Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Psychology of Record-Keeping

One of those Moleskine journals like the one in which I keep records of my playI’ve written before here about my OCDish attitude toward record-keeping. A favorite subject, I confess. Hell, it’s more than that. It’s an essential theory informing the whole idea of writing a poker blog, actually.

Shortly after I first began playing online, I started logging every session in one of those pocket-sized, black oilcloth-covered, Moleskine-brand journals. There I note the game, limit, number of hands, minutes played, amount won or lost, as well as running tallies for the week, month, and overall. Somewhere along the way I also started entering a lot of the same info into an Excel spreadsheet, mainly as a way to double-check my math. And there’s what gets recorded over in PokerTracker, too. Still recording it all manually, though. Indeed, for me the process of writing down results has become something of a necessary ritual punctuating each online session.

About two weeks ago I finally reached the last page of my original journal, and so I had to begin a second one. I debated a bit whether to change my format for logging entries, but decided just to keep things the way they were. Has been working to this point, I thought. So I’m still recording all that info about each session. And, over there on the right-hand margin, I continue to calculate and enter that figure representing overall online winnings in a column described bluntly as “Total.”

When I first started with this record-keeping stuff, I immediately noticed a couple of effects. For one, I started winning. As many others have noted, simply keeping track of the pluses and minuses goes a long way toward helping one discover what’s working and what ain’t. Another effect was less tangible. I found myself starting to absorb losing sessions more easily. Being able to look back on a run of winning sessions certainly helps in that regard. So does taking a gander at that “Total” number over on the right.

When I started the second journal, I wondered whether it made sense to keep recording that “Total” figure. What does the number really signify, anyway? Since I’ve cashed out quite a bit along the way, the number does not represent my online bankroll, currently spread among five different sites. (I keep that total in yet another place, actually.) Since I began playing back in ’04, the number doesn’t represent yearly earnings, either, so there’s no point to keep it for tax reasons, really. So why keep writing it down?

As I play more, I’ve noticed I’ve become less and less influenced by that “Total” figure. I used to remain very conscious of whether or not I was sitting at an “All-Time High,” meaning that whenever I wasn’t at that point I felt an urgency of sorts, as if I were perpetually “behind” and needed to catch up. A weird mentality, if you think about it. If you give too much weight to whether or not you are at an ATH, you’re always either even or down (never up).

Like I say, I’m less affected by that “Total” figure today than I was even just a few months ago, although I’ll admit to experiencing a feeling of satisfaction whenever that number happens to be larger than all the ones listed in the column above it. And even though I know we ain’t supposed to be worrying to much about what the chips represent when at the table, I’m convinced that keeping track of things like this produces many, many more benefits than deficits, psychologically speaking.

For those of you who also keep such records, what do all them figures you keep writing down represent to you?



Blogger cheer_dad said...

I'd be interested in an example of your poker journal. What you record, what notes you make, format, etc... I enjoy the blog, keep up the good work!



10/07/2007 9:23 PM  
Blogger Amatay said...

Im abit like you and like to keep records m8. My poker record represent success/progress and helps manitain/increase my motivation

10/08/2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thx guys. The journal, cheer_dad, isn't that exciting -- I just have columns listing the date, site, game/limit, hands/minutes played, total win/loss, and the running "total" on the right. I also keep track of how much I have sitting in each site as well. I had thought about posting a scan from the journal, but that's really all there is to it. (Even so, I think it helps a lot.)

I know others have much more elaborate (and probably more useful) records. And, of course, Poker Tracker keeps track of a lot of valuable info as well.

10/08/2007 6:15 PM  

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