Money management is a huge issue for poker players. The first step toward appropriately managing your bankroll is to have a good idea of where you stand and keep good records. I have been surprised sometimes when I go back and look at my records sorted by which games I am doing the best in. Having this data available lets me make better decisions about when and where to play to maximize the time I have available for poker.
How in-depth your records are can vary depending on what your goals are, but almost everyone should keep a basic tally of their sessions with what they buy in for and how much they cash out. Over the years, I have expanded my tracking to include more and more details to the point where I now have records of how many hours I play, both total and broken down individually by each game I play in, so I can see my overall hourly rate along with how much I am averaging per hour at each game.
Keeping basic records will prevent you from lying to yourself about your results. We can remember big wins and big losses, but forget about all of the other sessions. The more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make, both in poker and life in general.
For live games, it can be as simple as using the notepad on your phone and putting in the date, what you buy in for, when you cash out, and the amount you cashed out for. I still do this to keep track of my data and then every week or two, I go back and add all of the information into a spreadsheet that I can sort in different ways and manipulate to get various views on my play.
Just like having a budget in your day-to-day life can help dictate where your money goes, having accurate data about your poker play allows you to make informed decisions with your bankroll.
Once you start keeping track of sessions, don’t pick and choose which ones to enter into your database. If you sit down at a poker table with chips, put it into your records. Even if you sit at a small game that you usually wouldn’t play, put it in. If you play in a one-off game that isn’t going to run regularly, put it in.
By tracking every session, you eliminate the chance of cherry-picking sessions to show the results you wish you had instead of your actual results. The whole purpose of keeping records is to be able to get a broad view of your overall results instead of being focused on each individual session.
Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.