Final part of our setting goals series with Team Online

In the last of our three part series on setting yourself poker goals for 2016, members of PokerStars Team Online talk about their own goals, and offer some practical help in what you should be doing to improve your game over the next 12 months. Whether you're a veteran or an absolute beginner we're sure you'll find something of use below.

As before we asked out pros the same five questions:

1) What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?
2) What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?
3) Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?
4) What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?
5) What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

The answers were varied as they were interesting, with the bottom line being that there's no one right way to do things. Either way, the following advice should help you as you plot your progress for the year.


Marc-André "FrenchDawg" Ladouceur


Started playing in 2009


Marc-Andre_Ladouceur_tips_27jan16.jpgMarc-Andre "FrenchDawg" Ladouceur

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

Give yourself the time to learn the game(s) and start off with 1 or 2 tables. Write down before each session how long, how many tournaments or hands you want to play. It'll help you not get carried away. I think it's good to set a budget at first. How much are you willing to gamble? If things go wrong how much can you afford to lose? This is can be a lump sum or a weekly/monthly allocation and it'll help you control yourself.

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

I'd recommend for new players to start off with short sessions but if you are in a long tournament grind (Congrats!!), avoid outside distractions such as TV so you can be 100% focused on playing your best when it counts.

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

When I first started I set up some really high volume goals - 150K hands a month. Looking back it was probably too much but it worked out well. I also spent five hours a week studying the game and opponents.

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?

If you're not familiar with all the rules, I suggest you study that first. Once you're comfortable at a table, I'd keep studying at least 30% of the time you devote to poker. PokerSchoolOnline has great content to help you improve. Forums such as 2+2 are other great sources for learning

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

Don't set up monetary goals, they're often not indicative of your play. Make sure you don't set goals that include moving up in stakes too high and/or too quickly.


Liliya "Liay5" Novikova


Started playing in 2010


Liliya Novikova_tips_27jan16.jpgLiliya "Liay5" Novikova

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

First of all you should be well organized and disciplined in poker. You should share your time between training practice and theory

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

You should sleep well before grinding. You can watch motivating videos or read an article and make your workplace comfortable.

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

My main goal was to become PokerStars Pro Online and to achieve it I played a lot, worked on my game and moved up through the limits

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?
70/30 practice/studying

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?
The most important thing is to set short goals which you can achieve fast. e.g. to play 100 tournaments with good win rates.


Katerina "katerina289" Malasidou


Started playing in 2010


katerina_malasidou_tips_27jan16.jpgKaterina "katerina289" Malasidou

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

It's unrealistic for beginning players to set money or volume goals. I think the ultimate goal for a new player is to try to improve a bit each day. As long as each day that goes by you are better than the day before, you'll do fine. Create a solid base of poker knowledge and keep building on it bit by bit. That's what's going to take you to the next level

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

When I know that I'll be playing for a lot of hours in a row I try to prepare in advance by making sure I'm well rested and having water and snacks around me while playing. My main goal for the session is to maintain a high level of focus. If at any point I realize I'm getting tired and I'm not playing as well as I should then I take a break, or when that's not possible I lower the number of tables I'm playing.

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

I believe it was a combination of two things: 1) Sticking to the schedule and 2) Having a bankroll management plan. I made a schedule for the week and I tried to respect it as much as possible. If the time you have for poker, regardless of whether it is an hour or an entire day, is integrated in your weekly routine then you are more likely to stick to it. Having a bankroll management plan also makes a huge difference. How you manage your money is something that has to be prepared in advance and not a decision you take in the heat of the moment. That way you avoid playing a tournament that you shouldn't because it's too expensive for what you can afford, but you also take shots at higher stakes when your bankroll allows you to instead of staying at the comfort/security of the stakes you are currently playing.

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?

I think that at the beginning it should be something like 80% studying and 20% playing. That is something that beginners won't necessarily like to hear since at the beginning all you want to do is go straight to the tables, but studying makes a world of difference. As you progress, you should slowly change the two percentages until they are inverted and it's 80% playing, 20% studying. Note that even when you reach a level where you're actually good you should not quit studying. It's a very competitive game and you need to somehow stay ahead of your competition or at least keep up.

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

You need to be honest with yourself above everything else. It may sound like a good idea to come back from work and then work another four hours on your poker game, but can you actually do it? You plan to not go out in the weekend and grind poker non-stop instead, but when the time comes will you feel bad for giving up all of your leisure time? You plan to play 12 tables and put in some volume, but what if you are not on top of your game when you open more than nine? A lot of goals are unreachable because they are not realistic.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to spend some time with your friends or family over the weekend, taking some time to relax after work, knowing your limits and so on. Just be honest with yourself when setting your goals. If you find that they were a bit too easy to achieve then push yourself a bit harder next time. That's much better than setting an impossible goal and getting disappointed from the start.


Andre "acoimbra" Coimbra


Started playing in 2005


andre_coimbra_tips_27jan16.jpgAndre "acoimbra" Coimbra

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

Make sure you improve every day a bit, because that's a lot of improvement in a year, and enough to become a master in a lifetime!

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

I like to focus on quality goals that I can control, so I suggest focusing on applying the concepts you just learned and try to not make the same mistakes you did in the past.

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

Winning a lot of money playing a game!

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?

At least half of the time studying, maybe more depending on the student. Some students learn more by playing, others by studying, so you can adjust the 50% a bit there.

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

Don't set goals that we can't control! We control our plays, but not their outcome. We control our actions but not our emotions (at least on the short term). We control our bankroll management, but not our swings, etc.


Celeste "LadyMaCe86" Oroná


Started playing in 2011


celest_orona_tips_27jan16.jpgCeleste "LadyMaCe86" Oroná

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

If you are just starting your main goals should be to learn and enjoy the game. Every player has a different way to study poker: some prefer to watch instructional videos or live sessions on Twitch, others learn better by reviewing hand histories or discussing strategy on internet forums. It doesn't matter what you do, but make sure you do something.

Do not worry about your playing volume at first: when I started playing poker I had a full time job and I could only play a couple of cash sessions during the weekends. So it doesn't matter if you can't play a lot in the beginning, but do your best so that you are fully focused and aware during those few sessions you make every week. And also, don't forget that we play this game because we love it. Try not to focus too much on your win rate at first because this will lead to unnecessary stress. And what should be about fun and excitement ends up being a constant chase for short term results, which is always counterproductive.

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

Usually my goals before starting a session are related to improving my mental game. For example, to play a two-hour session without looking at my phone or checking social media, or to be aware of any small symptoms of tilt and finishing the session if I realize that I am not in a good mental state to play poker. If that happens I prefer to go for a walk or go to the gym and come back later.

Never set goals in terms of results for a poker session: variance can be huge in the short term! Avoid tilt, have a good attitude, focus on your games and results will eventually arrive.

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

I think the key for me was to set achievable goals but to dream big at the same time. If you play microstakes it would not make sense to set "to become a nosebleeds player" as a goal: goals should motivate you and it won't happen if they seem too hard and far way. But at the same time you should keep in mind what is the true reason why you want to achieve your goal.

So for example, if your goal is to be playing 50NL by the end of 2016, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because you would like to become a professional poker player? Why do you want to do that? Is it because of the lifestyle? Are you looking for recognition? Or is it a personal challenge for you?

When I started playing poker I used to set goals in terms of how much I had to study every week and to become a winning player at the next stake, but if I was willing to put so much effort into it, it was because I knew I ultimately wanted the freedom of playing poker for a living and being my own boss. I think that having a short term and possible goal but also a big dream in mind was what motivated me to keep working hard every day.

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?

It varies from person to person. However I believe that when you are just starting out your main focus should be on studying the game. Think of every session as a learning opportunity. Mark hands and review them later, ask other players for their opinion and remember that we all make mistakes. Learning from them is what will make you grow as a player

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

Do no set goals for short term results. I often see players setting goals like: "win at 4bb/100 over the next 50.000 hands" or " have a $1,000 bankroll in a month". Before doing so try a variance simulator online (you can find them for free with a Google search) and see how huge variance can be over small samples. Goals like the ones cited above are pointless and will only disappoint you when you don't achieve them. Focus on those factors you have direct control over, like volume and studying. If you do that I can guarantee you that results will follow.

Luka "LukaSteel" Kovač


Started playing in 2005


Luka_steel_tips_27jan16.jpgLuka "LukaSteel" Steel

1. What goals would you suggest for a beginning player?

This might sound a bit corny, but I think the goal for a beginning player should be just to have fun at the tables. Sure, winning money is always nice, but if you are not having fun in the process, you might start resenting poker, which would be a shame because it is such a great game.

I get a lot of questions from beginners, which games they should play/which games are the most profitable. And I always answer with asking THEM, which games THEY like to play and enjoy the most. So these are the games they should play. Your primary goal should be having fun at the tables. You can always switch to a different variant later down the road, if you need to. Games are not going anywhere...

2. What goals to set yourself in order to grind a long tournament or poker session?

This is something that I practice from time to time. I get a piece of paper and on it, I write down my goals for the session. I write down what I expect from myself and from my poker game, what's the longest that I can play my A-game, what leaks I need to correct, what I have to be careful not do to, things that I noticed from a certain players at the table, and so on... And then, before every session, I read that piece of paper, I read what my goals and expectations for the session are. This way I ensure that I remember them as detailed as possible and as long as possible in a grinding session. Besides that, this piece of paper is always close to me, so I can have a quick peek if needed - as a reminder not to stray away from the goals.

I also always start my long poker sessions with a "clean slate". That means, before I open PokerStars client, I close down Skype, web browser, media player, outlook and anything else that might distract me during my play. Of course I also don't open them until I'm finished, or else there would be no point, right?

3. Thinking back to when you started playing poker, what goals do you think led you to becoming pro?

I was lucky enough to learn really early as a beginner, that discipline is one of the key elements in poker success. So my goal was that I was going to be as disciplined a player as I can be. My very first order of business was choosing limit hold'em over no-limit. Fixed limit is considered a "safer option", perfect for a beginner: easier to manage your bankroll, easier to learn pot odds, counting outs and getting your poker fundamentals. Besides that, it is also tougher to spew away your stack, because as we know, limit hold'em doesn't have that scary all-in button.

Everyone who is following me is probably already sick of hearing me talk about discipline, but I truly believe this is one of the most important things in poker. Even if you are the greatest player in the world, without the discipline, it's just a matter of time before something goes bad.

4. What percentage do you feel a beginning player should be playing poker compared to studying poker?

When I took poker a bit more seriously and started studying some learning materials, I read these crazy percentages for playing vs. studying. Some articles and books advised a 70:30 or even 80:20 in favour of studying. Now, almost ten years later, when I look back I see what a nonsense that was.

I'm sure that some poker pros won't agree with me here, but I believe these percentages should be reversed (at best!). So 20% of studying and 80% of playing. Again, at best. Like I mentioned before, poker should be a fun activity, especially for beginners. Frustrating an inspiring poker player with studying is just not the way to go. But do remember one thing. Studying doesn't just mean reading a poker book, you also study by discussing hands with your poker buddies (just leave out the bad beat stories) or watching a livestream on Twitch.tv (just pick wisely who're you going to watch - PSO and Team Pro Online *hint* *hint*). This way you can hit those 20% pretty fast.

5. What should we avoid when setting our goals so that we have a realistic chance of achieving them?

People are watching EPT final tables or online high stakes cash games and dreaming of becoming professional players themselves. Nothing is wrong with having a dream, but setting your goals too high is never a good thing. If you are a beginner who's playing micro stakes and your goal is to become a poker pro... That is probably not going to end well.

If you are serious about poker, my advice would be to take poker as a serious hobby, because this is exactly how I did it. Of course I had a dream, but I never had a goal of becoming a professional. Actually quite a contrary - I even got my degree in Multimedia production and I can clearly remember telling my girlfriend that I won't turn pro (and she never forgets to point that out as well). But all of a sudden, my serious hobby started bringing some money and one thing lead to another and here I am today.

So my whole point here is, just be realistic and don't set your goals to high. Maybe even forget about long term poker plan and just focus on short term goals and go step by step.


You can set your own poker goals for 2016, and receive expert tuition to help achieve them at PokerSchoolOnline. You'll find all sorts of resources, from videos, tips, and general advice that will help you improve your game whatever level you play. Go to the PokerSchoolOnline homepage for all the details.

This is the third of three articles about setting your own poker goals for 2016. You can read Part 1 HERE, and Part II HERE.


Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.