BY RUSS SCOTT
DECEMBER 4, 2007
ARE YOU A WINNING PLAYER? POKER STATS DON’T LIE
When you’re ready to move from being a purely recreational poker player to a more serious one, a key element becomes keeping track of your play. It’s hard to improve if you don’t know where you stand.
Charting your play doesn’t take much time, but does require a commitment. Every poker session should be logged. All you need is a shirt-pocket notebook, a swig of truth serum, and you’re on your way.
Why the truth serum? Because if you ask 100 poker players if they’re winners at the game, most will say yes! Our pride and competitive nature keep us from being honest with ourselves and with others.
Hey, we’re poker players, not angels. Fibs and misdirection come natural for us.
If, as some experts suggest, a lifetime of poker should be considered a single session broken up into little segments, then there are very few winners in the long run. But that’s too much to worry about. A poker diary will help you get control of the present, and that’s good enough for now.
Wins and losses are the main stats to track, of course, allowing you to keep a running total of where you stand for the year. That’s just the beginning, however.
Consider recording these seven categories of information: the date, day of the week, where you played, which game at what limit, for how long, amount won or lost, and your running total.
With this much data, it’s easy to calculate:
* Your hourly win rate
* Whether you’re running better at one game versus the others
* Which card rooms bring you the most success
* Whether you should consider moving up or down in betting limits, and even
* Which day of the week is luckiest (or unluckiest) for you.
Keep tournament results separate. Record your buy-ins, entry fees and re-buys to get a total expenditure in one column, then log any prize money in a different column. At year’s end, it’s easy to subtract one from the other to see how you did.
If you’re really serious about improving, you might want to also log specific details about individual sessions and players. Remembering how you played a certain hand, or noting the betting characteristics of specific opponents, can pay dividends in future sessions.
There’s another good reason for keeping records, even if you mostly lose. Just in case you hit a jackpot that requires a Form 1099-G or W2-G to be filed with the federal government, you’ll have a ledger of gambling losses available to help offset your win for tax purposes.
Maintaining a poker diary is just one hallmark of the serious player. But if you’re just starting to make the transition up from recreational, it’s the easiest.
You may not like what you see at first, with losses adding up to more than you thought. As your skills improve, however, and if Lady Luck favors you, your running total eventually will be in black ink instead of red.
That way, you won’t have to put on your best poker face and tell a lie when someone asks if you’re a winning player!
POKER AND PIZZA
A poker conversation can pop up almost anywhere.
Stopping to pick up a pizza on the way home to watch the recent Dallas-Green Bay game, I noticed quickly just two customers were in the store — one guy placing an order at the counter and another fellow seated at a table off to the left.
Before I could ask for my order, the seated man came walking over, hand outstretched. “Thank you for writing that poker column. I see your picture and read your column every week. Thank you.”
I introduced myself (somewhat unnecessarily, I suppose) and found out his name was Mike. Then I asked about his poker playing.
“I don’t get to play as much as I’d like. With kids still at home, I keep poker off the computer, too. But I love to play and read about the game,” Mike said. “That’s cool,” I told him.
The kids will be grown up one day, Mike, and you’ll be able to play more poker. Maybe, when they’re old enough, you’ll even teach them what you already know — how much fun the game can be.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
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