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The Importance of Keeping Records
Keeping records is important for poker players even if it does seem a laborious task. Top poker players keep records of their play to help file accurate taxes and to highlight their most profitable areas.
Former Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu keeps meticulous records. Negreanu rarely plays online poker where several tracking websites are available so he records by hand every event he plays. The Canadian has thousands of fans, so these records help them keep track of how Negreanu is performing.
Negreanu publishes his end of year records to highlight if he has been profitable or not. He played 291 events over the past five years and cashed in 23.4% of those. Negreanu spent $10,329,453 on buy-ins and cashed for $19,062,527 for a profit of $8,733,074.
These records are a great insight for fans, but they also allow Negreanu to file taxes and check that he is still winning. What records do you keep?
Keeping Records for the IRS
American poker players must pay taxes on their winnings. Unlike the United Kingdom where gambling and poker is tax-free, the United States demands tax on poker profits. Having the IRS on your back is the last thing you want.
Keeping record allows your tax returns to be accurate, but also ensures you do not pay too much tax. As tax is only due on profit made, keeping records of your expenses means you can remove them from any profit. Online poker makes this easy as you can download a plethora of stats and figures. Live poker players do not have this facility and it is easy to forget about that $10 tip you gave three months ago.
Log Every Session
You should always play in cash games and tournaments where you have an edge otherwise you risk losing money. How do you know if you are profitable in a particular game? By keeping records of every session you play.
Having a big winning session in a $2/$5 cash game in Las Vegas may put you in profit for the year, but what if that masks dozens of previous losses? You know if a game is profitable if you have detailed records of all your past sessions.
Players who keep records have more knowledge of what the most profitable times and venues are, at least for them. A perfect example comes from me. I kept detailed records of all my online cash game sessions when I first started taking poker seriously. It soon became apparent that I was losing money between 18:00-20:00 on Tuesday and Thursday. Why this is, I cannot remember, but I avoided playing at these times.
I also learned that my most profitable sessions came between 23:00-01:00 on Friday and Saturday nights. This coincided with the time pubs were kicking their drunken customers out, who obviously hit the tables when they returned home! Playing against intoxicated players was my forte!
Knowing when the best times to play and when to avoid helps boost and protect your bankroll.
Use Tracking Software Online
You need to be using tracking software if you are an online poker player. Software such as Holdem Manager and PokerTracker are vital to long term success. This software is excellent at keeping records of all kinds. Their most powerful tool is the ability to track individual hands.
Tracking software allows you to analyze every aspect of your game. You know which hands you can play profitably and from what positions at the table. For example, you may find ace-ten is an unprofitable hand against three players when in early position. Likewise, pocket sixes facing a three-bet may be a leak in your game that is costing you money.
Poker is a game played with incomplete information. The more information you have available, the better it is for you.