The simple act of writing down your wins and losses can help you become a long-term winning player
Are you an overall winner or a loser? If you are anything like most poker players, your answer to that question will be something like this: ‘I probably break about even – maybe make a small profit.’ The reality is that the vast majority of these players are deluding themselves.
Poker is a heartless game. Not only is your aim in poker to ruthlessly pick apart your opponents, exploit their weaknesses and take every last penny from their wallets, but it is deceptive about its cruelness. It masquerades as fun and enjoyment. Like all gambling games, you might not notice you’re losing until all your money is gone.
But poker doesn’t have to be like that. Sure, most people don’t know whether they are a long-term winner or a loser, because the very nature of the game confuses them, or their ego can’t accept that they might not be as good as they think. But you can make a choice not to be one of those people – to be objective about your skills and your results.
WHY KEEP RECORDS?
If you don’t keep at least some form of record, you simply won’t know whether you’re a long-term winner or not. The fluctuations inherent in the game will confuse you, and you will lose track. Take a typical losing session for example: you don’t get many good cards, so you have to fold a lot. Occasionally you raise to try and steal, but somebody re-raises and you have to fold. You win a pot worth £100, but the next hand you lose one worth £101.
It’s easy to walk away from a session like this thinking that you broke even, when in truth you lost money. Consequently, you can be completely deluded about your skill as a poker player, and make some serious mistakes.
Keeping records can also help improve your game. The first step to progressing as a player is to recognise the areas that need improvement. By studying your performance objectively, you can identify those areas and motivate yourself to improve. Or, you can keep track of your sessions and figure out when and where you do best, helping you to choose more profitable games in the future.
One final reason to keep records is that it helps to ease your friends and relatives’ concerns about your poker play. I’m sure many of you will have parents or partners who are concerned that poker will negatively affect your life. By keeping detailed records, you can prove how seriously you take the game – so they can do what they’re supposed to do as your loved ones: support and encourage you.
Maintaining records keeps you accountable and your ego in check; it is too easy to forget about a session, especially if it’s a losing one. Accurate records can help you identify weak points in your game
WHAT TO KEEP
Any player who is serious about poker should record certain things every time they play. You can download a blank version of the spreadsheet I use from my website, www.alexdscott.co.uk/downloads.htm.
Personally, I keep a simple spreadsheet, which I have built up over the years that contains all of this information. It’s helped me to work out how much money I earn on average per hour from each type of game. For example, I know that in my regular small stakes home game I make £4.88 an hour on average, £19.76 from online cash games, £40.59 from sit&gos and £50.56 from online tournaments.
I know that razz was my most profitable game of 2006, and I know that in 2007 I have made most of my money in online tournaments. It tells me that I play 12 hours a week, mostly Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
And even though it also tells me I do worst when I’m multi-tabling several different game types, I also know for certain that I am a winning player – and I’m able to prove that to others if necessary.
There are also other tools that you can use to keep records. Some websites provide services that you can use to upload your results, which are then stored on their server. You can create graphs and reports to help you understand and analyse your results better – for both online and offline games. One such website is www.thehendonmob.com, under ‘My Poker Diary’.
For online poker players, there are some excellent tools you can use to keep records. For years, the industry standard has been Poker Tracker, a program which imports your hand histories automatically and collates them into a hugely detailed database full of useful information (such as your big blind/100 – a measure of your profit or loss per 100 hands, and Aggression Factor, a measure of how much you bet and raise on different streets).
Poker Tracker can help you to analyse your game and that of your opponents, as well as easily keeping results for your online play. Using it, you can find leaks in your game that may have gone unplugged for months, and find those in your opponents that you can exploit. Of course, Poker Tracker has its downsides.
You can’t use it for live games, its support for currencies other than US dollars is weak and the current version is getting dated (although a new improved version is on the way). But anybody who is serious about online poker should consider investing in it or one of the many alternatives (such as Hold ‘em Manager or Poker Academy Prospector).
So are you a winning player or a losing one? If you keep records, you can answer that question confidently – and have the proof to back up your claims. You’ll be able to objectively determine what you do well, and what you need to improve at – and that’s the first step to greater poker success. So why aren’t more people doing it?