Making Notes Work For You

Conversations regarding the differences between live and online poker are so common as to almost be cliche — visit any poker forum, newsgroup or brick and mortar room and chances are you'll quickly stumble across a few folk debating what characteristics set the two apart. Personally, I think there are three major differences. The first two are obvious as obvious can be — the lack of physical interaction online and the vastly superior speed of the online deal. The third difference isn't quite as apparent, but in my mind, it's just as significant as the first two — the ability online players have to keep detailed, even exhaustive notes on their opponents in real time. To some players, notes are a causal undertaking — jot a thought here, write an observation there. To others, notes are a curious little feature of the software that they hardly ever investigate if at all. On the other end of the spectrum you'll find players who have elaborate systems loaded with sentences detailing the minutest tendencies of every opponent ever known to them, and a few that they watched and took notes on — for fun. You probably don't want to be any of the above. Thankfully, there's a middle ground you can settle in where your notes are specific and helpful without being overwhelming. Our focus is on quality over quantity, and the best way to ensure we get there is to develop a quality process for taking notes. As with most rational undertakings, a solid process will produce solid results — so let's get to detailing a few of the axioms of good note taking.

  1. Good notes are a matter of degrees, not absolutes. Remember that call you made last night that was so out of character you actually pulled a double take at your monitor? Imagine if one of your opponents jotted down a note along the lines of "calls down with A high." That note wouldn't do a damn thing for your opponent, since you're unlikely to make a similar move any time soon. In fact, the note will actually make your opponent play worse against you, since they have a flawed perception of what you're likely to do in a similar situation. Don't make the same mistake. There's nothing wrong with typing a quick note based on a single event, but don't type it as an absolute truth. A small word or phrase like "might" or "seems to" or even a question mark will give you a better sense of how useful the note really is when you return to it days or weeks later. The more you see the behavior, the more certain your note should be. Have an opponent who four bet a flush draw once? Try "May be aggressive with draws on flop." When you see that same opponent pull the same trick again, upgrade — "Raises draws strong on flop." When the opponent repeats the behavior in a later session, lock it as gospel [or as close to gospel as you get in poker] — "Four bet on flop probably means flush draw."

  2. Good notes are standardized. Having an entire page of notes on an opponent in no particular order is arguably worse than having no notes at all. For notes to work optimally, they have to be systematic. Not all information is useful, and an avalanche of information that you can't sort through properly in the instant you need it certainly isn't helping you — at least not as much as it could be. For each game you play [e.g. limit, no limit, tournament], pick four or five relevant characteristics and focus on developing your notes around that base. Let's work out a quick example for shorthanded limit. In a short limit game, you are primarily concerned with a few characteristics of your opponents: their preflop raising standards, their preflop calling standards, their betting patterns on the flop and their calling patterns on the river [sure, there are other relevant traits, but we're just looking for an example list, and to be honest if you have a good read on those four things you're probably going to be beating most online shorthanded games]. For each characteristic, develop a scale that makes sense you [1-10, A-F, red to green, lose to tight — whatever]. This consistency will make your notes easier to use and will actually make taking notes easier. That's the kind of efficiency you should be shooting for — better notes in less time.

  3. Good notes are dynamic. Your notes should be an extension of your game and they should change as you develop as a player. Think back to when you first started playing poker — if you're like most people you probably were too passive as you were learning. As a result, you probably had a badly skewed definition of "aggressive" and "tight" and so on. Some smart plays seemed idiotic and some idiotic plays seemed smart. As your perception of poker changes, so should your system for taking notes and your notes themselves. Imagine if you took all the notes you were ever going to use during the first year you played poker — how useful would they be to you in year two? Year five? The reality is that all good players are constantly changing in subtle but significant ways, and to not reflect those changes in your notes makes those notes a liability.

Hopefully these ideas will help you use notes more effectively. GamesGrid Poker is proud to offer a notes system that's powerful and easy to use. All you have to do is click on any player at your table and a notes box will pop up. You can take notes on every player at your table with that one box via a handy drop down menu where you select individual players. After you've taken a note on a player, you'll see an icon [an "I" in a circle] by that player's name. And unlike most poker sites, GamesGrid transfers your notes to whatever computer you're using — no more losing a wealth of information on your opponents just because you're playing away from home. Download our poker software and try it today.

Team GamesGrid

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