As you look forward to 2019, it’s time to set some goals. I tend to sit down with a clear head at the end of the year and think deeply about what I want to accomplish in the next year, as I think it helps to have things to strive for over the next 12 months. Back when I played poker more seriously, poker planning was a large part of this exercise.
Below are the types of things I would put on my list, which I hope could be of assistance to you if you are seeking to improve your poker game and results. You have a chance to maintain goals if you set the bar at a reasonable level. Let’s take a look at some goals you should not set, as well as good goals and how to reach them.
Set goals for level of play, not winning “X” amount of dollars.
For years I maintained a streak of winning at least $10,000 in a calendar year—a streak that ended in 2010. The reasons are myriad, the largest of which was a reduction in playing time from having a newborn son. Every year my goal for the next year as it pertained to poker was to simply win my five figures for the year, but it’s a goal I could not reasonably expect to keep up. Unless you are playing in games with exceptionally low variance—such as against a weak field day in and day out—it’s hard to maintain a consistent win rate over 12 months.
A graph of some of the top tournament players (who experience high variance) might show a win greater than $1 million one year and a loss of the same amount the next. I recall a post on the 2+2 poker forum in early 2010 from a guy whose goal was to win $100,000 that year playing low stakes online poker. After he won only a few hundred dollars in January he was never heard from again. And there are many, many stories who players who thought they could get rich quick and then disappeared.
Set a standard of play and play to it. If you win your $10,000 or more in a given year all the better.
Pledge to experiment in other games
Sitting at a desk and typing on a computer all day can be quite tedious. Just ask yours truly. So can playing the same $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em game online for hours on end. If you have yet to branch out beyond NLHE cash games, pledge to try something new this year. I always enjoyed heads-up sit-n-go’s, and tried the ultra turbo variety when they began growing in popularity. I found these quick SNGs both fun and profitable over the long term.
While the online poker that is availability in the U.S. isn’t nearly what it used to be, you can still experiment with new games and formats on the internet, whether it’s Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo at WSOP.com (if you live in Nevada or New Jersey) or pineapple at Global Poker (available in most of the U.S.)
I’ve been playing more Pot-Limit Omaha lately and I’ve found pretty good success there in my local game. Try something new, too, and you may see your profits increase.
Work toward the WSOP or online equivalent tournaments
If you are an online regular but haven’t played live poker beyond the casinos in your state, set a goal of traveling to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. No, I am not saying you should gather together $10,000 to play in the Main Event. That would be a prime example of an unreasonable goal. Set aside what you can to pay for airfare, hotel rooms and in-city transportation needs, and then use what’s left over to play some poker in Vegas. Perhaps you will have enough to try your hand at one of the smaller WSOP events. Maybe you can only play small cash games or try a tournament at The Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza. Whatever your bankroll, just head to Sin City, see what all the WSOP fuss is about and have some fun.
If you can’t afford the plane tickets, visit a major tournament stop near you to try your game against good live competition. There are smaller tournament series across the U.S., from the Heartland Poker Tour to the WSOP Circuit.
If you are the kind of player who just can’t stand live poker due to the slowness of the game, set a goal of playing some big online events this year on sites like Global Poker. Set aside some of your bankroll to play satellites or buy in directly. Take your shot at a major haul by winning one of these major online tournaments.