Setting Poker Goals for 2015 - Your Guide to a Breakthrough Year

Setting Poker Goals for 2015 - Your Guide to a Breakthrough Year
Hey everyone, I hope you have had a great start to the new year! I wanted to wait a little bit before publishing this post because right after new year's eve is when everybody is in a frenzy about their resolutions and emotions are guiding their actions more than anything else. By the second and third week all the people who were merely talking (and not actually committed to taking consistent action) have started to give up. This post is for those who are serious about taking the necessary steps in 2015 to have a breakthrough year in poker. I want to speak to the people who are still grinding hard but don't have a clear direction for the year yet.

Each time the new year rolls around I think it is a good idea to look at where you are in poker, where you want to be and make goals for the coming year. This is something that a lot of people do on a monthly basis already. However, when you look at the entire year it is much easier to see the big picture. With proper bankroll management and a solid work ethic both at the poker tables and away from them it is certainly possible to be playing four or even five stakes higher than you currently are by the end of the year. This is the kind of progress that most people are looking for. It is not going to happen overnight though.

It also makes sense to set poker goals at the beginning of the year because many online poker rooms such as Pokerstars have a yearly based rakeback program. This means that your player points count is reset to zero every January 1st. The points that you accumulate all year long determine which level you reach in the rakeback program. The upper tiers of course is where most of the big money is. Therefore you want to be clear on what your rakeback goals are from the start of the year rather than starting your planning in September.

So in this article I am going to go over what I think are some of the best ways to reach your goals at the poker tables this year. If you haven't reached the success that you have wanted in the past it is time to forget about that now and focus on what you can do to start turning your results around in 2015. So let's get started!

1) Consistent Play

This is really so much more important that anything else. If you can't find the time to play poker on a regular basis then you are not going to get the results that you want, period. 

We all have busy lives but the truth is that if success in this game means enough to you then you will find the time to get an hour or two of play in each day even if you have a full time job or student work load. It is important that you schedule this at the same time each day.

Back in 2007 when I last had a "real job" I would work the typical 9-5 all day in an office. Every night when I got home I would make a quick dinner and then hit the tables. On the weekends of course I would try to play all day and then have a social life at night. 

I would literally play every single day and I actually managed to put in more hands than most professionals. Why? Because I made my success in poker a priority in my life. If you really want to make it happen in this game then you have to do the same.

Action: Set a specific time period when you will play poker every single day unless there is an emergency. Minimum 7 hours a week. Everybody can find one hour a day if success in this game is a priority for you.

See my ultimate poker beginner cheat sheet for much more on this by the way.

2) Consistent Study

This is also very important in today's games. You need to make sure that you are constantly improving. Playing all the time is huge part of this for a lot of people, myself included. I learn the best through my own mistakes. However, regular study is still important. I need to analysis those mistakes in PokerTracker for instance. I try to watch (and take notes) on at least one training video a week. I try to keep up with the latest poker literature. I discuss hands with poker friends. Sometimes I might even hire a coach.

Now I don't do all of this every single day but I make time at least on a couple occasions each week. Back when I had a full time job I would often do a one hour session review of the entire week's play on Saturday morning. This would help me identify mistakes in individual hands and make sure that my play was solid overall. On Sunday morning I would often do a one hour database review in order to look for overall changes that could be made to my game often by studying the best players at the stakes that I was playing. During the week I would designate an hour on a Wednesday for instance to watch and take notes on a training video that was highly relevant to the games that I play in.

Action: Set a couple of specific times each week (3 or 4 hours minimum) that are dedicated to studying the game in a variety of ways.

3) Make Hand Goals Not Monetary Goals

 If you look back through the history of this blog (before I revealed who I was and had any readers) you will see that for years almost all of my entries were about how many hands I played that day and if I was on pace for my monthly goals. 

Notice that I didn't mention money anywhere. We cannot control our short term results in this game. We can control our volume of play however. So along with playing and studying consistently you should have concrete goals on how much you are going to play each month.

Action: Set monthly goals for number of hands played. I would say that 50k hands a month should be the rock bottom for anyone who is serious about succeeding in this game (6max or full ring).

4) Set Moving Up Targets

This is another area where a lot of people fail because they do not have the proper planning in place. You should always practice good bankroll management but you don't need 90 buyins for the next limit before you move up! I think 40 is more than enough. So say you are playing NL10 right now and your bankroll has hit $1000. 

This is 40 buyins for NL25. You should immediately move up and give yourself an 8 buyin shot for instance. If your bankroll dips below $800 at any point then you move back down to NL10 and grind it back to $1000. If you stay above $800 though, then you continue to play at NL25 until you reach $2000 which is 40 buyins for NL50.

This is just an example but you can see how having the proper planning in place can make things extremely simple. You can adjust the metrics upwards or downwards depending on your preference. 

However, if moving up 4 or 5 limits this year is a priority of yours then you need to set targets on when you are going to move up and when you are going to move down as well. 

Failure will happen and it is important not to beat yourself up about it. Remember that we are planning out an entire year here. There will be many ups and downs.

Action: Set specific bankroll targets for when you will move up and when you will move down. Stick to these throughout the entire year no matter what.

See my free poker cheat sheet for much more on this.

5) Set Rakeback Targets

As I mentioned before, many poker rooms these days operate a yearly based rakeback program. If you play on Pokerstars for instance then you should plan where you want to be by the end of the year. Even if you are playing NL2 right now you can still achieve Supernova and maybe even a milestone bonus with consistent play and moving up throughout the year.

So first things first get your current VPP per hand and do some calculations. You can simply look at how many VPPs you have before a session and then how many you have at the end. Divide the difference by the number of hands that you played. Here are some very rough VPP per hand estimates from my experience.

NL2: 0.02
NL5: 0.03
NL10: 0.04
NL25: 0.09
NL50: 0.14
NL100: 0.25

So let's assume you play NL10 right now once again. At 0.04 VPP per hand if you play 100k hands per month you will collect 4000 VPPs. This is enough to easily get Goldstar, the 2x FPP multiplier and plenty of stellar rewards along the way. However even if you put in this volume every single month at NL10 all year long it would not be enough to get to Supernova where the big rakeback money starts to roll in. Supernova requires a yearly VPP count of 100k. 4000 x 12 = 48000.

But this is why we have set targets to move up. If you play at NL25 or higher where the VPP per hand is significantly higher then you can see that achieving Supernova and even milestone bonuses is definitely achievable. So for instance Quarter #1 NL10, Quarter #2 NL25, Quarter #3 NL50 and Quarter #4 NL100. You can then calculate your rakeback based on playing higher stakes throughout the year with the same volume. Our example here according to the VPP per hand numbers above and 100k hands a month would be:

Quarter #1: 12k VPPs
Quarter #2: 27k VPPs
Quarter #3: 42k VPPs
Quarter #4: 75K VPPs

Total: 156k yearly VPPs and easily Supernova.

You could then go on to calculate your FPP's and your stellar rewards according to your rakeback level etc. You get the idea. It is possible to plan out some rough rakeback numbers over the year and then calculate them into actual dollar amounts according to what bonuses you plan to buy.

The numbers above on a very rough estimate represent something like $7500 with fairly relaxed volume and most of the play early in the year coming at low stakes and low rakeback levels. Once you start consistently playing at the upper end of the micros and beyond where Supernova Elite and multiple milestone bonuses become available then the rakeback dollar amounts go much, much higher.

For more on the Pokerstars rakeback system visit here.

Action: Set monthly (and yearly) rakeback targets assuming that you will move up on several occasions this year.

6) Blog About All of This!

Make all of this public. You can start a blog for free in minutes with Blogger or Wordpress so money or time cannot be an excuse here. When you publicly state your goals it is a powerful thing. It doesn't even matter if anybody is reading it or not. I had literally zero people reading this blog for the first three years. It didn't matter to me at all though. The simple act of consistently writing down my goals and charting my progress daily helped keep me accountable. I will give you the opportunity at the end of this post to publicly promote your blog if you want a few readers though.

Action: Create your new blog as soon as you finish reading this post and immediately write down your daily playing schedule, weekly study schedule, number of hands, moving up and rakeback targets and goals.

7) Be Realistic About Your Current Abilities

I get emails all the time from people telling me that they have played 50k hands at NL10 and they aren't winning. In a polite way I typically recommend that they move down. I know this is very hard on the ego for many of us but you have to start at a limit that you can currently beat! If that means playing at the circus they call NL2 then so be it. If you table select just a little bit and understand the fundamentals of poker to any degree then you should have no problem beating this limit.

If you are still having trouble succeeding at these stakes (NL2 and NL5 in particular) then I would highly recommend checking out my first book "Crushing the Microstakes" which literally gives you a complete roadmap on how to dominate the terrible players who populate these limits. I have also put out dozens of totally free videos and articles on how to crush the lowest stakes.

The point is that you start where you abilities currently are. It is going to be a tough year ahead if you are constantly playing in games that you are not good enough to beat yet. It is much better to start at a stake that you are confident that you are a winner at. This will give you the confidence to play more and study harder. Remember, poker is not going anywhere and it isn't a race to the top. Start small and build big.

8) Build for the Future

Success in this game does not come fast or easy. You need to understand that there will be many hills and valleys this year and you can rant about them in completely obscurity on your blog if you want (I sure used to on here!). 

But as you can see, you are building for something more than the short term ups and downs here. You are building to get out of the micros and start making 5 figures or 6 figures + per year where we all want to be in this game. This is why planning out your year now can help you see the forest through the trees and ultimately reach that end goal.

If you start to look at the numbers now at 4x the stake you are currently playing (which is where you will be by years end) you can use this as your carrot so to speak. 

I didn't even mention the table winnings above. Assuming you actually beat NL100 for instance for even a couple bb/100 that in itself is a couple thousand dollars a month along with the 1k or 2k in rakeback with typical volume levels.

Final Thoughts

I am not trying to toss numbers around to get you all excited. 

God knows I have discussed many times before how much of a mistake that is when you are just starting out. And they aren't really that spectacular anyways. 3k or 4k a month is not exactly spectacular money in any first world country. 

However, a lot of people do have dreams of playing this game professionally one day or making a significant side income to pay for a new car or some fancy vacations. It absolutely is possible but you need to be willing to put in the work. As I stated right from the start, it begins and ends with consistent play.

Back in 2007 when I quit my job it took me about 8 months to go from NL2 to NL100. I had about a 5k bankroll and maybe 10k in the bank that I had saved from my job. It wasn't anything miraculous. I just played every night for a couple hours and set aside time for study as well. I set targets to move up and down and I stuck with the program every day no matter what. 

This was many years ago and it is not quite as easy to have such success this quickly today. However, the opportunity still remains. There are many success stories similar to this that come out every single year. The common denominator among them is almost always the same. They set goals and they work extremely hard at them every single day.

Even with all of this I can't promise you that you are going to move up 4 stakes this year. But I can promise you that it will not happen if you keep quitting every time the going gets tough. I can promise you that it also won't happen if you continue to half ass your commitment to playing this game. 

This is why the goals, the targets and the process of writing it down each day on your new blog or journal are so important. The only obstacle between you and your success at the tables in 2015 is you. Now go and make it happen!

Lastly, for my entire poker strategy for crushing small and mid stakes games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Leave a comment below with the URL to your new blog if you would like a bit of free exposure. I may promote a few of them on social media as well. If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

poker 2015


  1. Great blog, Nathan! (As usual though)

    Really helpful in terms of planning ahead. Thanks for putting in time to write it.

  2. Perfect article again!

  3. HEY NATHAN :-)

    GREAT post,once again!!!!

    exactly what i needed right now coz i lost motivation and was thinking about quitting!!

    dont know if i will post there ^ but sounded like a good idea :-)

    thx for this extra boost in motivation!!! lets try it 1 more time!!! its 2015 or never!!!lol

    any news about the free coaching videos u wanted 2 upload this month 2 drag the bar?cant wait 2 watch what u will have 2 say :-)

    1. Thanks Dimi! I will be getting to your video soon. Sorry about the delay. It's been really busy during the holidays. Be in touch soon!

  4. Thanks for article! But I think often one our per day is not enough..I think minimum should be 3-4 hour if You have job. Yesterday in 3K hands I got 22 times pocket KK, and 5 times I met pocket AA in opponents. Usually my KK crash into AA 1 time in 20. Thanx god I finish with +1$ after terrible session. If I would play 1 hour..I will finish with negative balance...Another thing what i noticed that sometimes comes "bad beats" periods..I know that bad beats its part of poker and it ok with that.. but in PS bad beats does not walking alone.. I got sessions when got too much bad beats in very shorts time..Even got bead beats from one person in one table twice in short time..and $ just run longer session time helps to dive out from downswings at bad sessions and make more $ in good sessions

    1. imagine being after 300 x KK 4 buy ins down!!!and that on NL10!when usually KK is 2nd after AA in winnings but suddenly its the LAST of the 169 starting hands!!!lol
      playing through with 3k hands?
      'bad beats does not walking alone ' .... wait for ur 1st 200K hand downswing where u run into anything there is..except ALIENS!!!there is no playing through in a few hrs LOL

      thats what i m goin through right now and wanted 2 quit coz i thought the poker gods just dont want me 2 win,no matter what i do...

      good that nathan wrote this article!!! lol

    2. I agree Tomas. I used to play a minimum of 2 hours each night when I had a full time job. Often much more like 3 or 4 hours.

  5. just read ur 1st posts here (Wednesday, March 21, 2007) and it was very interesting...
    i guess many same things happen 2 many people in poker...
    was that ur 1st post?coz i didnt find any introduction of any sort,like 'hey,bla bla bla' etc..
    u just jumped into it and started writing?or were there some other previous posts?

    1. My first post is here:

      March 4th, 2007

    2. cant believe it man!!! just saw that the title of our 1st blog was almost same!!! urs 'new beginnings...' and mine 'new beginning' !!!! 2 many coincidences 2 b just coincidences lool

  6. Hey there Nathan, a couple of years ago I created a blog to do exactly what you say here but ended up quitting it. After reading this post I decided to start blogging again, thanks for all the work you do! Keep it up and best of luck to you!

    Here's my blog link:

    1. Thanks Jorge! I have seen a lot of poker blogs come and go over the years. Just try to stick with it, blogging and poker. That is the only way forward. And with the blogging like I said I used this blog for years just to write down the number of hands for the day and my pace for the month. 2 seconds and then hit publish. Just that simple act helped me stay focused on my goals.

  7. Amazing! This is exactly what I was thinking for the last few weeks. I do suspect Nathan can read minds :D I love this place. I have read every single post here from the very beginning.
    I have actually started a "diary" kind of thing of my own a few months back, inspired by what Nathan did here. I never thought I would want someone to read it for various reasons...I am not a good writer, English is not my first language, I feel embarrassed of my poker decisions Ive made in the past and do now sometimes, but screw it... If anybody wants to read that stuff, more than welcome.

    1. Awesome Adree, I will check it out! And I am glad that my blog helps of course :)

  8. Man this is one of your best posts so far!

  9. Ha ha

    After playing around for a long time and trying my luck in small buy in tournaments and micro stakes, I decided that this would be the year I would take myself and my game seriously!

    This blog and all these detailed and informative posts my Nathan were so very inspiring, so I decided to take my game seriously and kind of copy some of his moves.

    So I started a new blog where I do write about this effort. And I have written some goals, but I had a real problem getting some very specific target goals!

    So your blog post couldn't come in a better moment!

    My blog is at

    My very next post will be about the goals I will set after reading this post. And of course I hope that I will be up to them.

    For now my goal was one: Play at least 100k hands in NL2 in the next 4 months (about 25k hands per month) so that I have a decent sized sample of hands and see if I can make it in this game and be a winning player at the easiest limits.

    After your post my goal seems so easy, but still for someone in his 42's, with a full daytime job (Mathematics teacher at a Greek High School, plus some extra tutoring hours in the evenings) this is something big. And with a salary of 850€ or about $1000-1100, being able to target at the monetary goals you mention (even from rakeback) will be huge for me.

    So here it is!

    My blog is stated above, my next post will be about my renewed goals and I hope that I get some people interested to give it a try in reading and commenting so that I get more engaged.

    Thanks Nathan for the opportunity!

    Keep up the great posts!

    Thanos from Zakynthos, Greece

    1. omg!!!more coincidences??!!! i m also greek!!!but much younger than u > 41 !!!lol
      and i live also on an island > crete!!!! TIHEOOOOOO???DEN NOMIZO LMAO

    2. Awesome Thanos, I will check out your blog! And I am glad to help inspire you :)

  10. finally decided also for BLOGGER instead of WORDPRESS...
    >>> here it is :-)

  11. Great blog post as usual. My blog url :)

  12. You said about having 40bbs in order to move up ... but what if you do something differently ... like play only one table of the next limit instead of playing all tables ... and then if it goes well you add another table and so on until you play on all tables at that new limit , instead of going all at once from the beggining.
    Have you ever tried that ?

    1. It's a good question. I think you should still have good bankroll management regardless of how many tables you play though because it shouldn't affect your variance at all. Playing more tables simply allows you to get to the long run faster, that's all. If you want to practice a more aggressive bankroll strategy especially at the lower stakes though I think that is completely fine. I throw out the number 40 buyins these days but 30 or even 20 might be good for some people also. The key is to have a plan for moving down if things don't go well and stick to it.

  13. hi again :-)
    nathan... i wanna thank u so much for this post!!!
    it really made a difference 2 me and helped me a lot coz for the 1st time i was tagging hands in order 2 put them later on my blog,so i reviewed them later on 2 choose some interesting spots,and by doing that i was able 2 find some mistakes i did which cost me at least 2-3 buy ins!!!

    and while analyzing them i remembered ur words from all ur videos 'b careful when they raise u on the big money streets!!!' its 1 thing 2 watch ur videos and believe in it and quite another thing when u watch it actually happening in ur own play while reviewing the hands!!!

    and all that coz u inspired me 2 start blogging!!!
    ok,i may have had this horrible 200k downswing (hopefully its over) but i saw that its not only being unlucky but more importantly not 2 pay them off when they hit their miracles and u can actually c the board being very dangerous!!!

    thx so much man!!!even more since u dont have any personal profit out of it!!!u could just keep all this info here for ur videos on dragthebar or ur books and just reveal it when getting paid but u dont do that...u share ur thoughts and wisdom here out of pure love for the game and really 2 help others!!!GOD BLESS U!!!u r a very nice person ;-)

    and hey,when i will reach the 1 million $ goal i wont forget u,10% r urs :-)
    except if u will b already a millionaire urself!!! lool

    1. Haha, thanks so much Dimi. I am glad to help. Thank you for being a loyal supporter and commenter on my blog, videos etc.

  14. oh...wanted 2 ask u also about a site 2 post hands...
    shall i use the 1 u used in ur old posts here at or is there a better way?

    1. Ya I think that site is still good. There are tons of them out there.

  15. Excellent post as usual. Keep it up mate..!!


    1. Thanks Rosh! I have enjoyed reading your blog over the years as well. Hope everything is good with you :)

  16. Hey Nathan and everyone else:

    I took this blog part really seriously, so in the forums of this site you will find a few posts and hands to talk about. Come pay a visit. I will try to update it with more hands as frequently as possible.

    Find it here:

  17. 2 questions for you Nathan :

    1.) You said in a previous article that a player with 48/27/3 is a maniac ... but on my platform 888 poker at NL6 I find them daily ... also with 100/200 hands on them and they are still like that... 55/33 is the most common one.
    The problem is that they don't seem to play like a maniac to me ... am I missing something or they could be just lags with experience ?

    2.) Everyday I also find whales like 60/7 ... and what puzzles me recently is how they play their draws. I saw a lot of them betting their draws aggressively , even overbetting and potbetting .
    One of them overbetted me today on flop with 45s FD and then after the flush completed on turn , he check/called . I had top set from the flop.
    Is it normal for whales to play like that ?

    1. forgot to add that I play only 6max

    2. Hi Mircea,

      1) These are just tags that we use to describe certain players. Somebody who is playing 1/2 of all cards dealt to them and raising 1/3 of all cards dealt to them is clearly making some big errors.

      2) All players are different and so even within these categories they will play differently in different situations. This is why I spend so much time in my latest book for instance focusing on the individual player and their tendencies.

    3. I would buy your new book but the problem is that you said your new book is focused on NL10 plus only ... and I am playing NL6 right now.

    4. Yes it is better for NL10 and higher. CTM is just fine for NL6.

  18. HI Nathan,
    great article. Really enjoyed your blog so far.

    Is it really necessary to play 50k hands a month or is it sufficient to play 25-30k and focus more on the quality of your decisions while playing? I can play up to 900 hands an hour on 10-25NL (without having the time to think about non-central spots arising) but certainly not on 50NL so far.

    What do you recommend? Sacrifice other live activities to reach the 50k or stick to a lower but high quality volume (maybe in order for variance to even out)?

    I am wondering how many hands do you usually play per hour (maybe depending also on the level). Do you know how many tables guys up from 200 NL play (6max)? I know a guy who profitably played 1000NL Heads-up NL and he said to me that he never played more than 2 tables....

    Have a nice day.
    Michael (from Germany)

    1. he never played more than 2 tables because it's just Heads-up .... it's totally different than 6 max or full ring... I am very sure that you will get very bored once you are good if you play only 2 tables

    2. Hey Michael,

      It just depends on you and how much time you want to devote to this game. When I used to play full time I would aim for 200k hands every month. Maybe mass multi-tablers today still put in this kind of volume or more. I am not saying you need to play this amount, anyone who works full time for instance just would not have time. But you get exactly what you put into this game.

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  20. I feel better after reading everyone's posts! Sometimes you feel like the lone ranger with bad beats, losing sessions and coolers. Plus I have played a TOTAL of 45K hands, now I need to strive for more per month, not year. I haven't been consistent in poker except in 2 area's over the last two months - watching video's and reading. I got disgusted over a promising November then everything went downhilI so I quit playing and started studying (again). Plus I've stopped skipping around from book to book. I do need to also do more session analysis (hate that part....hindsight is so 20/20). I intend to read your blog on that. Thanks for the reminders Nathan. 2015 is the first year I'm in the black!! It's Friday night so time to hit the tables....

    1. No problem TeeGee and all the best this year at the tables :)

  21. HI Nathan
    Would you please post the top 20 winners at each level below 2014 whole year?
    Regular tables NL25/50/100/200 FR
    Regular tables NL25/50/10/200 SH
    ZOOM NL25/50/100/200 FR
    ZOOM NL25/50/100/200 SH
    Totally 4*4=16 lists of TOP winners
    And please anonymous: )

    1. Hi Lei,

      I do not have access to this kind of information. Unless you mean what is in my own database but these numbers would be nowhere close to accurate.