Setting goals is an important part of accomplishing most things.
Beginning poker players should have goals if they hope to advance to a level where they can beat the game.
I’ve included 4 of the biggest poker goals every beginner should set for their poker career below.
Each of these was a goal I had to reach before I started winning on a regular basis.
1 – Making the Most Profitable Decision
Your first goal as a poker player should be to always make the most profitable decision. To be a winning poker player you have to put yourself in profitable situations as often as possible.
When you start playing you don’t know if most situations are profitable or not.
You learn about profitable and unprofitable situations by playing and studying the game.
You’ll figure out quickly that in the long run it’s profitable to enter the pot with a pair of aces or kings and it’s unprofitable to play deuce seven.
But what do you do about all the hands in the middle?
Is it profitable to play a pair of 7’s?
Once of the biggest problems with most questions in poker is it depends. Here are two examples showing when a pair of 7’s should be played and when they shouldn’t. You can only learn what to play and not to play by experiencing these situations for yourself.
Example 1: You’re on the button and two players have limped into the pot. You should play the pair of 7’s every time in this situation. Whether or not you should call or raise is another important decision once you decide you should play the hand.
Example 2: You have the same pair of 7’s and are still on the button. The first player in the pot raises and you know from experience that she is a tight players who will only make this play with a very strong hand. Your guess is she has at least a pair of queens, but probably kings or aces. A middle position player moves all in before it’s your turn to act. In this case you need to fold every time. You don’t ever want to play for all your chips when your hand is almost certainly dominated by at least one of the other hands.
Once you start learning which situations are profitable you start trying to put as much money as possible into the pot in these situations. When you see situations where the situation isn’t profitable you put as little money in the pot as possible. This usually comes in the form of a fold, but sometimes you can check and get to see another card that can turn a poor situation into a better one.
2 – Become a Break Even Player – Beat the Rake
Once you master the art of always making the most profitable decision at the poker table becoming a break even player and beating the rake comes naturally.
No one can make the most profitable play every time they play, but the best players make more profitable plays than incorrect ones on a consistent basis.
It’s a great feeling when you finally start beating the rake. You know you still have work to do but all the hard work starts feeling like it was worth it.
3 – Earn Your First $100 Playing Poker
Once you get past being a break even player you’ll be on your way to making a little money. Keep track of all of your results so you know when you’ve made up for all of your losses and have made your first $100.
Once you make your first $100 set a new goal of $1,000. I bet it won’t be long before you reach it and continue on to an even bigger bankroll.
4 – Control Your Emotions
Controlling your emotions may seem like a minor goal when compared to the other three things in this post, but I’ve seen lack of emotional control destroy many poker careers.
If you can’t control your emotions at the poker table, or at least recognize when you’re losing control so you can get up and leave, there’s very little hope you’ll ever be able to play poker profitably.
Let me stress that last point further.
If you can’t control your emotions you can’t be a long term winning poker player.
I realize this may seem harsh, but when you lose control of your emotions you make poor decisions. Every single poor decision you make at the poker table costs you money in the long run.
Yes, professional poker players lose their cool on television all the time. I’ve seen Phil Hellmuth act like a child more than once on TV and he’s one of the best tournament poker players of all time.
I have two things to say about Hellmuth’s apparent loss of control. I’m not convinced that most of his actions aren’t a ploy to change how his opponents play. I think most of the time he’s in complete control and just wants the other players to think he’s on tilt.
The other thing is even if he does lose emotional control he quickly gets it back under control and still makes the right plays.
Most of us can’t make the right plays when we’re on tilt.
The best way to control your emotions is to envision all the possible scenarios for the situation. What are the best and worst that can happen? If your opponent hits her two outer on the river are you going to be able to remain calm and keep playing smart?
Start tracking your emotions and stop playing when they start getting out of control. Take a walk until you calm down and then get back to the game.
Use the 4 poker goals listed above to start playing better poker. If you concentrate on the first and fourth goals, you’ll be far ahead of most poker players in the world. It won’t be easy, but the journey will be worth it when you start winning more than you lose.