Why do you want to make $100,000 in a year?

For poker to make sense as a profession, I need to make much more than I was making in my last full-time job. Plus, I feel like I need to prove to myself and to my family that choosing to play poker professionally was the right decision.

What obstacles might stand in your way?
How will you deal with them?
I could go on a big downswing when taking shots, which would be pretty damaging, especially at $5/$10. I’ll deal with this by setting a fixed number of buy-ins to use each time I take shots. At $5/$10, I’ll only play when the games are incredibly good. I could also get demotivated if I’m not making money for several months, or am not able to increase my hands played per month fast enough. I’ll deal with these issues by adding a fourth process goal: to consistently work hard on my mental game. This has never been a big problem, but I’ve never attempted something this big in poker before. Losing motivation could be the thing that destroys my goal, so I’ll take extra precaution from the start to make sure I minimize the potential for harm.


Jane is a serious amateur online player who plays single-table tourna- ments online. On average, she plays two hours a night and four tables at a time. She knows that if she wants to make more money from SNGs, she needs to increase her volume.

Results goal: Increase volume from four tables to six tables while main- taining current ROI.

Process goals:

  • Start by adding one additional table in the first hour of play and steadily increase the length of time I can maintain it. Only add one more table when five tables feels as comfortable as playing on four does now.
  • Master bubble calling ranges to the level of Unconscious Competence so I can make crucial decisions quickly. Review hands in SNGWiz at the end of every session.

• Develop a consistent warm-up routine that gets me motivated to play at a high level and allows me to build mental endurance.

Why is increasing volume so important?

I enjoy challenging myself and love the feeling of working hard and see- ing the reward. Having more money is never a bad thing either.

What obstacles might stand in your way?
How will you deal with them?
Time and energy are my biggest obstacles. Having a full-time job not only takes up a big part of my day, it can also be mentally exhausting. I will deal with this by shortening my sessions on days when I’m really tired. Often, just the thought of having to play for two hours makes me not want to play at all. But, I can always play for just one hour. That way, I can still make progress and not lose my desire to play. I could also lose my edge in the game when adding an additional table. I will deal with this by using my A- to C-game analysis to evaluate my play after each session and to make sure I’m avoiding big mistakes.


Tim just graduated from college and wants to spend a year traveling and playing professionally. He’s a profitable player, but tilt can be a big problem that really affects him on and off the table.

Results goal: Significantly reduce tilt within two months. Eliminate it within six months.

Process goals:

  • Initially, spend at least two hours per week attempting to under- stand the triggers, signs, and cause(s) of my tilt. Create a logic statement to deal with it while playing.
  • Regularly evaluate my anger and write about it in my journal. Do a mental hand history when needed, or review existing ones.
  • Identify the tactical mistakes I typically make while on tilt and create a strategic reminder to make sure that I don’t make these mistakes while playing.
  • Create a warm-up routine that prepares me to deal with tilt every time I play.
  • Stay vigilant!

Why is reducing tilt so important?

Normally, to deal with tilt I just wouldn’t play for a few weeks and every- thing would work itself out. But now, having to pay for traveling doesn’t give me the option to just not play. Plus, tilting and losing a bunch of money can put me in a really bad mood. I want to have an amazing year, and I not only want to enjoy traveling, I don’t want to avoid doing things because I’m titling money away at the poker table.

What obstacles might stand in your way?
How will you deal with them?
A bad run of cards early in the trip could really put a lot of pressure on me and that would only make my tilt worse. I’m going to deal with this by waiting an extra month to leave so I can save up some more money.

Tips for Setting and Achieving Goals

“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face.” —Mike Tyson, former heavyweight boxing champion

Your goals don’t have to be perfect from the start. If you’re still in the pro- cess of learning how to set goals, what’s required to accomplish goals, and how to evaluate progress, it would make sense to feel overwhelmed. The following tips can help make this process more manageable:

Define the end. A goal needs a clearly defined end point—otherwise, how will you know when you have reached it? It’s easy to determine the end points of results goals, such as “win X amount of money,” but how you do you know when you’ve “eliminated tilt” or “developed a good routine”? For process or quality goals such as these, you need to clearly define the end point at the same time that you set the goal. For example, you might determine that tilt will be eliminated when you have either three months of full-time play and/or have played through at least two severe downswings without making any big mistakes caused by anger. You’ll know you’re developing a good routine in poker when you’re consistently playing at a high level and don’t have to force yourself to do your routine before every session. Defining the end point also lets you know when you can pull back on your efforts a bit and feel satisfied by your hard-earned results.

Track progress. When you define a goal in great detail, you make your progress much easier to evaluate. If you have a process-oriented goal, such as “play with more focus,” create a written description of exactly what that means to you. You can then review your focus after each session to see if you made any progress. If you find you have a few common distractions that disrupt your focus, track their frequency in each session.

Set two targets. Since it’s hard to know exactly what you’re capable of achieving, set both a low target and a high target. For example, if you’re setting an hourly goal for the month, you could have a minimum target of 100 hours and a high target of 140. Make the minimum target something you feel confident you can achieve, and the high target something that really pushes you. That way, if you’re ahead of pace, you already have another target to aim for. If you’re behind, you still have another target within reach, which can dissuade you from giving up completely.

Execute. Achieving goals is similar to playing quality poker: You have to make a lot of correct decisions. From start to finish, you are faced with hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions that either lead you towards or away from your end goal. Even though you can’t be perfect in your execution, you must work hard to minimize and efficiently learn from your mistakes. If you’re finding it too hard to consistently make a lot of good decisions, your goal might be too far out of reach or your preparation might not be sufficient. Analyze the reason(s) that you’re struggling to execute and make the necessary adjustments.

Set a time frame. Setting a reasonable time frame for your goals can create a sense of urgency and priority, without adding stress. If your goal is to “beat $2/$4,” but you don’t set a deadline, you’re essentially allow- ing yourself forever to accomplish it. A timeline adds necessary structure to your goals and helps you to avoid procrastinating and wasting time. However, you don’t want to put excess pressure on yourself or feel overly rushed, especially because of variance. Make a good, reasonable esti- mate and hold yourself accountable for doing the work required to get there. Just remember, the more challenging and long-term the goal, the harder it is to predict exactly how long it will take. The time period you set when establishing the goal is not set in stone. Make sure to evaluate your progress regularly, so you can make adjustments without getting too far off track.

Set personal goals. Personal goals, such as buying a house, being more confident, or taking vacations, deepen your connection to poker and allow you to see how it fits into your life. When you can connect with poker on that personal level, it will intensify your focus and motivate you to be successful.

Find the right number. If you are struggling to achieve your goals, you may be trying to accomplish too much at once. The mind has a limited mental capacity, and the number of goals you can target at one time is limited as well. So, how many goals is the right number? That answer depends on their size and complexity. The smaller or easier the goal, the more of them you can handle. So, big goals, such as dominating $5/$10 in PLO, may need to be taken on one at a time. The ideal number depends on your own individual capacity. Setting a lot of goals isn’t necessarily a problem, just as long as you realize that progress is likely to be slower. The good thing is that you can always dial up the number if you’re not being pushed enough, or dial back the number if you’re being pushed too much.

Use constructive language. Avoid using negative language, such as “don’t tilt” and “stop making obvious mistakes.” Knowing what you don’t want to do is not the same as knowing what you want to do. Furthermore, stating what you don’t want doesn’t provide an accurate and clear end point. In these examples, you can alter the wording so instead they read, “Learn to control tilt, and eventually eliminate it,” and “Learn why I con- tinue to make terrible mistakes.” These might seem like they say similar things, but the revised wording is more constructive and identifies a clear and concise objective.

Make accurate comparisons. Looking at other players’ accomplish- ments can sometimes be useful in determining your own goals. However, you should avoid doing this unless you have enough knowledge to make an accurate comparison. Too often, players set goals that they think will be easy for them to achieve because a friend or another poker player was successful in achieving them. What’s easy for them isn’t always as easy for you, and vice versa. Comparisons are best made when you look beyond the results to understand their specific process and what skills were used to get there. Ask them. People often like talking about their successes—you might be surprised by what they’re willing to share. If you don’t get answers from them, try to avoid making the comparison at all.

Finish. When you work so hard at accomplishing a goal, such as winning a major tournament or establishing yourself at a new limit, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself as you near the end. Thoughts of what it would mean to win when you’re chip leader deep in a tournament can be distracting enough that they cause you to lose. Become comfortable too soon at a new limit, and you’ll stop making all the moves that made you profitable up until that point. Sprinters run through the finish line, they don’t stop right at it. So don’t stop working until you have completely seen your goals through to the end.

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