But the reason that I want to talk about is so that you can accurately and undisputably track progress. Now, winning money does not guarantee in any way that you're actually a good poker player. Conversely, losing money does not have to mean that you've played your hands poorly - big downswings happen, and they can (and do) happen to everyone. But losing money consistently usually means that there are leaks to plug and problems to fix - and these leaks and problems will not be discovered if you don't even realize that you're losing.
Fortunately, this is easily remedied. All you need is a pen and paper (or keyboard and Notepad.exe). If you can use Microsoft Excel or some equivalent spreadsheet program, even better. What I want you to track, once you've gotten this far, is simply:
Here's an example of how it could look:
|Date||Site||Big bet||Table size||Number of hands||Net result|
This will allow you to get a clear overview of how your poker sessions are going. The information is something that you will eventually be able to use to see if you do better at one type of poker than another (you may be surprised). Filling this out after a session won't take more than a minute. If you buy PokerTracker (read more about poker tools like this), however, this information will be automatically compiled for you by the program.
You should also track how your actual bankroll changes. This is even easier: Once a week, you make a note of the date and the amount currently in your bankroll. You also write down if you've cashed out any money, so that you can keep track of how much money you've earned as opposed to just how your bankroll has changed in size. For example:
|Date||Bankroll||Cashouts||Comment||Earned so far:|
Here, the progress has been tracked once a week, and on November 21st, $55 was spent as an investment in PokerTracker. The bankroll had gone down $63 that week, but only $8 of it was an actual loss. Therefore, "Earned so far" shows the real result.
Filling out this information also takes very little time, but can be very rewarding. You may notice trends, or how you do better at some type of tables but not others. Before ending this chapter, I want to take the time to stress the importance of not tracking your bankroll on a nightly basis. You will run into bad streaks of cards, and some nights will incur losses. It's unavoidable. But it's important that you keep your nose above the water and your eyes on the longer run - getting up and leaving a table when you're running bad and are starting to tilt is easier if you know that you don't have to "report" your result until the end of the week anyway. It's a semantic difference, of course, but psychologically it may matter. And seeing that your long term results are pointing up can soothe even after a really bad day or two. Trust me on this one.
Having just said that it's important that you keep track of your bankroll, I also want to take the time to warn you of the hazards of eyeing your current standing too closely at the table. It's a good thing to know your bankroll's current value, on the whole. You should know so you don't sit in games that are too big for you, for instance. But if you're the kind of person who looks at how much money you're up (or down) constantly throughout a session, chances are you're focusing on the wrong thing. You'll find yourself getting defensive when you're a few dollars up, or desperate when you're many dollars down. This is bad for your poker game, and you need to come to terms with it. Play for the money, but don't play FOR the money - you know?