Taking Poker Notes

Most sites now offer the facility to take notes on other players, which are then stored on your computer and can be retrieved the next time you run into them at the tables. You can write whatever you like in these private notes – what kinds of hands the player is showing down, what their pre-flop raising (and calling) standards are like, whether they are aggressive or passive, tight or loose, whether or not they always defend their blinds, whether or not they always launch an attack on other people’s blinds when they are first in from late position, whether or not they are prone to going on tilt after a bad beat, whether or not they are capable of running big bluffs etc.

When an unfamiliar new player enters a hold’ em game it is often worth noting whether they wait for the big blind (or let it pass and then post next to the button) or post at the first available opportunity, even if they are shortly due for the big blind anyhow. In the latter instance, it may be that they are an ‘action’ player, impatient to start gambling.

If you do not wish to take detailed notes, it is still worth recording who the big winners and losers were at the table, so that over time you can develop a feel for who the best and worst players are at the limit you play, and can subsequently select your opponents accordingly.

For Paradise Poker, PokerStars and PartyPoker, you can actually edit your notes when you are not actually online – simply open up the ‘Notes’ text file in the local directory in which your online site is stored and all your data should be there. It may be as well to take a backup copy of this file before you make any changes, so that you don’t lose it if something goes wrong. Of course, if you change computers this text file can be copied across to your new machine to save you having to start from scratch all over again. (N.B. At Paradise Poker the file is called ‘Player Notes’ rather than ‘Notes’.)

Online note-taking facilities are not available at every site (and are not portable from site to site), so some players prefer to store their notes either handwritten in a notebook, or on their PC in a wordprocessing document or spreadsheet. Of course, the latter approach has the important advantage that it is easier to store and sort your notes. If you wish to keep notes in this format then you may choose to layout your notes in the following columns:
•    The player’s name.
•    The player’s location (most sites provide this information nowadays).
•    The date.
•    The type of game and limit at which you encountered the player.
•    An approximate rating for that player (on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10).
•    An indication of their general starting hand requirements and pre-flop style – Loose? Tight? Passive? Aggressive? (You could even add specific examples to help jog your memory.) What kinds of hands did they steal and defend blinds with?
•    An indication of their post-flop style of play. What kinds of hands did they bet or raise? Top pair with good kicker? Top pair with bad kicker? Bottom pair? Flush/straight draws? Outright bluffs?
•    Any other points of interest. For example: Did they vary their play? Did they go on tilt after a bad beat? Did they trap with very big hands? Did they reveal anything about their playing style in any chat messages? Were they playing at more than one table? Do they regularly play at a different limit to today’s game? etc.

It is sometimes argued that unless you are playing at limits of, say, $10/$20 or above, note-taking can hardly be worthwhile, since below that limit there are so many players that you will not run into them often enough to justify the time invested. However, others believe that note-taking is an important skill which you should constantly try to develop as you progress through the limits. Furthermore, it will encourage you to focus properly on your opponents’ play, whereas otherwise your attention might be diverted away from the game. Even at lower limits, you will find that from time to time your notes on another player will help steer you towards the right path in a tricky situation. If nothing else you may wish to keep a notepad by your PC listing the best players whom you have faced; and the ones whom you figure might form part of your ‘dream-team’ of potential opponents!
At the end of each session you should also strongly consider taking notes on yourself! Typically this might take the form of a wordprocessing or spreadsheet document and include the following information:
– The date
– The length of the playing session (measured either in minutes, hands played or both).
– The site at which you played (assuming that you have accounts at two or more sites).
– The form in which the game was played (assuming that you play more than one form of poker).
– The limit at which the game was played (or the buy-in level in the case of a tournament).
– The amount won or lost.

You may also like to keep a note of how many flops you saw, the percentage of games you won and other such statistics, if this information is provided by the site at which you play. Once you have built up a series of such records, you should be able to develop a good feel for the type of games in which you fare best, which will greatly assist your game selection in future.

In a recent edition of Online Poker News, Andrew Glazer even recommended taking notes on specific plays you make that save or lose you money, and adding these up at the end of the session to see what these plays have earned or cost you. That way, if you keep making the same mistakes from one session to the next, the cost of these should be plain to see!

Another important means whereby you can analyse your own play is through hand histories.