Jared Tendler is here with some advice on avoiding the common pitfalls when setting your goals for the new year.
Know why you want it
It sounds strange to suggest you don’t know why you want a goal, because you are the one setting it. A lot of poker players can say what they want – to get better, to become a professional, to win more money – but not all of them can say why. It’s always about more than just the money and when you know why you want a goal it makes it easier to push through when times are hard.
For example if you want to set a goal to win more money, see if you can identify why you want more money. Is it for a deposit for a house? Support your family? Or even to prove to yourself you are a winning player? These are all much more deeply held reasons why winning is important other than just the sums of money themselves.
Perhaps the biggest single reason New Year’s Resolutions fail is because they are made at a time when your confidence and motivation is at a high. When you are really pumped up, you assume you will have this level of energy the entire year round. It can certainly last for several months, but eventually when reality hits you, it can hit you harder than expected.
One simple way to counter this is to spend some time identifying the most likely obstacles based on previous attempts to achieve a goal. It could be a downswing, boredom, the first big loss, the first time you go on tilt or simply falling behind where you think you should be by now.
Once you have identified the most likely obstacles, come up with a plan now, while you are super motivated, to deal with them as they happen. For example if you think a big losing session could knock you off course, maybe having a plan to hire a coach when that happens to refocus your efforts is the way to go. You know your own bad habits well, prepare for them.
Recognise the true starting point
On a related note another common problem is poker players vastly overestimate their ability at the start of the year. If they can play for six hours a day on January 2nd they assume they can keep up that pace all year. If they are winning with a 4 BB/100 in January they assume it will stay this way.
Your goals can fall apart when you hold yourself to a standard like this which is based on short term results and motivation. By all means set a big goal, but give yourself some breathing room at the start of the year to refine that goal if you realise it was too lofty. Reduce the six hour sessions to four hour sessions, then try to build up, for example.
This doesn’t mean keep reducing your goals throughout the year as they get farther and farther away from your original goal, just give yourself some flexibility in that first month.
Create a secondary goal
Another problem with annual goals that are big is that if you don’t make great progress early on you end up abandoning the goal entirely because it seems so far away. If you play $0.25/$0.50 and you want to play $2/$4 this year, if it gets to April and you are still at $0.25/$0.50 the goal seems too much of a stretch.
I think most of you would agree that if you ended the year at $1/$2 after starting at $0.25/$0.50, that is still a pretty decent result. It’s not $2/$4, but it’s a big improvement.
So for this reason I suggest you always have a secondary goal in mind to stop you abandoning your work altogether. If $2/$4 looks impossible maybe $1/$2 is achievable. If you wanted to get to the $10,000 Main Event this year, then maybe qualifying for the Millionaire Maker is a reasonable secondary goal. If you want to play 30,000 hands a month, maybe 20,000 hands isn’t too bad either.
This isn’t about compromising on your dreams, it’s about making sure you don’t give up. You might discover that once you get to that secondary goal, making it to the original goal is much closer than you think.
If in doubt fix your biggest leaks
Finally it is not uncommon for poker players to be unsure of what goals to set. They literally do not know what of the many things they could be doing to work on next.
If this is your problem I always suggest that if in doubt, set the goal to work on your biggest errors. Identify what the most frequent and costly mistakes you make are and vow to get so good at them that they disappear.
This is a beneficial method for several reasons. First and foremost you know what your biggest errors are, because they cause the most personal and financial pain. Secondly, eliminating them will boost your winrate more than anything else. Finally, they are a very natural and organic way to learn. When you eliminate your C-Game mistakes, your old B-Game becomes your new C-Game, and so on.
It may not be the most exciting or grandiose of goals, but in 12 months time you will have made some huge improvements.
What are your new year resolutions? Let us know in the comments.
Jared Tendler is a mental game coach and author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. Find out more at JaredTendlerPoker.com.