The internet was an amazing boon for poker in the early 2000s. Not only could you play high stakes games without going to a casino, but the technology was transformational. Traditionally, you rarely get to play more than 30 hands per hour in a casino game. Online, you can play twice as many hands per hour. More importantly, you can play multiple tables at the same time.

The real game-changer, however, was data. With hand history, you could build a perfect database of every opponent, tendency, and mistake. It didn’t take long for technology like heads-up display (HUD) to come along to track how someone gambled. Playing too loose in early position? Overplaying hands like pocket nines or pocket tens? The database would tell you all and encourage you to improve the leaks in your games. Instantly, my results improved and profits increased.

A few years later, in 2007, I decided to record every poker hand I played in a notepad. I was playing quite a bit at the time, so when I sat down at a table, I wanted to make sure I had a data-driven advantage. In addition online games, I played roughly 10 tournaments that year, including a few events at The World Series of Poker. In total, I logged more than 1,000 live hands.

data poker John Fernandez

Looking back over a decade later, I’m not sure I made the wisest decision. Sure, it sounded great in the moment, but I didn’t improve as much as I hoped. The goal became to collect as much data as possible instead of trying to become the best possible player and make a little money. (I didn’t cash at the World Series, but the 2007 main event winner took home $8.25 million.) By the end of the year, I came to my senses and put the notepad away for good. Frankly,…