As part of the new Poker Central website, we are happy to also introduce the ‘Strategy Series’. Each week, our team will bring you important strategy articles, highlighting a wide variety of poker topics. These articles will build off one another, creating an inventory of must read poker material. The first installment, in the spirit of the new year, focuses on setting the right goals heading into 2017. 

“I want to make $500,000 this summer. That’s my goal.”

A player told me this prior to the start of the 2016 World Series of Poker. He had had a few decent scores on the regional circuit leading up to the series and was obviously confident heading into the summer. Regardless of what his financial goal was though, he was setting himself up to fail.

By giving himself a steadfast monetary goal, he was most likely going to return home in July disappointed. The truth is that each summer, thousands of players congregate in Las Vegas and a very small percentage of them actually earn $500,000 profit. Most of the world’s best players even struggle to see that kind of return.

Now, apply that to the goals and resolutions that millions of people, poker players included, have made heading into the new year. On a smaller scale, a player could say, “I want to make $500 in this cash session.” On a bigger scale, “I want to win a World Poker Tour title this year.”

Unfortunately, while each goal should push you to play your best, they aren’t the goals that are going to foster development, growth or success. If we are trying to avoid goals that involve implicit monetary ends, what kind of goals should we be setting for ourselves? Goals that involve making correct decisions or not tilting during a session can make a positive difference in your game, even if the immediate financial outcome isn’t. 

Goals that don’t involve actual play are also beneficial to development. Weekly study sessions, reading and review, along with other away-from-the-felt activities such as consistent workout schedules, healthy eating habits and mental preparation are also important. These types of goals are controllable and the types of goals that poker players should be making. 

More often than not, monetary goals are actually counter-intuitive to what we, as poker players, are trying to achieve. They can cloud our judgment and give us a false sense of improvement. They can cause more harm than good, which is why they should be avoided. Conversely, controllable goals are never left up to the variance of the game. 

Goals motivate and foster improvement but to do so, your goals have to be achievable. Review your poker goals or resolutions for 2017. If they involve monetary goals, find ways to change them. If they involve achievable goals that you can control, you’re already one step ahead of the competition.