Poker Tips by George: Taking Notes – Part 1

By George Epstein
December 12, 2022

It’s no secret that I take notes while playing poker. Anyone can see me do it. All you need to take good notes is a small piece of paper, a pen, and some self-discipline. More tech-oriented folks might prefer a mobile app like Poker Notes Live. Some opponents have commented on my note-taking, occasionally in a derisive manner. I just smile and avoid discussion. They are entitled to their opinions. So am I.

Jonathan Little Notes

Image Credit: Jonathan Little, Danny Maxwell

Years ago, when I was much younger and more energetic — well before the emergence of online poker and and other places around the world — I taught poker to diverse groups ranging from seniors to war veterans, and even to a group of early-Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Occasionally, I discussed taking notes while playing. Recently, I learned that a group of poker experts/pros has offered a note-taking class. So, I thought it would be appropriate for me to offer my how-to on note-taking to Cardplayer Lifestyle readers.

Let me forewarn you. It takes work and self-discipline to record good notes. And it will occupy a fair amount of your time while the game is underway – but you will find it well worth the effort if you dare pursue the challenge.

This column, Part I, will focus on note-taking regarding your opponents to help you better understand how each opponent plays his hands so you are prepared to make the best decisions against him.

Part II, our next column, will be about taking notes related to your own playing to help you avoid mistakes in order to optimize your play.

Note-Taking About Our Opponents – How to Do It

Let’s start with the system I use. Then, I will suggest data you may want to gather using that system.   

My System:

  • Use a small piece of paper that conveniently folds to fit into your shirt pocket.
  • Beginning at the top, note the date, the casino, and starting time.
  • Follow this with the number of hands dealt during the session. I use a series of parallel lines, one for each hand dealt. (Putting them in groups of five makes it easier to tally.)
  • List each opponent by seat position, starting from the dealer – 1 through 9 (skip yourself). When there are multiple data to be collected, I use a system of arrows pointed upward and parallel to one another. I put the arrows in groups of five or fewer. Occasionally, there will be a special notation to the right of an arrow.

READ ALSO: Poker Tips by George: Skills Are the Key

Data to List for each Opponent

  • For each player (1 – 9), note the amount of his buy-in or approximate number of chips when you joined the game.
  • After a few rounds of play, using abbreviations, note each person’s playing traits (T = tight, L = loose, A = aggressive, P = passive, M = maniac, B = bluffer, D = deceptive, S-P = slow-plays, Ch = chases, C-S = calling-station.) Leave space to add traits; there may be more than one for each player.
  • For each opponent, when possible, make note of his selected starting hands played and position (examples: K-J/early, 10-9 suited/middle, A-3/late).

In a recent column of mine, we discussed playing patterns our opponents may be using as they play against us. You might review that information and use it along with these notes.

The Hardest Part

Learning how to take notes is the hardest part of this effort. Once you get into actually taking the notes, it is much easier to do and so much more fun – and so exciting to watch your chip stacks grow.

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Written By.

George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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