It's imperative that any player who plays poker often enough to call it a hobby, a passion or even their source of employment keep detailed notes on their sessions.
Legitimate businesses have accountants who spend their days looking over cash flow. To grow any sort of company and increase its profits, you have to have a clear understanding of where you make your profit and what accounts for your losses. Your poker exploits are no exception.
Without keeping notes on all of the sessions you play, it's simply not possible for you to truly analyze your game. You need to understand where you make your money, and how much money each area makes you.
Almost all winning poker players become losing players at some specific limit. If the only number you keep track of is your total roll, you will never know if any specific limit is a money pit for you.
For example, if you make $20/hour playing a $5/$10 game, but lose $10 an hour playing $10/$20, as long as you played more hours of $5/$10, at the end of the month you will have ended up on top. Because you see the month as being in the black, you will continue to play $10/$20, not realizing how much money it's costing you to do so.
What to Track
The more information you record and track, the more interesting reports you can create with that information. You have to decide exactly how in-depth you care to go and are capable of going.
No matter what you choose, some items are vital for all players to track. For every session you should record:
- Hours spent at the table
- Total buy-in amount (including all cap-ups and rebuys)
- Total cash-out amount
This information will allow you to see your profits/losses, hourly rate, BB/hour ratio, yearly trends (what months are more or less profitable) and how many buy-ins deep you go in for on average.
If you want your records to be more informative, you can also keep track of:
- Specific players at the table
- Day of the week
- Time of day
Recording this data will help you figure out:
- Where you make the most money
- What days of the week/times of day you tend to play best
- How your mood affects your results
- How specific opponents affect your results
- Which variants are most profitable for you
These are all important pieces of information for a professional poker player to know.
If you're a casual player, the first set of results will do you just fine.
How to Track It
In my humble opinion, the best way to track these numbers is to write them down in a little book at the table. When you get home, put them into an Excel spreadsheet. This makes it simple to get instant reports and results, as well as allowing for more in-depth analysis.
If you've never used Excel before, there's no better time to start. Grab some online tutorials and figure the program out. Once you have even a rudimentary knowledge of the program, you can start to create your stats-tracking spreadsheet.
Here's an example of a very simple stats-tracking setup:
The first five columns (A-E) need to be filled out by you, but the last two can be populated by Excel automatically; to do that you're going to need to put a formula into each field. If you click on a field and enter an equal sign into that field, Excel will discern that you're creating a formula.
Now when you add a new row of data into row three, all you have to do is highlight the column with a formula you want to reuse, copy it and paste it into the new cell.
Better yet, you can use the Fill Down function. Use the mouse to select the cell with the formula, and all the cells below it you want the formula in, and hit CTRL-D (or use the "File" menu to select the option "Fill Down").
Now you have a simple spreadsheet. To easily build other basic formulas, use the built-in formula builders in Excel. All you have to do is follow the instructions, point and click.
If you want to get more advanced, a little googling and you can figure out how to run almost any report you can think of. For example, here's the formula to calculate your BB/h (based on a table layout like the one above):
*NOTE: All underscores ( _ ) need to be removed for this formula to work.
This formula is a fancy way of doing this: Result/BB)/Hours). All the stuff in the middle is just to get the big blind (or big bet if you're playing limit) from the Limit field. If you had two fields (Low-Limit and High-Limit), this formula would be much simpler.
Regardless of how you choose to do it, start keeping track of every session you play. If you already do keep track of your sessions, then start tracking more info about them. Used logically and truthfully, the data and reports you generate will present you with practical ways to maximize your ROI.
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