Poker is a game of careful analysis and study. While you may have read numerous poker books or subscribed to all the poker channels, could you be missing out on a simple yet crucial poker tool? Your own notebook could be one of the best resources for upping your poker game and taking your strategy to the next level. Let’s show you how to start taking notes like a pro when you play online poker.
Why should you take notes in a poker game?
Different players approach poker games differently. If you keep track of your opponents and take notes on their plays, you’ll know which strategy to use to play optimally and improve your chances.
If you build a habit of taking notes during games, your notes will provide helpful information about different types of players and give you key insights into the weak points of your own strategy. When you recognize behavior patterns, you’ll know when it’s best to test out an unorthodox poker strategy and surprise your rivals.
Your poker notebook is like your playbook. You’re no longer going into a game blind; now, you have insights from previous games and rounds. Many players don’t build the habit of taking notes, so the simple act of taking poker notes can give you the upper hand.
What notes should you take in a poker game?
A rookie note-taking mistake is to note anything and everything that happens. This might seem like a safe bet, but it distracts you from the game and leaves you with useless information. Land-based and online poker tournaments and games are fast-paced, requiring a lot of focus. Only note the most useful information to make the most of your limited note-taking time.
The most important things to note in a poker game are unusual events or moves. An example of this could be a player making a big over-bet on the river with a bluff. Don’t record standard or expected plays, but take note of the events that stand out or surprise you.
Also, take note of any patterns or tendencies you notice from particular opponents. If you regularly play against the same people, these notes could help you spot a bluff or understand their aggression level and playing style. Poker game notes don’t have to be descriptive and lengthy, they just need to be insightful and easy to read.
Tips for taking useful poker notes
Just like you need poker tips and tricks for when you play, you need tips to write valuable notes. Let’s look at a few key things to keep in mind when you take notes during games.
You won’t have ample time to write or read your notes while you play. Make your notes easier to write and read by using abbreviations. You can use abbreviations like BTN, meaning for the button, or CRAI, for check-raise all-in. Another example is the commonly used UTG for under the gun. Only use the abbreviations you know well if you’re a new player.
Write player positions and postflop action
There’s no point in writing that a player three-bet with a strong hand if you don’t know where they raised from or the position of the initial raise. This note could have a completely different meaning depending on the position the player was in.
Mention what happened after the flop or if a player made a large continuation bet. If you’re trying to take notes on a player’s approach or strategy, you’ll need to know more details about the notable moves they make.
Know when NOT to take notes
One time you should stop taking notes is during a tilt. In poker, a tilt is an emotional reaction to something that happens in a game that affects your gameplay. Losing badly can lead players to go on tilt.
Tilting happens to every player, but don’t let it affect your notes. Emotions often make us exaggerate and we might end up describing players in a way that’s not completely true. Don’t take notes based on your frustration or anger. Try to focus on the events and facts.
Keep your notes organized
Your notes should always be organized so you can refer to them anytime. Make sure you have separate sections for the preflop, flop, turn, river and any noticeable tendencies. You can also separate your players by their skill level, if they’re passive or aggressive or by how regularly they play.
Make note-taking a habit
Taking notes from games will help you build the best poker strategy. It might seem like unnecessary work, but it can help you stay focussed on the events and facts instead of solely depending on your hunch or going full tilt.
Don’t rely on your memory. Create a habit by setting aside a poker notebook or app to use every time. Make it a habit always to check your notebook or app before you begin a game. Keep your notes organized by date, player and position to make it easy to reference later in the game or when you’re preparing for your next one.
How to take notes during live poker games
Thanks to smartphones and modern technology, you don’t need to use notebooks during live games. Live games are slower, giving you more time to take in-depth but useful notes. You can use the normal notes app that comes with your phone or you can download a poker app that’s been designed for this task. An app will remind you what to note and which abbreviations to use. Your notes will remain private and fellow players won’t know about them.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to read these notes in the middle of the hand in a live game. Instead, your notes will help you prepare for your next game. In live games and tournaments, you’ll probably face the same players multiple times. Having a track record of how everyone plays is invaluable.
What to take note of in live games
As in regular games, you should note any peculiar hands or moves and describe the position and bet sizes in detail. Another thing to note is any reads or tells you notice along the way. If a player talks more when they bluff, write that down. This information will help you pick up player behavior patterns and discover any poker tricks they like. Smart players won’t use all their tricks in one round, but a note-taking system will help you connect the dots and build a profile for them.
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