Poker Goals: A Complete Guide for the Serious Poker Player

poker goals

When I first started playing I just went through the poker aimlessly. Goals seemed pointless because poker was just a game, one that you didn’t have loads of control over the outcome of. But, as you gain experience and take poker seriously, you’ll realise that goals are a useful thing to have in place. They can give you focus, motivation and drive. In this post, I’m going to discuss poker goals, what kind of goals to set, how to set them, how often to refer to them and how to meet your goals.

Types of Goals

There’s several types of poker goals you can set. It is important to recognise that what’s important to one person is irrelevant to another. We all have priorities, and they will probably change throughout your poker career too. No goal is more important than any other in this article. So, here’s a list of different poker goals that can be set. As you read through them, single out one or two that might be appropriate for you.

Moving Up Stakes

One goal a cash game player can set is to move up stakes by a certain point. Having this as a goal can be something to strive for when putting in loads of hours online.

Increasing Hourly Win Rate

This is one of my favourite goals to set as it is tangible and shows the extra value. It’s tangible as what you earn extra per hour is a measurement of your success and also valuable to your bankroll.

Hitting a Specific ITM or ROI

For tournament players, success is measured in their ROI or in the money rate. Setting a specific target is a decent goal for tournament players. Most serious tournament poker players will want to measure one or both of these metrics so setting a goal to hit one is great e.g. 20% ITM rate or 40% ROI.

Winning a Seat into a Tournament

Playing a major tournament is a dream for many. Setting this as a goal is a nice way to strive for something special as you’ll never forget it. I was fortunate enough to win seats into a few WSOPE and WPT events and the experience of playing them are amazing, not to mention you get the opportunity to play for life changing money.

To Play X Number of Hours

A lot of poker players struggle to put in the time they want to play. Setting a goal to play X amount of hours a week or month is a good goal to set as you have that frequent reminder.

Master a Certain Strategy or Concept

If you are a beginner or intermediate poker player, working on a certain area of your game can be a great goal to set. It’s impossible to conquer a complex game like Texas Hold’em quickly. That’s why picking specific areas to focus on and master can be a brilliant idea.

How to Set Poker Goals

How you set them is up to you. There a few ways you can go about it. I liked to write them up, print it off and stick them somewhere that I can see. Others like to set goals on their mobiles as a list. Then, when you hit them you can tick them off (very satisfying!). You could also write them on your calendar or notepad – whatever works for you.

Two other things to consider about poker goals is time and difficulty. Firstly, goals need a time limit on them, otherwise you’ll have the same goal for 10 years. There’s nothing wrong with setting multiple goals within a larger goal though. For instance, if you want to move up from NL $25, you may set goal 1 to be move to NL $50 in 3 months and a second goal to reach NL $100 in 12 months.

Secondly, the difficulty of a goal needs to strike a balance between challenging but realistic. Winning the WSOP is not a realistic goal when it costs lots of money and you have to face against 10,000 players. Conversely, winning a SNG with 9 players is too easy. A goal of making a top 3 within the next 50 tournaments is a more realistic but also challenging goal to set.

Example of how to set poker goals.

Changing Your Goals

It’s good practice to refer to your goals every once in a while. I recommend doing this once a month, pick a date like end of month or first of month, and see how you’re doing. If the goal is unrealistic or too easily completed, you are free to change your goal(s). There’s no law saying once you have set a goal, you must keep it. Perhaps you change the format or game you play, then you can add or change your current poker goals to more appropriate ones.

How to Meet Your Poker Goals

It’s all well and good setting challenging, motivating poker goals but it’s another thing to actually hit them. Meeting goals, in life and in poker, requires dedication and hard work. If you’ve set decent goals, they won’t be easy to hit so you will be pushed to reach them. But that’s brilliant as it will make the prize more satisfying and rewarding.

Ultimately, it depends on the goals you’ve set how you will meet them. Below are a few tips based on the types of goals mentioned earlier.

Goal How to Reach it
Moving up stakes Track your win rate, pick your games carefully and ensure you are playing the optimum amount of tables. Set stop loss limits so you protect your bank roll when you run bad too and exercise proper bankroll management.
Increasing your hourly win rateTo improve your win rate is similar to moving up stakes except you need to work harder away from the table too. Improve your knowledge by reading poker books, working on your leaks and discussing poker hands. We offer hand history review service for players to identify potential leaks and suggest improvements.
Hitting a specific ITM or ROI You need to take mtts seriously, pick the right games, play on soft sites and have patience and emotional control. Tournaments are mental warfare and you need to be mentally strong to secure a decent ITM rate.
Winning a seat into a tournamentIf you’re keen to satellite into a major live tournament, you need to do some research online. Find the best satellites and spend some money and time finding out which satellites to play.
To play X number of hoursTo meet this type of goal requires freeing up time in your week and setting priorities. It might mean sacrificing football on a Saturday or a Friday night drink with friends.
Master a certain strategy or conceptTo fully grasp a key poker strategy is not easy. You can spend countless hours online reading material or watching YouTube content but how do you know the content is correct? I recommend discussing with a poker coach or taking a course. We offer two poker courses, one on bluffing and one on continuation betting. These courses took me months to create and a labour of love for players wanting to fully grasp these fundamental aspects of poker. Go to our poker courses page for more information.

Conclusion on Poker Goals

As you can see, setting goals is a practical thing to use for a poker player. It keeps us motivated and something to aspire to. Its also something to measure against. By setting goals, we can see how close or far away we are from reaching where we want to be. I’m a big fan of them and highly recommend you start setting goals. You can expect to reap benefits of them just by thinking and writing them down.

If you are not very organised and want to start tracking your performance, we offer a unique reporting service. We use poker spreadsheets to enter your data and produce monthly reports specific for you. Click below if this is of interest and take advantage of our free quote too.

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Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: