Monday, June 20, 2011

Keeping a Poker Journal

(Apologies for going so long without an update - I actually have two other blog posts in the works but they both kind of turned into "bit off more than I could chew" scenarios.)

So, I don't know what's going on lately. I feel like I've been playing well, doing the same things I always do, with one significant change: I am suddenly sucking at poker.

Anyone else had that feeling?

I should say, I didn't know what was going on at first. Then, I opened up something I haven't in awhile - a MS word document titled, "Poker Journal."

My poker career maybe hasn't been as long as some others, but I've been doing this for over a year now, and I've learned a lot of things, from a lot of different people, and from myself, too. All of that learning and studying and practicing pulled me from marginal microstakes loser to significant mid stakes winner. There's just one problem: Most of what I learned just doesn't stick.

It's not my fault, really. Studies show that no matter how good people think they are at remembering things, human memory is actually pretty crappy. No matter how much they do things by feel, they're wrong as often as right. So here I am, my knowledge slowly slipping, my play slowly regressing, until that stubborn microstakes loser is piloting my mouse in a handful of 5/10 games. Whoops.

The poker journal is the fastest and most efficient way to stuff the skeleton of that microstakes loser back in the closet. For example, when I took the Short Stack Revolution course, my VPIP went up, my 3bet stat went up, and the difference between my VPIP and PFR shrunk by a lot. But over time, that stuff started slipping. Without a journal, I'm screwed. I either have to go back and learn everything from the beginning, or, even worse, I have no idea what has slipped and I have no way back. The journal turns days or weeks of hard study into a one hour refresher course.

If you're like me, you flirt with the line between profession and addiction with poker (okay, actually I do that with everything I enjoy). Even on my days off, I'm constantly thinking about past plays, new lines, math tweaks, or whatever. Now, I know you think you'll remember it and apply it later. The honest truth is, you usually won't. The poker journal serves as a quick catch-all for all the wild poker thoughts roaming around in your brain.

Usually I try to update my poker journal about twice a month, once with thoughts about whatever I am digging through (even if it's something relatively devoid of strategic content), and once with an analysis/report of how the month turned out, plus whenever the impulse strikes me or I learned something specific I don't want to forget.

It might seem like a waste of time when you're doing it, but when you need it later, it'll prove invaluable. My suggestion: Take an hour a month and give it a try.