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Achieve Your SMART Poker Goals in 2022


Sky Matsuhashi

on January 6, 2022

I help you develop SMART poker goals and a plan of action to help you succeed in 2022.

Listen to the podcast as you follow along below:

2022 Begins…

I love creating goals. They spur me to take action to achieve the things I want in poker and in life.

But here’s the thing for me; goals aren’t enough. I must also create action steps that push me towards my goal, and make it more likely I’ll accomplish it.

The way I see it:

A goal is the thing you’re striving for, but a plan of action will guide you toward your goal and make it more likely you’ll achieve it.



Example Goal: Winning a WSOP Bracelet

Let’s imagine you want to win your first WSOP bracelet this year.

The problem with making this a goal is that “winning” isn’t in your control. You can’t control whether or not you win. Your AA could get cracked by KK at the final table.

Even if you play in every event, it’s not guaranteed you’ll win a bracelet.

So, you decide instead to make a goal that you can control. Here it is:

I will play in a $1,500 bracelet event at the WSOP in hopes of winning my first bracelet.

Perfect, you have control of whether or not you go to Vegas, plunk the cash down for your entry, take your seat and play.

Is there anything else you can do to help you achieve this goal and potentially win a bracelet?

  • Maybe you need to save up for the $1,500 entry fee. Plan of Action #1: “I will save $300 for each of the next 5 months for the $1,500 entry fee.” Bam! Buy-in covered.
  • Maybe you need to improve your tournament skills with as much play as possible. Plan of Action #2: “I will play in the Wednesday night and Sunday tournaments every week through May.” Bam! Loads of LIVE tourney practice.
  • And lastly, you want the best chance of winning so you need to improve your tourney skills before you head to Vegas. Plan of Action #3: “I will study a new tournament video each week, take notes and practice the strategies in the twice weekly tournaments.” Bam! You’re studying and building your skills.

You can see how this plan of action of saving money and playing more tournaments and studying/applying strategy will give you a better chance of achieving your dream of winning a WSOP bracelet this year.


Missed Your Dream, ????, But… ????

Let’s say you did this. You followed through with your plan of action and accomplished all 3. You played the bracelet event… but didn’t win a bracelet. Bummer.

That’s okay because here’s the bright side: You are now closer to being the kind of poker player that can achieve the dream of winning a bracelet:

Doing these three things has turned you into a better poker player.

So, let me help you achieve your goals with the SMART philosophy that I follow.


I help my student, Maverick, create a bankroll building goal:


Achieve Your SMART Goals in 2022 and beyond

What is your goal? What's that thing that will greatly move your life’s needle?

For me, I like to choose goals that move the needle forward, but that don’t require a very long time to achieve. The reason for this is because it’s hard for me to keep focus for too long, so I’ve never been able to achieve year-long goals.

My enthusiasm and focus for long-term goals wanes over time.

Instead, I now create 1 or 2-month goals (sometimes even 1-2 week goals).

Here is my first poker goal for January and February of 2022:

I will play 2,000 hands of cash games per month in January and February in order to become a better player and coach.

Reason: I only played 17,000 hands last year. If I can play 2,000 hands per month for the first two months, I’ll be on track to play 24,000 hands in 2022 which is a 41% increase. Why do I want to play more hands? I feel that the more I play, the better I get, the more I can teach my students and Poker Forge members. Playing more will hopefully lead me to being a better player, which will hopefully in turn make me a better coach.


Create SMART Goals

My poker goal fits the SMART philosophy.

SMART is an acronym which stands for:

  • Specific – A specific goal is very clear and says exactly what actions you will take. No vagueness here.
  • Measurable – This means that we can assign a quantifiable and trackable number. Measurable goals are better because you either hit them or you don’t and you know exactly what you’re striving for.
  • Actionable – This means that your goal begins with an action word (verb), not what you want to be or achieve.
  • Relevant – This means it’s something you want to achieve and doing so will improve your life in some way.
  • Time-bound – This means that you give yourself either a deadline or a specific time frame to achieve the goal.

Here’s a basic formula for your SMART goal: I will [verb, quantifiable] in order to [dream].


Create a Plan of Action

Now, you want to create a plan of action that will help you achieve your goal. These also follow the SMART philosophy.

It’s critical that you plan of action are things within your control, they’re actionable and they’ll put you closer to achieving your goal.

Let’s look at my goals and my plan of action for each:

Poker Goal: I will play 2,000 hands of cash games per month in January and February.

Plan of Action #1: I will play 60-minute long, 4-table sessions every Thursday and Friday at noon. This is 250+ hands per session.

Plan of Action #2: If I fail to play one of these sessions, I will make up for it by playing a 75-minute session on Saturday morning before the family wakes up.

Plan of Action #3: If I achieve my goal of playing 2,000 hands in January, I’ll consider upping my goal to 2,500 hands in February and add 2 more play sessions in the month to reach the higher goal.

These all follow the SMART philosophy.

If we do the math, playing 4 tables for 60 minutes will be 250+ hands. There are 8 Thursdays and Fridays in January and in February. This will give me at least 2,000 hands each month and with Saturdays and the extra 15 minutes, this will be a buffer to ensure I hit my goal.


Now What?

Now that I’ve laid out my goals and plans of action, what’s next?

I must get to work accomplishing my goal.

Action is the greatest teacher, and taking action is also the only way to achieve goals.

So, starting this week, I’ll be following my plan of action. So I’ll be playing on Thursday and Friday at noon.

And, I’m not sure if telling all of you about my goal is a good idea, but oh well. Now that you know, hopefully the pressure of not wanting to fail in front of everyone will push me to follow my plan of action and complete my goal.


Goal Achievement Insights

Here are some insights to help you achieve your goals:

  • Short-term goals are easier to hit as it’s easier to stay motivated and on-task for 1-6 weeks instead of 52 weeks (a full year).
  • Break it up into easier to manage milestone goals.
  • Map out what needs to happen in order for you to likely achieve your goals.
  • Schedule the items in your plan of action. For me, I blocked off my Thursdays and Fridays at noon to play. It’s my job to now keep these appointments each week through January and February.
  • If applicable and you have people with similar goals, get them involved because attaining goals is always easier to do as a team.
  • Possibly use accountability and let others know of your goal, preferably people who are invested in your success.
  • Periodic assessment of your progress will ensure you’re on the right track and will allow you to make the necessary changes for you to achieve by the deadline you’ve set.



Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Download the SMART Goals Worksheet and create 1 new goal for January, and create a plan of action to help you achieve your goal.

Good luck and have fun pursuing your goals!

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.


The Story Continues…

Going Back To Basics For A-Game Poker Play

Now that I've achieved my two hand playing goals for January and February (5,000 hands total), it's time to assess my play.

Listen to this podcast episode:

My results for the first two months (Hero is on Ignition Poker, WackyJuan is on Americas Cardroom):

I was down about 4 buy-ins in January, but made almost all of it back in February. I'm happy with my almost break-even results.

However, I'm sorely disappointed in my quality of play: too much C-game poker ????

The mistakes I made which led to C-game play:

  • I didn't do any pre-session warm-ups
  • I didn't choose a strategy focus for my sessions
  • Drank alcohol during the session (sometimes)
  • I forced myself to play 4+ tables from the start of each session (to achieve my hands goal)

Watch this podcast on YouTube as I go through my PokerTracker 4 database:


The 5 things I'll do to get back to my winning ways:

  1. Warm-up with a hand reading exercise with a tagged hand (prime my mind for A-game play).
  2. Choose a strategy focus and use an applicable tick sheet. I'll also have a notebook for the month to track my warm-ups and focuses.
  3. Start with 2 tables, 15 minutes in, add more if I'm playing A-game poker.
  4. Have my KISS Cash Game Ranges in hand so that I can notice if I'm straying from them.
  5. Goal: Play 3 Hours/Week


Take Action

If you're NOT playing your A-game, figure out why that is. Then, make a plan to get back to your A-game winning ways, and impliment it throughout the month. Reassess at the end of the month and adjust as necessary.


Support the Show

Thanks to these incredible poker peeps for getting my new Flopzilla Pro Course: Rob Corkum, Gennaro D'atri, Jim Meisel, Clint Dickerson, Dennis Pedersen, Robert Brown, Roy Nichols, Larry Domin and Tom Prost.


Sky Matsuhashi

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