Be SMART about your poker ability



Many of us have abandoned our New Year’s resolutions, settled into old habits and are comfortable. I know I have: I haven’t lost the weight I wanted to; I haven’t increased my time at the gym and the like.

Why? Resolutions are like wishes. We want them to come true without the work. Today, you and I need to start putting in the work and instead set goals. Even the most elite players set goals for what they would like to accomplish. The prime example is Daniel Negreanu, who posts his goals as a motivator.

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

Poker players at all levels should be setting specific goals. Of course the goals will vary for each player and as they move up the chain, goal-setting becomes more important.

Goals need to be SMART, and I’ve written about this in past issues.
SPECIFIC: Goals cannot be vague. What, who, when, where, why? I want to play two tournaments a week and want to see specific improvement.

MEASURABLE: You have to know when you reach a goal. How much, how many, how will I know? I will cash in one tournament a month.

ATTAINABLE: Goals cannot be passive and it should be action-oriented. A goal also has to have a good chance of being achieved. I will get some coaching, read some poker books and watch videos. Set aside the time to play and reassess in six months.

REALISTIC: You can’t set a goal of not being sucked out on, but you can set a goal of getting your money in with the best hand. Is this realistic in my life? Are there enough tournaments I can play? Do I have the bankroll?

TIMELY: There’s always a time factor. Can the goal be accomplished in the time allotted and does the timing make sense? Do I have the time to play these events? If so, set it.

SMART goal-setting allows greater achievement and eventually peak performance. Your goals might be more complicated and more specific.
If you have a coach or poker buddy, run your SMART goals through them. And always keep your head in the game.

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

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine