Rarely will you see anyone taking notes while playing poker. In the November 2018 issue of Ante Up magazine, celebrity poker expert Mark Brement’s column related to Texas hold’em, urges players to “Remember Details to Improve Game.” However, he realizes that: “Remembering and recording hands is cumbersome.” Our memory alone won’t be enough to “keep it real,” he adds. We strongly agree. To overcome that problem, Bremont, recommends: “Make a point to record only one hand per hour.” After a four-hour session, you go home with four hands for review.
Certainly, that’s better than nothing. But let me offer you a much easier and better way to take – and use – appropriate helpful notes at the table while the game is underway. This will gain you much more information about all of your opponents (and yourself) – information you can actually use during the same session, while the game is underway, to improve your results then and there. I will share this with you, my faithful poker column readers…
Pen, Paper, and Poker
I use a 4 x 7 in. piece of paper that will fit into my shirt pocket. It’s up to you as to what information you want to record and track. It’s pretty straightforward and simple. Much like if you were researching an online casino to play at, you’d be sure to select the right casino no deposit bonus that gave you the best value and bang for your buck. So, too, with poker; you need to jot down the observations that will save you the most money and net you the most profitable return on your investment.
Here’s how you should go about it: List each player’s seat position (1 through 9) along the left side of the sheet, leaving space below for other info. At the top, show the date and starting and ending times, and how many chips you buy and later cash out. For me, here’s some of the information I look for and note:
- Each opponent’s playing traits (loose, tight, passive, aggressive – especially if he is very aggressive (V-Ag). (Note: If he is a V-Ag player, it would be wise to try to move to a seat to that player’s left.) Is he a Calling-Station. (Don’t try to bluff him out.) What tells does he give?
- Is he a winner or a loser? – How many chips does each opponent have in front of him? How many more does he buy as the game progresses?
- Is he deceptive – often bluffs and/or likely to slow-play or check-raise?
- How often does he pay to see the flop? (According to the Hold’em Algorithm – see ad below – investing his chips in more than one out of four hands pre-flop, on average, marks him a “Poker Pigeon” – a player who is bound to lose in the long term.)
- What kinds of hands does he start with? Does he play Hi-Lo hands? Small suited non-connectors? Small/medium unsuited hands from early position?
- For the first hour of play, how many starting hands do I muck; how many do I stay to see the flop?
- At the showdown, how many hands have I won? How many have I lost?
- How many of my bluffs are successful? How many do I lose? After all, bluffing is essential… (Recommendation: Read The Art of Bluffing; see ad below.)
I can assure you that by using appropriate abbreviations, all that information can be contained on that small piece of paper. As the game progresses, periodically review your notes; don’t trust to raw memory.
By the way, for the more electronically inclined, I recommend Cardplayer Lifestyle founder Robbie Strazynski’s poker notes live mobile app. Great functionality in there, serving the same purpose as I outlined above.
Yes, it does take significant effort to take such notes. But it will help you to go home a bigger winner more often. And, not surprisingly, it will help you better focus on the game. It’s well worth the effort…