Smartest Route to Poker Success in 2024 (Just Do This!)

Smartest Route to Poker Success in 2024

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

The game of poker is constantly evolving, and it seems to get more competitive every year.

This leaves many players wondering if there’s any more money to be made in this game in 2024.

The answer is a resounding yes, but it will take some effort on your part.

With that in mind, here’s how you can make 2024 the most profitable year at the felt so far.

Let’s get right into it.

1. Define What Poker Success Looks Like For You

If you want to achieve success in any field, first you need to define what success looks like in the first place.

After all, you can’t hit a target if you don’t even know what the target looks like.

This is why most New Year’s resolutions fail.

It’s often not the lack of motivation or resources that prevents people from reaching their goals. More often, it’s the fact that these goals aren’t clearly defined to begin with.

For example, goals like getting in shape or reading more books are too vague to be useful.

Same thing with poker.

Winning more money than in the previous year is a reasonable goal, but lacks clarity.

You also need to take into account where you are in your poker journey overall.

This can help you gain perspective and define goals that are actually achievable.

For example, if you’re already an experienced player with a proven track record of winning, you might try to set goals for climbing up the stakes, increasing your winrate, your volume, and so on.

It also might make sense to set a goal of winning an X amount of dollars in a Y amount of time.

But if you’re just starting out, it doesn’t really make sense to set monetary goals like these.

There are a few problems with setting monetary goals in poker:

a) most people lose money over the long run playing poker

This is especially the case with beginner poker players. The players who make serious money in this game are the ones that have years, if not decades worth of experience under their belt.

Not only that, but they’ve also spent countless hours studying advanced poker strategy and fixing their leaks off the felt.

Getting to the level where you can consistently make money in this game usually takes a lot of time, perseverance, and dedication.

Nobody becomes a poker pro overnight, and every pro started out as a losing player.

The reason most people keep losing at poker despite playing for a while is the fact that they don’t put any effort into improving their game.

In fact, a lot of them don’t even see the point, because they think poker is all about luck in the first place.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with playing poker just for fun. Poker is a hobby like any other, and all hobbies cost money.

The only difference is the fact that poker can be a hobby that pays for itself if you put in a bit of effort.

b) Variance has a huge effect on short term results

Another reason you shouldn’t set monetary goals in poker is because your short term results are not entirely within your control.

In poker, you will encounter lengthy losing periods, even if you play perfectly (which no one actually does, especially when the deck goes cold on them).

Simply put, variance measures the difference between how much you expect to earn over a certain sample size, and how much you actually earn.

For example, if you bet on the outcome of a coin flip 10 times, you would expect to win 5 out of 10 times, since the chance of winning a coin flip is 50%.

If you win more than 5 times, you are experiencing positive variance. If you win less than 5 times, you are experiencing negative variance.

So how does this relate to poker?

In poker, luck plays a significant role over the short term, so your day-to-day or even month-to-month results can be all over the place.

For example: 

Let’s say you are up against a crazy player who is on an insane monkey tilt and is shoving all-in every hand preflop.

You look down and see: 


Pocket Jacks, and you call. 

The villain turns over Ace-Queen offsuit and hits an Ace on the river.

Tough luck indeed, but losing in similar fashion is an everyday occurrence when you play poker.

And when you look at the odds, losing this way is not even close to unlikely.

In this example scenario, your hand equity is only 57%, which means it’s essentially a coin flip.

Losing in similar spots for 3, 4, or even 5 times in a row is not terribly unlikely, and will happen from time to time.

So even though you’ve made the right decision (i.e. your play has a positive expected value), luck will still play a significant role in your results.

c) money won or lost does not always equal skill

The final reason not to set monetary goals ties into the second one, and that’s the fact that money won or lost over a short sample size tells very little about your actual skill level.

When talking about variance, people usually only talk about negative variance (i.e. bad beats, coolers, setups and so on).

But it’s worth noting that variance cuts both ways.

When players run well, they usually attribute it to their own superior skill, but when they run badly, they just shrug it off as negative variance.

While this assessment may very well be true, it’s not really the best way to approach your game.

The fact is, everyone has leaks in their game, and it’s a lot easier to explain negative results to variance than to actually take a good, hard look at your own game.

Poker offers endless possibilities for self delusion. Most poker players would consider themselves an above average player, but also unluckier than an average player.

This is a form of self-serving bias.

A self-serving bias is a tendency to to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. It’s a way to preserve one’s ego, and we’re all guilty of it to some extent.

The first step to overcome the self-serving bias is to acknowledge it, then trying to look objectively and critically at your own game.

This is why it’s incredibly helpful to seek feedback on your game from other players.

They can help you spot your “blind spots” and show you what to work on in your game.

Of course, this requires a dose of humility, and acknowledging that you don’t already have it all figured out.

This mindset is a prerequisite to improving your game.

If you think you already have it all figured out, why would you need to improve anything in the first place?

This is something I discussed in recent video.

2. Set Time to Study and Fix Your Leaks Off The Felt

If you want to improve your poker results, first you need to improve your skills. And the only way to improve your skills is to study the game off the felt.

Playing poker is fun. Studying poker, not so much. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to really get ahead in this game.

There are countless poker players who have been playing for years, if not decades, without making any significant progress in their game.

That’s because 100% of their poker hours is spent on playing the game, and no effort is spent on fixing their leaks off the felt. 

Depending on where you are in your poker journey, you’ll need to allocate some time to studying the game.

The amount of time you’ll need to spend studying will depend on your current skill level and results.

If you’re a winning poker player, you may object that taking the time off the felt to study cuts into your bottom line, because every hour spent not playing means potentially lost money.

But this is a shortsighted objection at best.

As mentioned, every player has leaks in their game, and very few people achieve the level where studying produces diminishing returns.

In fact, even the world class professionals take some time to study the game off the felt.

You could even argue that’s precisely the reason they got to world class level in the first place; they never stopped learning, despite being way ahead of their competition.

This is something Daniel Negreanu talks about in his Poker Masterclass.

If you’re already a winning poker player, you should aim for an 80-20 split between playing and studying.

This means studying for at least an hour for every 4 hours you spend playing.

This is a good balance to aim for, because it’s not so much to be overwhelming, but enough to learn new concepts and apply them off the felt.

If you’re not yet a winning player, you should go for a 50-50 split between playing and studying.

This might seem excessive, but it’s worth noting that you can make significantly faster progress with your game when you’re first starting out, because there’s so much to learn.

After you have a firm grasp on the fundamentals, you can opt for more playtime and try to get more volume.

As for which aspect of the game you should focus on, this depends on your current skill level.

For most players, I would recommend starting with the preflop game for several reasons.

First of all, preflop spots are the most common, so you’re likely to encounter similar spots over and over again.

You might be tempted to learn advanced triple barrel bluffing strategy, but these spots occur far less often, so it makes less sense to spend your studying time on it.

The second reason to focus on preflop play is that solid preflop play leads to easier post flop play, as well.

A lot of players make the mistake of getting involved in awkward post flop spots where they aren’t sure what to do.

This can lead to the snowball effect: a small preflop mistake can snowball into a huge, costly mistake post flop.

Finally, studying the preflop game allows you to get a solid grasp on most important fundamental concepts, like starting hand selection, positional awareness, bet sizing and so on.

If you want to learn all the most important poker concepts you need to crush the game, check out my book Crushing the Microstakes.

Think of your poker knowledge as a house. When you are building a house, you don’t start with a roof.

You start with the foundations, then you build up on top of that.

If your foundations are shaky, it doesn’t make sense to keep building up on top of it.

So keep it simple in the beginning, and take your time.

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3. Work on Improving Your Mental Game

The mental game is an often overlooked, but a very important aspect of poker.

The technical game has to do with your knowledge and understanding of the strategy aspect of the game.

The mental game is all about how you deal with inevitable periods when the proven winning strategy is not producing the results you’re hoping for.

In other words, it’s your ability to keep playing your best despite running badly.

Everyone can play well when the deck keeps hitting them in the face.

When you’re running well, poker seems like an ATM machine, and it feels like you can print money every time you sit down to play.

That is, until variance inevitably swings the other way.

A lot of players struggle to reach their poker goals not due to the lack of skill, but due to the lack of emotional resilience.

Let’s face it, poker can be incredibly brutal at times. The bad beats never end, and sometimes it gets so bad that there’s nothing you can do but throw in the towel.

The good news is that virtually every poker player alive struggles with these problems.

Play poker long enough, and you will surely encounter a soul-crushing downswing.

Dealing with the neverending swings of fortune is without a doubt the hardest aspect of the game.

Yet, a lot of players don’t seem to address this problem, or don’t seem to think there’s anything they can do about it.

In fact, they think that tilting from time to time is an inevitable part of the experience.

Smartest Route to Poker Success in 2024
Pro Hack: I live near the beach and play online in order to stay tilt-free!

But that can’t be further from the truth.

The fact is, your mental game is a skill like any other, meaning you can get better at it with practice.

Improving your mental game takes time, and one of the reasons many players simply don’t bother with it is the fact that progress in this area is often vague and impossible to quantify.

But just because you can’t measure something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

You may not be able to measure improvements in your mental game, but you sure can measure the negative impact of tilt on your winrate.

When playing poker, losing some money is inevitable. But losing more than is absolutely necessary due to tilt and frustration can and must be avoided.

Improving your mental game goes way beyond the scope of this article, but one of the ways you can improve your mental game is to work on improving your technical game knowledge.

Your mental game and your technical game aren’t completely distinct categories. There’s a lot of overlap between them, and one often influences the other.

For example, if you are confident that you’re the absolute best player at your table, and if you’re sufficiently bankrolled for the stakes you’re playing, you’re way less likely to tilt.

That’s because you already know that it doesn’t matter how you’re running session to session, and the odds are in your favour over the long run.

It doesn’t matter how many times fish get lucky against you. If you are confident in your playing abilities, you know that losing is only temporary.

You know that you’re able to win everything back, and then some.

Now, contrast this with playing in games where you’re the underdog and you’re playing the stakes beyond your bankroll.

You’re much more likely to get frustrated at every little obstacle, you’ll feel threatened every time someone raises you, and you’ll be scared to lose your money.

It’s a lot harder to play your best in these circumstances.

So how do you get confidence in your playing abilities?

By consistently working on your game on and off the felt, fixing your leaks and learning from your mistakes.

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4. Get a Big, Fat Bankroll

Even if you follow all these tips to a tee, it still doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win at poker all the time.

Poker has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can lose despite playing perfectly.

Variance can have a huge impact on your short term results, and there’s no way of avoiding variance short of stopping to play the game altogether.

Sure, there are some techniques to reduce variance, but they come at the cost of also reducing your potential winrate.

For example, playing a short stack strategy can reduce variance, but it also cuts your winrate, because you stand to earn less if you double up.

Similarly, playing a tight and aggressive (TAG) instead of a loose and aggressive (LAG) style is likely to produce less swingy results, but it also means potentially mission out on some +EV spots.

Check out my other article on how to deal with poker variance for a much deeper dive.

So instead of trying to reduce variance altogether, it’s better to learn to accept it as a natural part of the game, and prepare for it as best as possible.

One of the best ways to prepare for negative variance is to have a healthy bankroll.

This means having more buyins in your bankroll than would be considered the norm for the stakes you’re playing.

All things being equal, it’s better to be overrolled than underrolled for your stakes.

Having a big bankroll gives you a piece of mind to keep playing your best, no matter how you’re running session to session.

Here’s how having a big bankroll can have a positive impact on your game:

a) the losses don’t hurt as much

Some losing is inevitable in poker, so if you’re mentally prepared for it going in, it’s going to hurt a lot less.

This means you’re less likely to get frustrated and go on an insane monkey tilt, which will only cause you to lose more than necessary.

For example, let’s say you’re playing NL10 online and you have a bankroll of 30 buyins, meaning $300. 

Let’s also suppose that you encounter a 10 buyins downswing, which is not uncommon.

You’ve lost 33% of your total bankroll, and every next session puts additional pressure on you to win it back.

This means you might tighten up too much for the fear of losing, or play too aggressively to try to win it back.

Now, let’s suppose you have a $1000 bankroll, instead.

A totally standard downswing of 10 buyins only accounts for 10% of your total bankroll, so it won’t hurt as much.

Now, having a 100 buyin bankroll may seem excessive, and fair enough.

This was just to illustrate the point, and you certainly don’t need such a big bankroll to play the game profitably.

Still, having a big bankroll allows you to potentially climb up the stakes quicker, which brings us to the next point.

b) a big bankroll allows you to take shots at a higher limit

Even if you’re still not ready to climb up the next limit, you can still try to take occasional shots at it.

Taking a shot at a higher limit should be done strategically, and not to chase losses.

Chasing losses at higher limits is a serious poker blunder and rarely ends well for anyone who attempts to do it.

However, if you’re feeling good about your game and it seems the higher limit games tend to be particularly soft, go ahead and take a seat.

Taking a shot at a higher stake can be a good idea if you see a particularly bad player sitting down to play, and there happens to be a free seat next to them.

If that’s the case, grab that seat immediately.

Taking shots can also be a good way to assess the competition and your own skill level at higher stakes.

In fact, the extra bit of pressure may be just what you need to perform at an optimal level.

To repeat, taking shots is only a good idea if you are overrolled for your current stakes to begin with. 

It’s also worth mentioning that following sound bankroll management only applies if you’re a winning poker player to begin with. 

If not, the biggest bankroll in the world isn’t going to help you. It’s just going to take you longer to go broke.

c) Having a big bankroll means you're taking the game seriously

Amateur poker players don't really bother with proper bankroll management.

If they run out of funds, they simply reload and keep playing.

But winning poker players should be taking the money out of the site, not the other way around.

If you start with a proper bankroll from the start, it's the last money you'll ever need to deposit.

A healthy bankroll prevents you from ever going broke.

This means you can avoid the negative psychological effects of having to reach for your credit card over and over to fund your account.

For more tips on how to stop losing in 2024, make sure to check out my recent video.

Smartest Route to Poker Success in 2024 - Summary

You don’t need to learn a bunch of advanced poker strategy to achieve success in this game. All you need is a solid game plan and a bit of focused effort.

With that in mind, here are 5 steps to make 2024 your most profitable year at the felt.

1. Define what poker success looks like to you.

It’s easier to reach your goals if you clearly define them in the first place. Decide beforehand what you want to get out of poker, and which steps you’ll need to take to get there.

2. Set time to study.

If you want to take your game to the next level, you’ll need to set time to study and fix your leaks off the felt. 

To get the best results, it’s advised to study for an hour for every 4 hours you spend playing. If you’re a complete beginner, you might want to consider studying even more until you learn the ropes.

3. Work on your mental game, as well.

A lot of players struggle to reach their poker goals not due to the lack of knowledge, but due to the lack of discipline and emotional resilience.

Having a strong mental game means being able to withstand the periods where you seem to get punished for making the right play, and it’s arguably the hardest aspect of poker to master.

Fortunately, this is a skill like any other, so you can better at it with practice.

4. Get a big, fat bankroll.

Having a big bankroll allows you to weather the negative variance and gives you a piece of mind to keep playing your best no matter how you’re running session to session.

A big bankroll also allows you to take occasional shots at higher stakes and climb up the stakes more quickly.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan
Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Smartest Route to Poker Success in 2024