Before Playing Poker: 5 Key Decisions (2024)

  • 31 mins read

Before playing even one hand of poker, we recommend you really think carefully about your total bankroll, cash game/tournament mix, buy-in amounts, table selection, and recording results.

  • How big does your total bankroll ideally have to be?
  • Will you be more suited to cash games or tournaments?
  • How much should you buy in for (cash games)?
  • Which table(s) should you pick (cash games)?
  • How will you record results?
  • We cover all these things in our easy to understand comprehensive guide
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1. Have the right poker bankroll to minimise your risk of ruin

The most important thing you should do before playing poker, is sorting out your poker bankroll.

What is poker bankroll management?

poker bankroll

Your poker bankroll is all the funds you have allocated to play poker. You can think of your bankroll in terms of the number of buy-ins you have for your current game. Even if you do everything right on any given poker table, you can lose your buy-in. Infact, you can lose multiple buy-ins in a row.

Thus, a well though out poker bankroll management strategy will mean you have multiple buyins for the games you regularly play to minimise your risk of ruin. The amount of buyins you need will depends on factors such as variance/skill gaps/rake. If you are unable to replenish your bankroll, if you lose your entire bankroll, you will have not be able to buy-in to a poker game.

How big should a bankroll be? How many buyins do I need?

This will depend on factors such as:

  • the variance in your game type
    • the higher the variance the more buy-ins you need
  • your skill levels vs your opponent’s skill levels
    • the more the skill gap in your favour, the less buy-ins you need
  • the rake in your game
    • the higher the rake, the less your average winnings will be, and this the more buy-ins you need
  • the higher the value of promotions such as rakeback
    • the more your average winnings will be (if you count the rakeback as your winnings). Thus, the less buy-ins you need.
  • Can you replenish your bankroll if you went broke?
    • If you cannot, you will want a much higher number of buy-ins to start off with. This is to lessen the risk of ruin.

For tournaments (we recommend ~100 buy-ins), you need more buy-ins than cash games (we recommend ~30 buy-ins).

Avoid the temptation to play too high

If you don’t have enough buy-ins, your risk of ruin (if you cannot reload) becomes much greater. Even the best players, can go on massive downswings.

Where does an initial poker bankroll come from?

You will need to allocate the seed money from somewhere. This could be from your income from a job or investments, your savings, or even a loan. We would strongly recommend against the latter.

Live poker doesn’t usually take place for anything less than $1/$2, £1/£2, €1/€2. Thus, you are going to need a bigger absolute bankroll for the lowest live stakes than the lowest online stakes. The games typically have higher rake than online games. There’s no opportunity for rakeback, although some cardrooms might have other promotions. However the skill gap between studied and unstudied players is likely to be higher. You may be happy with a ~20 buy-in bankroll. However, that’s $4,000 / £4,000 / €4,000 if you are buying in for 100bb. If you buy-in for 200bb those numbers double. Of course, if you are happy to short-stack the game, these numbers become less. If you do not have this, your option is to play online. Lower stakes games online, mean your absolute bankroll requirements will be less.

What if you don’t have access to a decent starting bankroll?

If you don’t have a lot of seed money to start your bankroll (and you have no way of getting seed money, e.g. you don’t have a job, have no savings, no one will give you the starting seed money), your only option is to play online. This is because online players can play games as small as $0.01/$0.02. It would not be economical for a live establishment to offer games this low. This means a 100bb buy-in will cost you $2. So, 30 buy-ins would be $60. Note, if you are going to multitable, this will be the bankroll you need per table. If you are planning on short stacking and buying in for the minimum, your bankroll requirements will be even less.

You can also consider a backing agreement.

What are backing agreements?

Backing agreements refer to situations where a player has some (or all) his buy-in(s) provided for cash games or tournaments, in return for a percentage of winnings. Backing agreements usually occur when a player doesn’t have the bankroll (either because he has no spare funds, or he doesn’t want to put his personal money on the line for whatever reason) to play at a certain level, but someone else is prepared to provide the bankroll. It is possible for both the player accepting backing and the person doing the backing to benefit simultaneously from the backing agreement.

How backing agreements work

A backer could provide a certain number of buy-ins or a fixed amount of money (either all upfront, or some upfront and the rest if needed), in exchange for a share of the profits. If a player is making a cumulative loss, they must wait until they see a reverse, before taking out any share of profits. If the backing agreement expires, and the player has made a cumulative loss, usually they don’t have to pay back the loss (and the whole loss is suffered by the backer).

Some backing agreements might require the player to have some skin in the game. This means the player provides some agreed percentage of the buy-ins. The main advantage of this is that the player might have more incentive to play well. The main disadvantage is that it might preclude players who cannot afford to (or won’t) do this, who would have been profitable to you.

Some backing agreements pay players a fixed amount for playing (e.g. $x/hour played) and a smaller share of the profits. The big advantage is that this decreases the chance the backed player will want to make plays that would be negative expected value for you. However, the player has less incentive to maximise the expected value of the backer.

Who is bringing what to the table?

The balance of the agreement will often depend on who is bringing what to the table.

  • If the backer is providing all the money, and the backed player is not responsible for any losses at the end of the agreement, the backed player is likely to get a smaller percentage of profits than otherwise.
  • However, if the backed player is providing some percentage of the buy-ins, the backed player is likely to get a better deal than otherwise.
  • But, if the backed player has shown they can comfortably make money at smaller limits, and need the backing to play at slightly larger limits, he could argue that he deserves a better deal as its the difference between what he was making and what he could make with backing that’s important.

A well structured backing agreement will try and best match up the interests of all the parties involved.

Advantages to a player of accepting backing
Playing higher
  • You get to play higher than you otherwise have the bankroll for.
  • For example, you may only have the bankroll to play $1/$2 live, but both you and your backer believe you could beat $10/$20 at your local cardroom. Perhaps, there are a lot of rich whales in that game, and you have a solid understanding of poker strategy).
  • Instead of waiting to build a bankroll big enough to play $10/$20, you could look for backing.
  • You may find even though you got to keep all your $1/$2 winnings as you were playing with your own bankroll, but you have to give away a lot of your $10/$20 winnings to your backer, you are actually winning more $/hr on average.
  • Let us imagine you were making 10bb/hour at $1/$2 over a reasonable sample size – this means you were making $20/hour (and you kept everything, as you were bankrolling yourself).
  • If you had to give away 50% of your winnings to your backer whilst being backed at $10/$20, you would have to only win at 2bb/hour, to make the same amount of profit for yourself. Anything more and you are doing better!
  • For tournaments, due to increased variance, the bankroll requirements are much higher than cash games. So, playing in big buy-in tournaments (even when soft) might be out of reach for you even with an adequate skill set. This is where the backer comes in.
Not enough bankroll

You get to start playing poker, without an adequate (or no) bankroll. For example perhaps the backer knows you are willing to put in the time learning poker, but don’t have the money to get started. For example live, when even playing $1/$2 would require a $6,000 bankroll at 30 buy-ins.

No money on the line

You may not have to put your own money on the line. For example, money from your own salary from a job, which you allocate to household expenses. This will be the case if the agreement is such the backer provides all the money, and absorbs all cumulative losses.

Advantages to the backer
  • You may be an active poker player in which case instead of just making your own winnings, why not identify other potential players with a positive expectation and get a cut of their winnings too? Imagine you are a live player who is playing a soft $2/$5 game and have a healthy winrate. You can’t multi-table, but you can back several other players (and perhaps keep 50% of their winnings). Often you will also help these players with free coaching, as if they improve, you gets a bigger amount of winnings. Of course, backers don’t have to be active poker players. You may have money which you prefer to invest in this way. That might be because you think the returns are better than other investments you could make.
  • You will be reducing your overall variance, especially if you are backing multiple players. Imagine you are a player playing certain buy-in levels of tournaments, by backing other players (provided you have negotiated a good deal) you reduce your overall variance.
Disadvantages to a player of accepting backing
  • You will be giving up a significant percentage of your winnings. Could you have found the buy-ins elsewhere, and got to keep all the winnings?
  • You may have to commit for a given amount of time.
Disadvantages to the backer
Expected value maximisation

You want your backed players to play in a way that maximises your expected value. However, they may be in a situation where maximising their own expected value, isn’t equivalent to maximising your expected value.

  • An example of such a scenario may occur if a backed player who shares profits with you (but you bear any losses) is nearing the end of his agreement with you.
  • Suppose he is currently making an overall loss.
  • He may decide to gamble against the odds in a situation that he wouldn’t if it was his own money.
  • If he loses the gamble he will still be making a loss (and won’t gain or lose anything).
  • But, if he wins then he could be in profit (and will gain a share of the overall profits).
Trust
  • You have to trust your players are honestly reporting results to you.
  • What if they underreport their winnings, and/or over-report their losses?
    • You might be able to negate this is only back online players, and you have access to their online account. You need to check this isn’t breaking any rules of the cardroom. Or, you ask for regular screenshots. But, verify for possible doctoring etc.
    • If the players you back are playing live tournaments, often results are publicly available so you know how they did. Or, there will be other people you know in the tournament. They can keep a watch on the players you are backing.
    • For live cash this is the most problematic. However, you can have other players you know watch and report on the players you are backing. You could even have your backed players watching each other. But, be careful they don’t collude.
Upfront money

You will often be paying money upfront, and get potential profits back later. What is to stop someone absconding with the money you gave them? Of course, you may be able to negate this, through careful planning on how to distribute the money.

Opportunity costs

Your money might get greater returns elsewhere. Is there an opportunity cost?

Do backing agreements affect players not involved?
  • Backing is controversial in certain situations. For example, a player may soft-play another player in a tournament because he has a financial interest in that player staying in the tournament.
    • Most tournaments have no requirements for disclosing backing agreements. So, this might not be apparent to the other players, or even if they suspect something they can’t do anything about it.
    • The smaller the field of the tournament, the worse, as it is more likely the backer and the backed player end up on the same table.
  • In a cash game, would a backed player and backer collude either implicitly or explicitly versus other player(s) in a pot?
  • Of course, backers and backed players, are not necessarily colluding. Many will be honest and not do so. But, they do have more incentive to do so than random players.

Growing bankroll, without replenishing it

  • You should always know what the stakes directly above yours are. At $0.01/$0.02 this is likely to be $0.02/$0.04 – so, 30 buy-ins here would be $120.
  • When you have increased your bankroll to $120 by playing $0.01/$0.02, you can start playing $0.02/$0.04. This process is repeatable.
  • This way you can get from micro stakes (with modest absolute bankroll requirements) to playing low stakes, then possibly medium stakes, and then even the highest stakes. All this from only putting in a small amount of seed money at the beginning (and never reloading).
  • Of course you can consider having less than 30 buy-ins, or more than 30 buy-ins. This depends on assessments of variance, skill gaps, etc.

Keep track of your poker bankroll

There online tools and apps for tracking your bankroll. If you are playing live, you just enter you starting bankroll, and all subsequent poker results. The tool or app does the rest. If you are playing online, your bankroll can be automatically tracked using appropriate software linked to your poker client.

Consider shot taking

  • Let’s say you are playing live poker, and have been playing $1/$2.
  • Your usual buy-in is 100bb.
  • You started off with a modest $4,000 bankroll (20 buy-ins).
  • You have been considering the $2/$5 game, where 20 buy-ins at 100bb would need a $10,000 bankroll.
  • Let’s say you have been playing $1/$2 for a while an increased your bankroll to $8,000.
  • Imagine, the $2/$5 game looks juicy. Do you have to keep playing $1/$2 until you have $10,000 in your bankroll?
    • Not necessarily. You might consider buying in to the $2/$5 game. But, if your total bankroll ever drops below $4,000 you will go straight back to $1/$2.
    • We are not saying you should always do this. But, it is something to think about as part of your poker bankroll management strategy.

It is vital you are always recording poker results, if you are serious about the game. It is not enough just to keep track of changes to your bankroll. You need to know how much you are making on an hourly basis in terms of big blinds per hour. This way (once you have enough of a sample size) you can track how well you are doing over different time periods. Thus you can see if you are potentially improving (if the game conditions have remained constant).

2. Decide if you want to concentrate on cash games or tournaments?

cash games or tournaments

Holdem players have to decide between devoting their time to cash games versus tournaments. We present the pros and cons of each game type below. Of course there are various types of tournaments. For the purposes of this article we are talking about large field tournaments. If played live, these will likely be multi-day tournaments.

Cash Games

3 Advantages of cash games

  1. You need a relatively smaller bankroll, compared to tournaments. Even 25-35 buy-ins at your current stake level may be enough, to have an acceptably low risk of ruin. This is due to the lower variance of cash games versus to tournaments.
  2. You can choose your routine (and change it anytime) according to what best suit your wants and needs (subject to games being available). Even when you have decided on your routine, you can stop playing without notice, if for whatever reason you are not playing well.
  3. If you play live cash games, and you are lucky enough to live close enough to an active cardroom, you will not incur significant travel costs (and not incur any accommodation costs).

2 Disadvantages of cash games

  1. Even as a winning player, you won’t get rich quick. Winning cash game players can grind out steady regular winnings. There is no chance of winning a life altering amount of money in one go.
  2. The overall skill level of your cash game may be much higher than an equivalent tournament. Tournaments tend to attend weaker players, especially when there are satellites to the tournament.

Tournaments

4 Advantages of tournaments

  1. You may have a chance of winning a life changing amount of money at any time. For example, the WSOP main event has a first prize of ten million dollars, and a massive prize pool overall. Even if you are not playing a tournament with such a big first prize or prize pool, you still have the opportunity to win a lump sum any time you enter a tournament.
  2. It is easy to play a tournament you do not have the bankroll for, without causing damage to your bankroll, by playing a satellite (that you do have the bankroll for) to gain entry to the tournament.
  3. If you are playing live tournaments, you may get to travel across your country or even the world which you may enjoy.
  4. The overall skill level in any given tournament, may be less than an equivalent cash game. Late on in certain tournaments when the money is at stake, if you have survived, you may find yourself up against much significantly weaker opposition on average than what would be the equivalent cash game stakes (this is due to the variance of tournaments).

3 Disadvantages of tournaments

  1. You will be playing at the time and date the tournament is taking place. If you progress in a tournament, you cannot quit (without incurring potential losses). If you are playing live large field tournaments, this means you could have to play several successive (or near successive) days, at the times scheduled by the tournament organisers.
  2. You will need a relatively larger bankroll, compared to cash games. Less than 100 buy-ins at your current tournament buy-in level probably won’t be enough, to have an acceptably low risk of ruin. This is because of the higher variance of tournaments compared to cash games.
  3. If you are playing live tournaments, depending on where you live, you may have to do a lot of travelling to play in the best tournaments. This means you may incur substantial travel costs, accommodation costs, food costs etc. Sometimes, you can avoid these by only playing local tournaments, or mitigate by sharing rooms with fellow tournament players. Nevertheless, your ROI in tournaments will have to be high enough to cover your substantial costs.

So, what’s best?

We cannot answer this for you. Perhaps, you are looking for a regular grind producing steady winnings (provided you have the skills) in the low variance cash arena. Or maybe, you are looking to take on more variance, for the chance of one day winning a life changing amount, in the high variance tournament arena. Although do be sure to pick the most profitable tournaments).

There is certainly an argument for specialising in one or the other. Thus, devoting all your time to improving at that.

In truth, many players actually end up playing a mixture of both. However, you really have to understand the differences between necessary strategy in these different game types if you are to do well in both. This means you can generate a steady income through cash games, whilst still giving yourself a chance at a big score through the tournaments you play. How you split your time is up to you. For example, if there are a few major tournaments in your area (so you don’t have to incur travel costs, or accommodation costs) you can play these when they occur, and cash games the rest of the time.

3. Decide how much your usual buy-ins will be (cash games)?

poker buy-in

When playing holdem cash games, you usually have the option of buying in for the table minimum, maximum, or somewhere in between. Online games often have a cap of 100bb, regardless of other players’ stacks. Live players, will find rules vary from cardroom to cardroom. However, it is common to find at least 200bb maximum buy-ins. Some cardrooms even allow you to buy-in for the greater of a predetermined maximum (e.g. 200bb) or a percentage of the biggest stack on table (e.g. 50% or even 100%). Lets us start by looking at the advantages and disadvantages, of a maximum & minimum cash game buy-in…

Maximum

2 advantages of buying in for the maximum

  1. In most cardrooms (whether live or online) there is a cap on rake. This means after the pot reaches a certain size, there is no further rake. The further the pot size increases from the cap, the less percentage of the total pot that is rake. As an example imagine you are playing $1/$2 live poker, with 5% rake capped at $10. If you won a $200 pot, you would pay $10 in rake (i.e. 5%). If you win a $400 pot, you would still pay $10 in rake (i.e. 2.5%). If you won a $1,000 pot, you would still pay $10 in rake (i.e. 1%).
  2. Players usually make their biggest mistakes in deep stacked situations, as opposed to short stacked situations. As a studied player, it is in your interest to put unstudied or less studied players, in situations outside their comfort zone.

2 disadvantages of buying in for the maximum

  1. If your opponents are more skilled than you, this is likely to hurt you significantly more when playing deep than short stacked.
  2. You will need a much larger amount of money in your bankroll, to have an acceptably low risk of ruin, if you intend to regularly buy in for the maximum. However, a backing agreement could help if you don’t have the bankroll to buy in for the maximum at a game you know you have the skill levels to beat.

Minimum

Advantages of buying in for the minimum

  1. Short stacking will allow you to shot take at higher stakes than you currently play, with significantly less money required in your bankroll than if you intended to buy in for a bigger amount. This may allow you to actively observe larger games, making notes and plans. You may be able to build your bankroll up to the amount required to buy-in for the maximum, through good short stack play. By this time, you will also have acquired significant field knowledge.
  2. Short stacked play is easier to learn than the complexities of deep stacked play. You will find it easier to get into situations versus skilled deep stacked opponents, where they cannot use their skill advantage on you. Your opponents will find it more difficult to stop you realising your equity, as the SPR will be less at all times. And, instead of a three street game the hand may be over preflop or on the flop.

Disadvantages of buying in for the minimum

  1. It will likely be impossible for you to win a pot, without paying the maximum percentage of the pot as rake. This is because you are unlikely to ever reach the rake cap.
  2. Whilst observing others is better than nothing, a better way to learn is to actively participate in new or unfamiliar situations. Playing short stacked is unlikely to get you into too many of these. Whereas, playing deep stacked there are infinite new situations you could find yourself in.
  3. You might have to pass up some extremely profitable situations. Imagine you are playing live poker. A weak player bought in for the maximum, then has doubled up. If you only have a fraction of this player’s stack, and you are a studied player you are losing a great opportunity.

What about buying in for an intermediate amount?

We do not recommend buying in for an amount in between the minimum and maximum, unless you have good reasons. You will lose the advantages of short stacking, whilst not maximising the advantages of playing deep stacked.

However, a good reason would be covering all your weak opponents. Even better if you do this without covering a player you know is significantly better than you. This is especially if they will mostly have direct position on you, if you won’t be changing seats.

Conclusion: What’s the ideal cash game buy-in?

  • Have an adequate relative skill advantage versus your opponents, and enough in your overall bankroll to minimise you risk of ruin? We recommend your cash game buy-in is for an amount that will cover all your opponents.
  • If you are buying in for the maximum, we recommend you top up as soon as the game allows.
    • For example, you have fallen below the allowed maximum, either because you have lost some chips, or in live poker because the maximum has changed on a table where it is relative to the largest stack.
    • Online players can auto top up easily through their settings.
    • We recommend live players purchase extra chips in the most useful denominations for topping up at the stakes they are playing. Then just add these to your stack at the appropriate time. This is quick and easy, rather than having to involve the floor every time you want to top up.
  • If you are unable to do this, you can consider short stacking. But, we recommend you try and build your bankroll through short stacking. Then, consider buying in for the maximum.
  • You can also consider an intermediate buy-in, that is neither the minimum or maximum, but you would need an good reason for this as you giving up the advantages of the maximum buy-in and those of the minimum buy-in.
    • A good reason would be wanting to cover all the weak players without unnecessarily covering a player who has position on you and is significantly stronger than you.

4. Decide which tables to play (cash games)

table selection

When is table selection important in cash game poker? If you are playing cash game poker, you may have a selection of tables to choose from at the start of your session. Whether or not that is the case, you can usually request a move to any other table.

There are some that say you should never change table, and they have 2 main reasons for this. Firstly, they say if you want to become a better poker player you should be able to beat whatever opposition has been thrown your way. Secondly, they argue that changing tables is often done to go after the weakest players in an obvious way. And, this is not good for the game.

We think you should always put work into difficult spots – e.g. if you were finding a particular table difficult. However, do this away from the table at first. When you are actually playing poker, and especially if your poker time has limits, you probably want to increase your chances of winning. Thus, we recommend you pick the best tables (IF there are stark differences between the tables).

Live Poker

Table selection can be really important. When you play live poker, you can only play on one table at a time. Due to the slow nature of live poker, it makes sense to pick the absolute best table for you (and change if necessary). There can be stark differences between the tables available, and not picking correctly can be the difference between a winning and losing session (on average).

What makes a good live poker table?

The 2 main things we recommend you look out for are:

  • Deep stacks preferable to shallow stacks
    • As a studied player, your unstudied or less studied opponents are most likely to be making mistakes in deeper pots, either via over folding after putting in more money than they should, or not being able to let go of their hand despite the SPR suggesting otherwise.
    • There is usually a cap on rake. The more the pot grows above the cap, the less as as a percentage of the pot the winner will pay as rake. Clearly, if you can play on a table with deep effective stacks as opposed to shallow stacked, this is helpful in terms of losing less to the rake.
  • Weaker players preferable to stronger players
    • This one is obvious, if you are looking to maximise your winrate this session (on average). Obviously, you could take a view that playing with stronger players (combined with appropriate off-table work) can help you maximise your long term winrate, even if you win less (on average) this session. If you are a regular at your cardroom you will already know who the stronger players are. So, look out for tables where there are less of them. If you are new to a cardroom, you can spot strong players in various ways: including their general frequencies and tendencies, and general profiling based on age/dress etc. Tables where players are clearly having a good time, may be more profitable than quiet tables (although not always).

Online Poker

Table selection is less important. If you are multitabling, especially over a large number of tables, table selection is less important than live poker. This is because you are probably using a quasi-GTO strategy as standard (and are not looking to exploit your opponents as much as live poker). As you move up in stakes online, again table selection is not likely to matter much – as most of your opponents will be strong anyway. So, there won’t be much difference between tables.

Methods to help you find good tables online

  • Use the statistics shown in the lobby (to spot players or tables with too high a VPIP for example. There is third party software, that can analyse this data, to help you find the best tables as certain cardrooms. But, you must check if your cardroom allows these.
  • While playing colour code any fish a particular colour (or better still use different colours depending on their main weakness). On some sites, you can add them to a buddy list. Look out for these players in the future.
  • Observe potential tables either before you start playing. Or, once you start playing open up a couple more on the side of screen. Look out for opportunities before you sit down.
  • Occasionally a whale or two sits down, at an online table filled with solid regulars – so even if you don’t usually table select – these tips can help you look out for them.

We don’t recommend changing seats

At any given table, you are always free to take any available seat. And, you can change seats as often as you wish. We are less keen to recommend you change seats than tables, especially in live poker. We think it’s good for you to try and figure out, how to proceed, from wherever you are sitting. Also, changing seats (especially if done to get position on a weak player) is kind of obvious. This is especially if you do it more than once, either in one session or over multiple sessions. We don’t think that it is good for the game.

5. Have a infallible way to record results

recording poker results

Recording results is vital to knowing how are doing, and spotting any trends. Before playing poker for the first time, you should know how you will be keeping results or you may later find you have no access to previous results.

  • Unless you have an accurate way to see your results, it might be easy to kid yourself about how you are doing.
  • Fortunately, it’s easy to keep track of your results. This can be totally automatic if playing online. Even for live players there are ways to minimise any time needed!

Recording poker results for live players

We recommend that for each live cash game or tournament played, you note down:

  • Date & Location (e.g. 3/13/20, at Rivers Casino)
  • Game type (e.g. Full Ring, No Limit Texas Hold’em)
  • Blind level (if cash game, e.g. $2/$5, with a compulsory $10 straddle)
  • Start time (e.g. 7.15 pm)
  • Total breaks (e.g. 20 minutes)
  • Finish time (e.g 11.35 pm)
  • Total buy-in, i.e. initial amount, rebuys, and addons (e.g. $2,000)*
  • Amount cashed out (e.g. $3,000)
  • Total players (if tournament, e.g. 570 entrants, 95 re-entries)
  • Finishing position (if tournament, e.g. 5th)
  • Tournament players will also want to separate out the rake. For example $1,500 buy-in + $150 fee

Entering this information into software, enables you to:

  1. have a permanent record of all your results, and
  2. do cumulative calculations, and visualise results.

Using a spreadsheet

  • There is no need to spend any money on software, if you don’t want to. You can easily enter all the information above on a spreadsheet.
    • Then, you can use formulae to calculate all sorts of useful cumulative information.
    • Set it up so each time you enter new session information, there are automatic updates of cumulative results.
    • For example you can see, big blinds/hour profit overall or separated into specific months or years.
    • You can create an automatically updating graph or two, so you can visualise everything.
    • You can use your spreadsheet to track changes to your bankroll too.
  • If you don’t have access to a spreadsheet at the live table, you can note the items down in a paper notepad (although do be careful not to lose this) or on a cell phone/tablet. Then, transfer the information to a spreadsheet later.
  • The advantages of the spreadsheet method is that there is free spreadsheet software available on every platform.
    • With a little bit of work you can customise how the spreadsheet presents the data back to you in at least the same ways the apps do, if not more.
  • The disadvantage is that you have to do the initial set-up, regarding column labels, formulae, graphs etc.

Using an app

  • If you prefer you can use an app on your cell phone or tablet.
  • These apps are usually not free (although many offer a restricted lite version).
  • These apps usually do exactly the same things a spreadsheet do.
  • You enter in your information every session, and it keeps a record of it all, as well as presenting the data back to you in interesting ways (such as graphs, or combined results).
  • If you do use an app make sure you back your data up regularly, outside the app. You certainly do not want to lose your data if the app crashes, or has a bug.
  • You would also want to be able to export the data in a way that is usable outside the app. This is in case the developer discontinues the app in the future. Or, you change platforms and can no longer use the app.

The main advantage of the apps are they may be easier to use, as they require almost no thought. You just enter your results, and the app does the rest. The disadvantages is that the best ones are not free, and you need to trust that the app developer is respecting your privacy regarding the data you are giving it.

Recording poker results for online players

Online players have it much easier. There is relatively cheap software that automatically tracks your results on all the major cardrooms, without you doing much (once it has been set up).