Setting goals in poker is a vital part of every player's success. It's very hard to pick a right path without the clear vision of the destination. Like Eric Nightingale once said,
People with goals succeed because they know where they're going. Eric NightingaleSince poker is a game of both luck and skill the process of choosing suitable goals and right ways to achieve them can be much more difficult than in other parts of life where variance isn't such a dominant factor.
Force of Will the Power of Habit and Danger of Ego
"How bad do you want it?" is not the question you should be asking yourself. "What should you want?" and - what's far more important - "how will you get it?" are usually much more adequate.
People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures. Frederick MatthiasThis brilliant quote by Frederick Matthias Alexander pretty much sums up the optimal approach to setting and achieving goals. The first step of actually defining your goals is trivial and far less important when compared to the actions necessary to achieve it. Almost everyone wishes to make their life better in one way or the other. Everyone wants to get in shape, make more money, spend more time with a family, build a good relationship with his/her partner, travel to an exotic location or learn french. Unfortunately, it's just wishful thinking in most cases, even though the actions necessary to achieve some of those wishes are fairly simple!
Goals Worth Having
Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right. Peter DruckerNow that we've gone through some basic misconceptions regarding goal setting, let's focus on forming goals that are actually worth having when it comes to poker. This is a fairly complex and much-debated topic but the common consensus dictates that your goals should be measurable first and foremost. "I'd like to get in shape" is vague while "I'd like to put on 5kg of muscle mass" dictates a very specific course of action you need to take in order to achieve it.
Similarly "I want to become a winning poker player at my limit" is both unclear and hard to track while "I will analyze one regular at my limit each week" will lead you in the same direction and is much easier to understand. Notice that the last goal swapped "I'd like" and "I want" for "I will" which adds more agency to your goal and slightly increases the probability of actually achieving through a simple act of modifying your wording.
Examples of good poker goals
- "I will join a study group this month"
- "I will achieve Palladium status on Party Poker in the next 3 months."
- "I will post 5 hands for a line-check each day on the PokerVIP forum."
- "I will play 2-hour long poker session every day".
Examples of bad poker goals
- "I want to become better at poker".
- "I'd like to learn PLO".
- "I will play more tournaments this year".
- "I'd like to qualify to a large live tournament".
Make a Plan
A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. Harvey MacKayNow that you have your poker goal it's time to do some planning. Some goals like "I will play a 2-hour long poker session every day" are self-explanatory and require mostly discipline, but it doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to cover all the basis. Think about the best time of the day for your session. Establish some sort of ritual that will further reinforce the habit of playing a poker session every day (meditation, hypnosis or something much simpler like a game of chess or listening to a certain song).
When things go wrong - adjust your poker goals!
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.What if your database analysis hasn't resulted in the increase of your win rate and you failed to advance to a higher limit? Does that mean you should change your plan? Possibly, but not necessarily. Analyzing your database is one of the best ways you can go about diagnosing and getting rid of leaks. Maybe you need a fresh pair of eyes that could help you with the process? In that case asking a friend for help of hiring a coach can be a great adjustment to your otherwise great plan. Maybe you need to learn more about your tracking software? Watch a video series on the subject. A small adjustment can often go a long way and dramatic changes - while attractive - can often be counter-productive and simply not necessary.
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