How to Create a Poker Calendar for the Year (Travels, Goals, Bankroll)

How to Create a Poker Calendar for the Year (Travels, Goals, Bankroll)

My goal for you in this post is that you leave empowered with the tools to learn how to plan out your poker calendar and schedule for the year.

To do so, you need to create a poker calendar that keeps your travel costs, buy ins, poker goals, bankroll and the EV of each event into account. In this post, I’ll show you how.

Here is the 5-step process I used with my client to turn his dream of traveling the tournament circuit to exotic locations into a tangible reality, and actionable ways you can as well.

Step 1: Set an Ambitious Goal.

For example, my client’s goal (we’ll call him Mike) was to final table a poker tournament in 2020. That’s awesome!

Notice how his goal is both inspiring and doable. It falls right within that sweet spot, where it’s exciting enough to compel him to take action, but realistic enough that it feels possible.
That’s what you’re looking for.

Once we got clear on his goal, we worked together to determine the probability it would happen. This allowed him to better prepare himself financially and understand the risks involved.

Using what’s called a ‘Poker Variance Calculator’, I helped him estimate important metrics such as his return on investment, variance, probability of loss, win rate, and ultimately, the likelihood that he would in fact make a major tournament final table.

So many people neglect this step entirely or get it wrong. This is often catastrophic because people end up overexposing themselves, losing more money than they anticipated or simply not having realistic expectations about their win rate.

Being aware of the numbers lets you plan for the future, understand how much you can make per hour and how viable of an option poker is, either as a full time endeavor or a side hustle.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many players, even competent ones, fail to succeed because they don’t have a solid foundation from which they can build upon. It’s like having beautiful art work, but a house made of bamboo.

Please don’t skip this step. If you want to save yourself the headache and have my personal guidance, you can apply to work with me in person or virtually and we’ll build that house made of steel, together.

Step 2: Map Out Your Travels

Once Mike had a clear goal, and a better understanding of the risks involved, it was time to create his poker calendar and schedule for the year. We used a simple excel spreadsheet (which I’ve made available for free here) and got everything down in one place.

This is where the fun part is. If you see something you like or may want to do, add it to the list. You’ll have time to revise your list later, which I’ll show you how to do in Step 4.

Start by visiting the major tournament websites like WSOP, WPT and EPT as well as news outlets like CardPlayer to get the schedules for the year. (In the spreadsheet I created a resources tab with all the links conveniently listed there for you).

We mapped out various events that seemed exciting to him, like the EPT in Sochi or WPT in Barcelona, backing on multiple events upon each other whenever possible, to save on travel expenses, and so that he could more efficiently balance his work life with his poker endeavors.

Pro Tip: Not all events will have all the tournaments listed. Use the previous year’s schedule as an estimate to help plan what you’ll do for this year.

If you’re looking to play cash games instead, I best practices on that in Step 4 as well.

Step 3: Determine Your Bankroll

Using the same spreadsheet, we created a separate column to enter the buy in per event and the expenses Mike will incur for each trip.

I always recommend keeping buy ins and expenses separate so you have a better understanding of the costs, risk/reward and overall ROI. (The spreadsheet formula does this automatically for you).

This doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact the simpler the better.

Step 4: Revise Your List

Once you have all the trips for your poker calendar and schedule down on ‘paper’, and your total bankroll needed (the sum of your buy ins and your estimated expenses), go back through your list and cut out lowest value events, typically the bottom 20%, or events where there is a low bang for your buck.

For example, let’s say one of the events on your list is the WPT in Amsterdam. After looking at the numbers, however you realize that it $1,500 event, but it will cost you more than that in expenses plus hotels. Therefore, that’s a low value event.

What you’re looking for are venues with a high potential to play multiple events and cash games on the side. Those are the high value events you want to laser in on.

Remember, the numbers and value aren’t everything. There’s obviously something exciting about visiting Amsterdam which can’t be quantified, so you’ll have to assess your priorities to determine whether or not a particular event should be kept on your list.

Pro Tip: While I typically don’t recommend playing cash games and tournaments at the same time as it’s best to focus on one, you can arrive a few days early, grind some cash games, and then transition to tournaments for the duration of your trip.

Or do the opposite: when you’re done with tournaments, play a few cash games. Many of my clients have found that mixing in cash games is great strategy as cash games help to lower your variance, and can be used to offset some of the buy ins that you use for tournaments, or simply pay for the trip. In short, it’s the business version of having a balanced portfolio, a mixture of stocks and bonds.

Not sure what the action will be during the event? Call the casino and ask them what cash games typically run, or ran last year during the same event. Also, be sure to find out what the rake is, especially if you’re playing in Europe, as that can often be a killer.

Step 5: Physically Segregate Your Funds

Remember, when it comes to mapping out your poker calendar and schedule, it’s important to treat it like a business, and all businesses require some sort of investment.

The money you invest may come entirely from you, but when done correctly it’s always in a separate dedicated account and not mixed with personal finances.

This is especially important in poker, where there’s a lot of variance. Plus, the costs are a certainty, meaning you will have a ‘burn rate’ so to speak, or operating costs. In short, I treat poker like a business, because, well, it is.

Again, this process doesn’t have to be fancy. Simply separate your funds by opening a dedicated checking account that’s used exclusively for poker. I also recommend my clients to open a savings for expenses and get a dedicated CC for that (one that rewards of course).

You can take this one step further and open two checking accounts, one for tournament money and another for cash games, but that’s not necessary. Just ensure you don’t play any poker until you physically move those funds into a bank account that you don’t touch for anything else.

Now, you’re on your way to crushing it! If you enjoyed this blog post or learned something new and want exclusive tips to take your poker game to that next level that I only share with subscribers, head over to hop on the newsletter by subscribing anywhere on this site. It’s free.

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Now, I’d love to see what you’re up to. Which tidbit was your favorite? Was it the goal setting exercise? Or perhaps it was how to better manage your bankroll. Let me know really quick in the comments below.

Thanks for your attention.

Alec Torelli
Welcome! I'm Alec Torelli, founder of Conscious Poker, a training site dedicated to transforming good players into great ones by providing the best poker strategy and mindset content. I've been a professional poker player for 15 years and have over $1,500,000 in tournament winnings and millions more in both live and online cash games. On this site, I share the lessons I learned during my poker career to help you crush the games, optimize your bankroll, make winning decisions and achieve your poker goals.

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