Poker Journal | Smart Poker Study Podcast #15

A poker journal will improve mental clarity, organize your studies, find leaks and track your progress.

In case you missed it, in episode 14 I interviewed long-time poker player and coach Al Spath and he gave some great advice to lower level players.

Poker Journal, Podcast #15

For years I struggled with improving my game.  My studies were just all over the place, and I constantly got sidetracked by the “shiny thing” syndrome.  I needed some way to organize my thoughts and be able to go back to them and try to make sense of things.  I had to find a way to put my ideas together to come up with new strategy insights, a way to track my progress and to systematically go from topic to topic while giving myself time to employ strategies learned.

That’s when I discovered journaling.  Actually, it was ‘The Miracle Morning’ that lead me to begin journaling to improve my poker game.

How does a poker journal help my game?

  • Journaling can help you improve mental clarity. You need a way to put together disparate thoughts, going from a jumbled mass of ideas in your head to creating effective strategies and gaining insights into poker.
  • Journaling can help you combine ideas for effective new strategies. Maybe last week was spent on studying Cbetting and Cbet Stats, and now this week you’re working on opening ranges and Raised First In stats.  By combining these two topics, Raised First In and Cbet, you may come up with some ideas and strategies that you can use to exploit your opponents.  For example you might color code these the same so you’re more likely to notice them on your HUD, or you’ll make a note in your warm-up each day to look for players with both stats being high, and these are good opponents to raise their cbet or to float them and take it away on the turn.
  • Journaling can help you find and address issues that you were unaware of. By keeping a poker journal and reflecting on prior entries, you may find some repeating questions or ideas.  When you notice something popping up more than once, it’s an obvious thing to follow-up on.
  • Journaling can help you track your progress. By tracking your progress, you can see your ups and downs in poker, where you’re making strides or where you’re falling behind.

What do I write?

Play Sessions

Your journal should answer the following (6) questions that your poker coach might ask you:

  • What did you do for a warm-up?
  • What strategy focus did you have?
  • Any mistakes made?
  • What spots baffled you?
  • How bad was any tilt and why did it occur?
  • How would you rate this session and why? (pass/fail, letter grade, # out of 10)

Study Sessions

I’d love to see you have a list of weaknesses that you’re systematically addressing.

Your journal should answer the following (6) questions that your poker coach might ask you:

  • What concept did you study?
  • How did you study it?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What questions do you still have?
  • Any further topics necessary to study to fully grasp this concept?
  • What outside help do you need?

If your journal answers each of these, then you’re killing it and you’ve got a document that you can refer back to at any time to refresh your studies or even use in your first poker strategy book, baby!

Sign-up for the Weekly Boost and get a special journaling gift:


I want you to have a system in place for reviewing and reflecting upon your past week’s entries. So for example, every Sunday morning over coffee you need to look back at the prior week.

The more you journal, the better and more organized you’ll become at utilizing this valuable resource.

I use a physical journal for my play session recordings, and a Word document for recording my study sessions.  Whatever you do is up to you (Evernote works well).

Now the last thing I want to say to those not sure if they want to keep a poker journal: don’t think, just do.  Grab a notebook you’ve got lying around and commit to this for one week.  See where it takes you and how you enjoy it.  I guarantee it can’t hurt your game.


I already said it, but I’ll say it again.  Pickup any old notebook or even download my Poker Journal Q’s from the show notes and just get to it.  Try it for one week and let me know how it goes.  Use the Poker Journal Questions PDF to aid you (sign-up above).

Review (creator Mark Warner) just released a Tournament Push/Fold Calculator that uses Nash Equilibrium to give you optimal push/fold ranges at 10bb chips stacks or less.

Nash Equilibrium is basically optimal play vs another player who’s playing optimally.  Push/fold is the point in SNG’s and MTT’s where your stack is so short (generally <10bb’s) that your optimal decisions are to either push all-in to steal the blinds/antes, or just fold your hand and let others KO each other.

The way it works is you input the number of opponents, your stack size, the big blind amount, and whether antes are in play or not.  Once you hit “Submit” the program will tell you how many blinds you have and will show you the theoretically-optimal shoving range for that situation. Yeppers, it tells you what hands to shove with when you’ve got less than 10 big blinds.

Pretty nifty program.  If you’ve never used one before, head on over and give it a shot.  You might be surprised with the results it spits back.  “I can shove 95s at 9bb’s vs one other player?!?”

Sky Matsuhashi