Whether it’s the end of the year, the end of a downswing, or the start of moving up in stakes, setting goals is an important exercise.

Too many players make the mistake of simply playing the game, and thinking that having heart will give them long-term success. It takes heart, for sure, but brains are a big part too. This doesn’t just mean having the mental game together, it includes setting clear goals using the SMART methodology.

How to Set SMART Goals

If you’re not familiar, SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Boxed

If you have SMART goals, you know their power because you’ve achieved goals previously.

If you’ve never had SMART goals, James goes into detail on each bullet point. Trust us, once you make SMART goals part of your poker routine, you will never look back. You will wonder how you ever played poker without goals.

Specific Poker Goals

First, be specific in stating your goal. Avoid the common mistake of stating a goal starting with “I want”. Start with a verb. Saying, “I want” is a wish. We are actually going to accomplish these goals — they’re not dreams, they’re realities that haven’t happened yet.

Don’t set a vague goal like, “I want to study more.” Set an extremely specific goal, like, “I’m going to study at least 30 minutes every Monday.”

Or, “I want to be a better 3-bettor” becomes:

  • I’m going to learn how to find more light 3-bets
  • I’m going to learn when to widen my value 3-bet range
  • I’m going to improve my play with AK when I 3-bet and miss the flop

• Related Article: Planning for Poker Success

Measurable Poker Goals

“I’m going to play X number of hours per month.” or “I’m going to watch 1 poker training video every day for 30 days.” That’s a nice, measurable goal. You’ll know when you’re achieving it, and you’ll feel an even greater sense of accomplishment than had you stumbled luckily into good fortune, because success built on goals you set is all the sweeter. Measuring them is key.

Attainable Poker Goals

Set goals that are challenging but attainable. This is a best practice of professionals across all number of industries, and poker is no exception. You must strive for goals that push your skills to their edges, and force you to improve through study, strategy, execution and iteration, thus extending your ability to profit.

An attainable poker goal is grounded in reality, something that makes sense. Yet it is also something that would be enough of a milestone accomplishment in your poker career that you felt the goal was worth the months of hard work in pursuit.

Another often-overlooked aspect of attainability relates to the number of poker goals and other life goals you choose to take on. Your ability to complete a goal quickly diminishes with each goal added to your list. Keep your poker goals to a limited, manageable number. You don’t need a shopping list, you need a short list that’s realistically attainable given your time and bankroll.

Especially when your goal is volume-based — and many poker goals are at least somewhat related to volume — be realistic and set something that is attainable.

Relevant Poker Goals

You have to think about how your specific, attainable poker goal is relevant to your overall strategy. Do all your goals work together in harmony, or does one seem like the odd one out? Do you have items that would better fit on a “wish list” than a “survival guide” of core goals that work together toward reaching your goals?

Time-Boxed Poker Goals

Time is the element out of the five SMART goal guidelines that ties everything together. In a way, it’s an aspect of both “specific” and “measurable” — you need your goal to be bound to a particular time to drive it to completion.

While thinking about achieving goals or resolutions for the year is a great way to get inspired, you need to start thinking in monthly, weekly, and especially daily terms.

Goals with smaller time boxes are much easier to accomplish, period. Goals with big time boxes need to be broken into their constituent parts. Among other things, priorities shift and tackling tasks and goals in small time boxes gives you the flexibility to adapt to the shifting winds of the real world.

SplitSuit’s Goals

Sweeney set two goals for 2015, and he shares them with the audience:

Walk 15 miles per week – He crushed it! It was specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to his health goals and time-boxed in a week.

Write a poker book in 2015 – Fail. And first off, you can tell Sweeney is being honest with himself… he’s got the cajones to share his failures with an international audience! That’s poker coach mental game zen for you.

Of course, as Sweeney points out, the goal may have been doomed from the start. It was non-specific and difficult to measure (could have specified topic, pages per day, other milestones). It was going to be difficult to attain and maintain relevance to his focus on other matters. And the time box was huge — that was the big issue. You can’t take a year to write a book. Time box a chapter. Time box an outline. Time box until the goal is both challenging and attainable.

Share Your Goals

Accountability is also a hugely important part of achieving goals, and public declaration of your resolutions is a massive help to achieving them.

Get in our 2016 poker goals forum thread right now and state your goals.

We can’t tell you how important accountability is for achieving the goals you set in life, so get in there and make a pledge to the community.