Jared Tendler is a Mental Game Coach who has worked with over 300 poker players. His newest book, The Mental Game of Poker 2, is the first poker book devoted to getting you to play in the zone consistently. It’s available in softcover and ebook whereever books are sold. You can find out more about Tendler, his book and his coaching at: JaredTendlerPoker.com. Here, Tendler offers PokerNews readers a defense for having results-oriented goals.
Results-oriented goals have gotten a bad rap lately. Conventional poker wisdom shifted and now suggests that setting goals based on results, such as money or titles, are a big mistake because of how much variance there is in the short term. If you can play amazingly well and get crushed in a cash game and not even make the money in a tournament, why does is make sense to set goals to win money or titles?
It makes sense to set goals connected to money or titles because results matter a lot. And in my experience, the players who advocate setting only process-oriented goals are really attempting to reduce the pain of losing or avoid failing.
In a game where variance plays such a big role, it can sometimes take thousands of hands and months or even years for your real edge in the game to show itself in your results. Sometimes that means getting unfairly crushed and other times it means being unfairly rewarded. That’s poker. But when your mental state becomes overly attached to results as a way of determining your skill or edge winning makes you happy and losing pisses you off.
Even though neither of these outcomes had anything to do with how you played your emotions will feel like they’re riding a roller coaster. And if you go on a prolonged losing streak it can make you tilt, become fearful of losing, and cause you to lose motivation and confidence. On the other hand a heater can cause overconfidence and that may lead you to not study as much, play outside your bankroll, or play less. Both extremes can cause you to play badly and make mistakes. These are all reasons to avoid setting goals connected to results. But the real problem here is not results; it’s your reaction to them.
The antidote that’s now being sold to avoid being overly results-oriented has swung entirely in the other direction. Instead of focusing entirely on results, players are told to focus entirely on being more process- or quality-oriented that has more to do with improvement than end results. Process-oriented goals include: playing your absolute best, maintaining high focus, or improving tilt control. Because you have no control over short-term results, process-orientated goals are important because you have complete control over them.
The shift toward process-oriented goals in general is a good thing, because it has forced players to think more about the aspects of their mental and tactical games that actually lead to their long-term success. However, I think this has gone too far.
By minimizing the importance of results, players have unknowingly taken away a critical element that feeds motivation and direction. Imagine getting into a car, and instead of picking a final destination, you just decide to drive. You would never be lost or take a wrong turn because you never decided where you were going. You were just out to drive. Success in poker can’t happen this way. If your only goal is to play the best you possibly can, it is very hard to define whether you did, and you can easily mislead yourself into believing that you did.
Results goals are essential because they determine an end point. Process goals are essential because they determine how you’ll get there. The two work together. By setting a result of let’s say, making $50,000 in a year you then need to determine the process goals that will help you get there. I advise having a 3:1 ratio of process goals to results goals. For example, you may determine that to make $50,000 in a year (and you made $35,000 last year), you need to dramatically reduce your tilt problem, work harder off the table to improve tactically by studying five hours per week, and increase volume by not quitting so easily.
Being too results-oriented or too process-oriented is a mistake. When the two work together, the motivation you have to achieve your results goals gets fueled into your process goals. And the more success you have with your process goals, the more likely you are to achieve your results goals, though that’s not always true. Ultimately, you need to determine what process goals will help you to achieve your results goals, and that’s not always known at first. As you gain more knowledge and experience, you’ll become more successful at both setting and achieving your goals.
For more Tendler be sure to check out his recent appearance on the Strategy with Kristy podcast where he discusses the release of The Mental Game of Poker 2, which was published late last month.
On the podcast, Tendler discusses, in depth, the chapter about goals. He says that goal setting is important when it comes to improving and finding success in poker, as well as other endeavors in life. Goal setting in itself is a skill, and he talks to host Kristy Arnett about the proper way to go about creating and achieving them.
Also, check out this "vintage" video interview Tendler did with PokerNews at the 2011 World Series of Poker: