There’s no shame in adjusting your poker goals



How many New Year’s resolutions have you broken? Don’t worry. Start over with some serious poker goal-setting. Goal-setting is flexible and adjustable.

There are numerous kinds of goals. Some are measured by time: immediate, short-term, intermediate, long-term and dream goals.

Another way to enumerate goals that complements time orientation is to make outcome goals, which focus on achieving a victory in a competitive situation (such as winning a tournament). Performance goals, on the other hand, focus on achieving standards based on one’s previous performances, not on the outcome of others (leaving the cash game ahead and not giving profits back). Another type, process goals, focuses on the actions individuals engage in during performance (not tilting or reading betting patterns better).

When you set goals, set difficult but realistic goals; challenging (moderately difficult) and achievable (not too difficult). Goals also need to be specific. A little acronym for goal-setting is SMARTS. Always use your smarts when setting goals: a goal should be SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACTION-ORIENTED, REALISTIC, TIME-SPECFIC and SELF-ORIENTED.
It’s advisable to write down your goal. Start with I, as in: I am going to play poker three times a week, for at least three hours a session, for the next month. This is better than I am going to play more poker. Now the assumption is if you play more poker you will get better.

I will spend an hour a day studying poker by watching videos, reading Ante Up, reading a book, three days a week is better than I will study poker more.

I will learn ways to deal with tilt by learning breathing exercises, and practicing 10 minutes every other day for six months is better than I won’t tilt anymore.

Notice these are performance and process goals and they fit SMARTS.

Outcome goals are a little harder because they’re opponent dependent. We can’t control the villains so it’s hard to set goals that depend on them. But it’s worth taking a shot at them; just don’t get frustrated by being blocked by something you can’t control. For example, first identify a leak. Set process and performance goals to fix the leak. The assumption is if you fix the leak you can achieve an outcome goal. I will build my poker stash by 50 percent over the next six months.

Don’t get frustrated and give up on your goal when you have A-K suited and get felted by A-Q offsuit. Even if you were right, remember in the short term you may be wrong. I know this is not a great consolation to an extended bad run, but it’s the nature of the game.

Goals need to be able to be adjusted. There is no failure in reviewing goals and changing them. Just make sure you honestly appraise the issue. These are not New Year’s resolutions, these are the building blocks to peak performance in poker, and hopefully the stairway to heaven: meeting you dream goal. Keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email questions for him at

Ante Up Magazine

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