain sum of money or playing a number of hands in a given time are common goals. Setting poker goals revolving around money is popular because money is how we measure success in poker. How many poker players do you consider to be elite who are losing players? I thought so.

One way to increase your chances of turning a profit in poker is to play more hands or tournaments. Log more volume, win more money. It seems simple and the two go hand in hand. But what if I told you making these your poker goals will actually hinder you? Monetary and volume-based poker goals are two of the worst you can set yourself. Here is why.

Poker Goals 101: Do Not Set Short Term Monetary Targets

I am going to let you into a little secret now. You will not like it. You probably will not believe it, at least not initially. Here goes, you have little control over how much money you make in the short term. Making money is, to some degree out of your hands.

Lady Luck is often a cruel woman and what she gives, she also takes away. How often have you played in a cash game or a tournament, made no mistakes, yet lost money? Too often, I hear you say to your computer screen. Imagine going to work for 40-hours this week and your boss saying they are not paying you just because they can do that. This is poker.

Luck plays a major role in short term profitability and it is impossible to fight. Now it should be obvious why setting short term monetary goals is a bad idea; they are extremely difficult to achieve. Playing longer than you should to hit a daily profit target will see your performance drop. Likewise, cutting a session short to lock up a profit reduced your expected value.

Setting poker goals based on money in the long term is not a bad idea if you are realistic. Set poker goals of making $100,000 profit this year by all means, but not if you play $0.10/$0.25 cash games. Targeting unlikely goals is demoralizing when you inevitably miss your target by a long way.

Avoid Making Volume Related Poker Goals

How much poker you play is almost entirely down to you, so why is it a bad idea to make this one of your poker goals? Because volume-based poker goals take the focus from the rest of your play. You need to play a lot of poker in order to negate the natural variance of the game, but forcing yourself to play is a bad idea and a risky move.

Online poker cash game players set targets such as playing 1 million hands in a year. Tournament grinders set goals of completing a specific number of tournaments in a month. While it is good to have poker goals, these two examples can have a major negative effect on your game.

Volume goals can force you to continue playing when you are tired or, worse, tilted. You could find yourself staying in a bad game just to hit your hand target requirements for the day. Also, what happens if you fall behind? You play more tables for longer and damage your win rate.

Much like monetary poker goals, volume targets should be achievable but not practically impossible. For example, you may play eight cash game tables at a time online for approximately 800 hands per hour. This means you need to play 1,250 hours over the year, or 24 hours per week, always with eight tables. That is 3.42 hours per day, every day. Now, you will not play on holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. What about if you get sick? Or you take a vacation? Life gets in the way. Suddenly, a fortnight in the sun leaves you needing to play 25 hours of eight tables per week. Suddenly you have to play more and more because you have to, not because you want to. There is a big difference.

Set Goals You Can Control and That Benefit Your Game

Monetary and volume poker goals will help you focus if you set them correctly and in the long term but you are better off setting goals you can control. One example is to spend some time after each session to look through your 10 biggest winning and losing hands. Complete this simple goal of analyzing your play and your skills improve. Better skills mean your chances of profit increase; that is your monetary goals sorted passively!

Other poker goals you have full control over include not playing when tired, upset, angry, or bored. Only playing poker when you are fully focussed on the task in hand is never a bad idea. The same can be said for always playing to the best of your ability with no distractions. Turn off the TV, stop browsing Facebook, and guess what? You should find your monetary targets become reachable easier.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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