Starting Off Your New Poker Year Correctly

Whether you are a professional or just a casual player, the start of a new year wipes the slate clean for everyone involved in poker. Everyone’s reset back to zero as to winnings, there’s a fresh array of tournaments and cash games waiting (online or live) and the zeal to play the game has been reborn. With this in mind, here are a few suggestions to get your 2014 poker year off to a great start.

Set Your Goals

As with any endeavor, it is always important to set goals to aspire to. Depending on your depth of involvement with poker, those goals can be different for the recreational player or the embedded table grinder. Do you want to play more tournaments? Do you want to make a certain amount each month playing the game? Do you want to learn a new discipline of poker? These are all things that have to be considered.

Pull out a piece of paper (or a Word document) and put down five things that you would like to achieve over the next 12 months. Remember to not set the goals too low or too high; there is nothing that disappoints someone more than easily blasting through a list of achievements or, on the other hand, not reaching said goals. This is something that will take a great deal of honesty out of a person and they have to know their mindsets and playing expectations.

Myself, for example, I would like to play 12 tournaments this year. Doesn’t matter the buy-in, where it is or what game, just 12 events. I would like to also finish off a poker book that I am working on. I would like to show a profit for the year overall in both tournaments and cash games and…well, you get the point. Set these goals, put the document aside and look back at them on occasion through the year. If you knock off your list (or even knock off a couple of items), add in a new goal so that you always have five set goals to complete by December.

Erase the Slate

One of the most important things a poker player can do is have an accurate statistical Excel sheet (or a balance book) for their poker performance. This would encompass how much you’ve spent, what you’ve taken in and other “notes” that you make on your game throughout the year. Every poker player who is worth something has this system to track their performance and, if you haven’t already done so, it is important to set one up.

There are some programs online that will provide you with a method for tracking your monetary performance through the year, but it is easy to set one up yourself. Use an Excel spreadsheet and ACCURATELY track your buy-ins, cash outs and other statistics each time you play. The reason for the emphasis is that some players will even lie to themselves; they’ll put down their winning sessions but, disgusted by losing, those will be forgotten. Some players will say they are “winners” when, if they accurately put all of their performances on paper, they would see they are actually losing money at the game.

Do this throughout the year and you will see which side of the fence you are on.

Stimulate the Mind

Set up a way that, even if you aren’t playing poker, that you still are thinking about the game and improving yourself. Although the market has dwindled over the past few years, there are still some excellent poker books out there that might help you in this endeavor (we’ll be looking at some of those as January continues). You can also use poker computer games to challenge your skills.

This may sound a bit geeky, but I will sometimes just sit and deal out a nine-handed Texas Hold’em game by myself. I will look at each of the cards and determine what action the imaginary player would take in each position, then deal out the flop, turn and (sometimes) river as the hand plays out. If that’s a bit much, just deal out one or two sets of hole cards, throw up a flop and do the mental exercises (how many outs, chances of improving the hand, etc.) that you would do on the felt.

Have Something OTHER Than Poker

This is perhaps the biggest thing that poker players don’t do. When they are away from the tables, it is important to have something other than poker on your mind. Read a novel, go to a concert, interact with family and friends…these are all good suggestions for the “balanced” life that is necessary for success in any endeavor. While poker is great, there are other things in life that can be better and it is important to not forget those.

Using these thoughts, you might set yourself up to be well-rounded, rested and prepared for what the 2014 poker year throws at you and the success that it might bring! What would be some of your suggestions for starting off the “new” poker year correctly?

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