Poker is an odd game.  It's one of the few games in the world where professionals and amateurs can compete at the same level and where "success" (at least in the short term) can come from luck as well as from skill.  With a string of wins, its hard to know for sure if they came from skillful play, or from lucky cards. In the long term, over a career, of course it will even out to the skill side, but how do you define success on the poker table in the short term?

Of course, on one level, it's easy to define success on the poker table.  If you have a dozen bracelets, an 8 figure bankroll from poker profit, and 10 major cashes a year, you can probably call yourself a success.  The truth is, very few poker players will ever be "successful" under those sorts of definitions. So for most of us, we need something less lofty to shoot for, at least to start.  There are obvious "smaller" levels of success as well ... any ONE of the things I outlined above would make most of us on Pokerstars pretty happy with our year, I'd wager.

Stepping "down" even more, we can look at percentage of tournament cashes, total profit/loss figures, or other factors to gauge our success but even these have drawbacks for the beginner like myself.  Probably the most basic measure of success, "Did I make a profit or spend money" works reasonably well for beginners, but even with that, it will clearly take some time to learn the game and develop a style of play that works for you, time in which you may not be making a profit, but still might be "successful" from a learning perspective.  Even once you emerge into a "profitable" style, it will take time to recoup the losses to "education."

So I think the beginning poker player really does need to redefine what they mean by the word "success."  If we base our definitions of success strictly on profit/loss, I think its easy to get discouraged in a game where even the best in the world are still learning it.  To combat that discouragement, I've started looking less at profit/loss, and more at general results.

Take the PokerSchool Premiere Skill League.  I'd had limited success in the old format of PSO, but was starting to move up the ranks by June when the new format was announced.  In July, my main goal was to make the Premiere League cut, and since then, my main goal has been to stay there.  While I've never cashed higher than $5 in the monthly table, I've managed to keep my ticket for every month in 2011.  So in that sense, I'm relatively happy to call my 2011 PokerSchool season "successful."  It would have been nice to win big money in PSO, but staying in the "top 500" for all 5 months of the league is enough for me to be relatively happy with my results.

The other thing I've been looking at is my bankroll, though not in the sense of total size really.  Though this probably isn't what Pokerstars wants to hear (lol), I made my last deposit to the site in Feb 2011, and being able to maintain my bankroll and continue playing cash tournaments and tables without depositing has been a fairly important goal for me since around March or so.  I'm happy to call that a success for 2011 as well.

So while I haven't won any bracelets, or built a 6 figure bankroll, or even had any major cashes, I think 2011 was a fairly successful year.  I've had small cashes and wins fairly consistently through the year, and though my bankroll has gone up and down a fair bit, I've essentially been able to play on proceeds of my play since about Apr or May this year at least.  And I've managed to keep my Premiere League ticket for every month the league has run.

Those may not be the goals of the poker pro, but as a beginner, I'm happy to call my 2011 a success. See ya on the felt in 2012.