Every online poker site I’ve played on has the note feature. It’s a great way to document important things you glean from your opponents. However, I’m pretty confident that this feature is poorly used by most players online and even part-time poker professionals. That’s why in this article I’m going to explain why it’s important and offer some suggestions on how you can take notes on opponents in the future.
Why it’s important to take notes
In simplest terms, poker is game of information. The person with more information is more likely to make the better decision nine times out of ten. That’s why we love playing in position, because we have more information as the hand is being played out. The more information we have on players at the table, the less confused and more informed we are to make profitable decisions. If we have a note that details a player’s leak, that could significantly help our hourly win rate. Ultimately, taking notes can be the difference between a fatal decision that costs us our tournament place or securing a final table.
Now you know why notes are important, here are some tips to help you take notes in the future.
Things to pay attention to
You don’t want to spend time taking notes that aren’t going to accomplish anything. The point of a note is to inform you of a player’s tendencies. Therefore, I recommend you pay attention to leaks and strengths of opponents and note them so you can exploit their weaknesses and avoid errors in key pots. Here are some things to pay attention to as examples:
- Bet sizing tells e.g. ½ pot on river as sign of strength vs ¾ pot being bluffs
- Likelihood to tilt
- Hand selection e.g. you see him open A-3os from EP, note it down
- Unorthodox plays e.g. 3 betting a TAG from MP with 4-5os
- Scenarios they like to bluff in e.g. SB v s BTN
The list above are examples to illustrate common traits they have and therefore are likely to replicate again in the future. People are creatures of habit and many will perform the same move in a similar scenario in the future. Believe it not, most people online are not doing hand history reviews to work on their game. Most are just playing for fun in between playing casino games.
Keep notes concise
Notes should not be some long story without any substance. Instead, your notes should be quick and concise so you get the point clearly. Additionally, you don’t have time whilst playing online poker to be writing extremely detailed notes. See examples below of good and bad note taking.
GOOD: 3b A-8os SB to CO C all in w/18bb
BAD: He re-raised with ace eight offsuit against the cutoff open from the small blind and then called all in with 18 big blinds.
As you get used to taking notes on players, you’ll find yourself writing shorthand to be as concise as possible. This will allow you to focus your energy to real time action and also provide meaningful information later.
Use colour tags
Almost all poker sites these days have a colour tagging system. This is a very cool way of instantly tagging a player. There are loads of playing styles and stereotypes in Texas Hold’em and fortunately there are lots of colours too and I’m a huge advocate of using this to codify opponents. It’s a quick and easy way to quickly recognize the opponents you’re facing. See below for examples of how this can work.
|Big Fish (clueless)
Naturally, you can amend the colours to suit you but this is a nifty way of knowing your table composition. Additionally, you’ll realize if the game is good or bad. For instance, if you have a blue to your left and reds to your right, you can probably find a softer game!
Don’t be afraid to change later
Remember, some people change the way they play, particularly as they gain experience. The big fish you played with last year may not be as fishy any more. They may have developed into a decent TAG opponent. As such, you need to be prepared to amend notes and colour tags when you see evidence of a player changing. It could prove very costly if you stick rigidly to old notes when a player is clearly displaying a new way of playing.
How to take notes in live poker
Lastly, we come to taking notes in live games. You probably won’t want to bring a pen and paper. Although this method was successful for Greg Raymer in his WSOP win (see entertaining video below), so it’s best to use your mobile. Like taking notes in online games, be clear. Fortunately, live games are much slower so you can take more detailed notes if you wish, without it impacting your margins.