Be smart when setting your poker goals

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When it comes to setting goals, I recommend using the SMART model: goals should be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. From talk at the poker table, it’s clear some of you have abandoned your New Year’s resolutions, a.k.a. goals. OK, so what to do next, feel like a failure or reassess? I favor reassessment.

So what do you do when your goals don’t work out? Examine them and examine yourself. Go back to the model to see if the goal you set really met all of the requirements of good goal-setting.

Lately, I’ve been thinking the most important part of goal-setting is to make sure it’s something you can control.

You can’t make your goal “to not get sucked out on,” but you can make your goal to make bets and raises that don’t allow the suckee to make you the sucker.

Make strong enough bets and raises so that “sane” people will fold marginal hands and not chase improbable draws.
But even when you do that (bet correctly to get rid of players who could suck out on you) you still can’t control the player who chases and catches.

Just be happy you’re playing against someone who makes the wrong decisions. They sometimes win, it’s part of the game, but over the long run they will lose. So a corollary goal or objective to not getting sucked out on is, “I will bet and raise my good hands to get rid of people chasing and people playing marginal hands, so they can’t suck out” and a secondary goal/objective is, “I will not tilt when I get sucked out on by someone who insists on chasing.”

Take each of your goals and re-evaluate them. Goal-setting is a movable feast; it’s not a one-time event. Reassessment is the key. You change, the game changes and the opponents change.

Be flexible in reviewing your goals to see if they really make sense. If you believe playing more is important, then set a goal to play more. Hopefully that will morph into winning more or enjoying the game more.

I believe one of the most important things to think about is why you play. A recreational player plays for the enjoyment of the game and winning helps you enjoy it. But is it necessary? This is a question you have to ask.

Goal-setting is a process; goals need to change. Think of a goal as a hypothesis; if it doesn’t work out, be flexible and change it.

That does not mean to abandon the goal; it means re-examining the goal, examining yourself and examining the situation. It’s the only way to keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.