On Poker: More is always better with your poker data records

The black book is full of a lot of wonderful memories. There was a three-month stretch in 2004 when I somehow was able to put together significant winning sessions in 21 out of 25 cash games/tournaments, and the bankroll swelled like the hottest stock on Wall Street. It would be great to go into a time machine and put together another run like that.

The losing streak in 2005, when I dropped about a third of my bankroll? Well, as much as I would like to forget about that, it happened. My notes indicated that I was smacked by an unlikely string of bad beats, but a tilt or two may have entered the mix.

The book has acquired some dust, and I haven't been able to update it as often as I would like to nowadays. A kid with increasingly expensive demands and the complete unplugging of the old, unregulated online poker world that allowed me to make money in my pajamas put a pretty major dent in my poker time. But the book is always there, ready for me to add another chapter.

There's only one way to keep score in poker, and that's via the financial bottom line. If you aren't keeping accurate records of your poker successes and failures, it's easy to convince yourself of fictitious success.

A winning player always should be able to prove it. It may sound great if you won $10,000 in a tournament, but the luster dulls if you blanked out $11,000 on the quest to get that big win. You are down a decent week's pay on a 40-hour-workweek job.


The more categories you implement into your record keeping, the better. Obviously, start with the money. Give your starting bankroll a reasonable round number, like $500 or $1,000, and treat it like a savings account. Chart the wins and the losses with equal honesty, because any misinformation can have negative repercussions on everything else.

Logging the date is important. It allows you quick access to timing trends. It's also a good idea to note the length of your sessions. Trends can emerge that show you may have more success in longer sessions than shorter ones of three hours or less, or vice versa.

If you are playing on a very consistent basis, the data can get even more precise, and you can average hours played on a weekly or monthly basis.

Time data is essential, because once you have those numbers, it allows you to calculate a "winnings per hour" figure. A successful player should be able to average a profit of about one and a half to two times the value of the big bet per hour while also taking the rake or tournament fees into account (if there are any).

Good records also allow room for notes. If you suffered a bad beat or got really lucky and hit your three-outer for a big pot, note it. If you felt like you may have been playing a little too lose or felt like you may have been mentally checked out due to fatigue, that's key information too. Your overall impression of the competition is worth noting as well. Give your opponents a standard letter grade.

There's no end to the options for record-keeping customization. Just make sure you engage in the process if you take poker seriously.

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