As I stated in my Time Vault forum post, my goal for 2013 is simply to take the $11 I deposited on December 31 and turn it into $1800 before the end of the year.  Let's talk a bit more about my plan for this.

First of all, I am most comfortable as a fixed limit hold 'em (FLHE) cash game player.  The vast majority of my poker experience lies in this area, and with the books I've read and my mathematical aptitude, the simplicity of having consistent bet sizes makes this an easy game for me to beat reliably (at least up to about the $2/$4 level, based on past experience).

From a psychological perspective, the low variance (compared to no limit cash games) is also good.  I have had enough life experience to understand and accept variance--investing in the stock markets is a good parallel to poker--but when I'm still learning the basics of how to succeed in no limit (NLHE) cash games, the variance is a lot harder to accept.  This is especially true when I know that a significant chunk of my losses are caused not so much by "variance" as by "poor decisions".  (By a strange coincidence, I invested a bunch of money in Nortel in 2003, and hung on to the bitter end.)  As a result, I have decided I need to avoid no limit cash games until my bankroll is MUCH larger than the recommended size to play at the $0.01/$0.02 level, just so that I can improve my game without worrying about my bankroll.

The observant reader will have noticed that amidst of all my statements about focusing on FLHE cash games, I have sprinkled an awfully large number of comments related to NLHE games.  While I am definitely more comfortable and skilled at FLHE, I have a deep desire to learn to develop my skills at NLHE.  You could say that this is a secondary goal for 2013.  That said, this is a peripheral goal in my mind, because I am a big believer in the concept of SMART goals, and I haven't really figured out how to meet the SMART criteria with my vague goal of "improving my NLHE game".  (I'm sure it can be done, I just haven't bothered to do it yet.)

So how does my primary stated goal fit the SMART criteria?  Let's run down the list, shall we?

Specific: I want to build my bankroll to $1800 so that I can play $3/$6 FLHE cash games with the recommended 300BB bankroll.

Measurable: $1800 is $1800.  I'll know when I get there, and I'll know if I'm making progress.  (Pro Tip: if the numbers shown on the Cashier screen are going down steadily with time, you're not making progress.)

Attainable: This is the big question mark.  Let's come back to this one in a few paragraphs.

Relevant: Previous playing experience showed me that I could consistently win up to the $2/$4 level.  I don't have nearly enough hands in my history to be absolutely certain of that, but I have to work with the data I have.  Even during the last 5.5 years when I haven't been playing, I have remembered in the back of my mind that it was the $3/$6 game that finally stopped my upward climb.  $3/$6 is my Everest; I want to get back there and try to climb it again, but this time I'll be better prepared, and won't have to turn back just before I reach the summit.  (For anyone who is thinking, "What the crap?  Where did all this mountain-climbing stuff come from?", it might help to know that I'm in the middle of reading Bear Grylls' autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears.)

Time-bound: If I pay very close attention, I should be able to notice the arrival of the end of the calendar year.  This could be a tricky one, though.  If in doubt, I'll listen for family members complaining that they haven't received their Christmas gifts yet. 

So let's take a closer look at that question of attainability.  Here are my Hold'em Manager 2 (HM2) stats for every FLHE game I've ever played at PokerStars:

HM2 Stats

A few notes:

     1) By the time I reached $0.50/$1, I was getting into playing other sites quite a bit, and I haven't made an effort yet to track down my hand histories for those other sites.  I may have had a net gain at these stakes when considering those other sites (and probably did, considering how strict I was on myself back then).

     2) I'm still missing my hand history data from December 31 2012 through January 13 2013 for some reason, but it was all $0.02/$0.04, and based on some rough hand calculations using the limited data I have available, those extra hands would probably drop my win rate at these stakes down to 15.88 bb/100 with 4905 hands played.

     3) I have no idea why there are no data for $0.10/$0.20.  Perhaps that particular limit was not offered back in my previous playing period?  Or maybe I just skipped right over it on my rocket-ride to the big stakes.

To achieve my $1800 bankroll goal, I figure I will want to focus on my FLHE cash game, and only move up as my bankroll grows large enough to justify it.  My biggest constraint is going to be time spent playing (because I do have a full-time job and a wife to limit my available time! )  So how much time will I need to spend playing to reach my goal?

The toughest part is estimating how many bb/100 I can actually expect to earn.  Obviously, I should expect this to drop as I move up in stakes, but even knowing that, my historical data above don't give me a clear picture of what to expect.  How about this:

Up to $0.25/$0.50:   10 bb/100
$0.50/$1:                  7 bb/100
$1/$2:                       6 bb/100
$2/$4:                       5 bb/100

Some other data I've compiled suggest that playing four tables at a time, I can play roughly 150 hands/hour.  I'm not comfortable yet playing more than four at a time, and to be conservative, I will assume that this won't change over the course of the year.

General recommendations for FLHE play are to have 300 big bets (BB) in your bankroll before playing at a given limit.  My HM2 data are given in big blinds (bb), though, so let's express this as 600 bb.

First, let's look at how much I have to win  at each stake level in order to move up with a 600bb bankroll:

Start at $11.00.

$0.02/$0.04 to $0.05/$0.10 - need $30 - increase of $19
     950 bb = 9500 hands = 63.33 hours

$0.05/$0.10 to $0.10/$0.20 - need $60 - increase of $30
     600 bb = 6000 hands = 40 hours

$0.10/$0.20 to $0.25/$0.50 - need $150 - increase of $90
     900 bb = 9000 hands = 60 hours

$0.25/$0.50 to $0.50/$1 - need $300 - increase of $150
     600 bb = 6000 hands = 40 hours

$0.50/$1 to $1/$2 - need $600 - increase of $300
     600 bb = 8571 hands = 57.14 hours

$1/$2 to $2/$4 - need $1200 - increase of $600
     600 bb = 10000 hands = 66.67 hours

$2/$4 to $3/$6 - need $1800 - increase of $600
     300 bb = 6000 hands = 40 hours

(Incidentally, I wish there was a way to create tables in these blog posts! )

Total time required: 367.14 hours playing four tables at a time, or an average of 7.06 hours per week.  This should definitely be attainable, assuming all my other calculations are reasonable.  I've tried to be conservative wherever possible, but I must admit that a lack of experience leaves me with a LOT of uncertainty as to how conservative I've actually been.  For now, though, I'm going to go ahead and put a giant green checkmark beside that Achievable criterion.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of this!