How to Take Notes in Poker

written by: John Comments: View Comments

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Although this may seem quite obvious, one of the most distinct differences between playing poker live and playing poker online is the lack of physical interaction between players. Whether it is through being verbal, body language or lack thereof, these types of physical characteristics can often give off 'tells' which is something a player does when they have a strong or weak hand in a given situation. These 'tells' can prove to be profitable and give an edge to those observant enough to notice them. However, in online poker these are virtually non-existent. So how can somebody still maintain any sort of edge over his or her opponents?

Well, the easiest way aside from all the new technology available is to simply take notes on your opponents. Every poker room offers a form of note taking with some having more elaborated options than others have. But they all generally do the same thing. The best part is that the notes you take are permanent and will be available anytime you play against that player.  

So, many of you are probably wondering, "How does taking notes make up for the lack of actual physical interaction between players?" The simple answer to that is that it really doesn't. Nothing can take the place of actually seeing your opponents. But to make up for it, you now pay attention to other things such as betting habits or hand range characteristics and take notes on those instead.

Note Taking Tips in Poker

Now, taking notes in poker is important but taking solid notes that make sense, have useful information and can actually be used in game play is not only more important but is a necessity.

To begin with, the first thing that a player should be looking to take notes on is their opponent's tendencies or table image. People come in all shapes and sizes but the most common table images are tight, loose, a maniac and whether or not they are passive or aggressive. When taking these notes, players can abbreviate these terms to make taking notes faster and easier to read later on. Here is how we would abbreviate these terms.

  • T = Tight
  • L = Loose
  • M = Maniac
  • P = Passive
  • A = Aggressive
  • CS = Calling Station

These can be combined of course for various kinds of players:

  • TA = Tight Aggressive (many also use TAG for this)
  • LA = Loose Aggressive (many also use LAG for this)
  • TP = Tight Passive
  • LP = Loose Passive

Obviously, the combinations are endless and these can be written or expressed in any way you wish as long as you understand them when you need to read them.

Taking notes on an opponent's table image will prove to be useful later on because many decisions involve putting players on a hand range of some kind. So, knowing if an opponent is tight or loose will allow you to make a much more educated guess and from there you can act accordingly.

Another thing that is important to note is a player's betting tendencies. Things that you are looking for are:

  • Do they raise pre-flop and how much? This can be abbreviated using: PFR
  • What position do they raise from, early, middle or late? This can be abbreviated using: EP, MP and LP for early position, middle position and late position.
  • How much do they raise in relation to the blinds? This can be abbreviated using: #x BB. For example, if the blinds are 15/30 and your opponent raises it to 90 which is 3 times the size of the big blind, you can write this like 3x BB.
  • Do they continuation bet on the flop? This can be abbreviated using: C-Bet.

Taking notes on betting tendencies will prove to be useful later on when compared to notes you take on what hands they play and from where. If you notice that an opponent bets 5x the big blind with kings but only 3x with 10s, then the next time that player bets you can then use your notes to try and put him on a range of hands. This is even better and more useful if you can figure out from what position these hands are generally played from.

Anything that a player may want to take notes on outside of images and betting tendencies will really vary from player to player. From a personal standpoint, I think that it is a good idea to pick up on little things that can be exploited such as:

  • Does my opponent chase draws? What kind? Are they willing to draw with incorrect odds?
  • What hands do they call shoves with? What hands do they need to be the one shoving?
  • Do they understand the simple fundamentals of poker? Are they aware of position, hand strength, and general betting basics?
  • What hands do they play with and from where? (I try and create a range in my notes)

These kinds of points here allow me to exploit my opponent further whether it is by making them pay for draws thus making me more money or by getting out of the way when they shove thus saving me money. Whatever the situation, these types of notes help me make better decisions.

How to Take Notes in Poker

Even with all the kinds of software that are available to players, there really is no reason not to take notes. Taking notes will only help and by using some sort of short hand, taking notes can be quick to do and easy to read so that your focus can still be on playing poker. In short, you simply gain an edge over your opponents by taking notes which is the next best thing to picking up any kind of physical tell. 

For your convenience, here is a list of terms and how they can be abbreviated for easier note taking.

Small Blind:                SB
Big Blind:                   BB
Cut Off:                      CO
Under the Gun:           UTG   
Hi-Jack:                       HJ
Button:                        B or BT
Early Position:             EP
Middle Position:         MP
Late Position:              LP
Continuation Bet:       C-Bet
Pre-Flop Raise:            PFR
Bet Size Pre-Flop:       #xBB (2x BB, 4xBB, etc...)
Loose Aggressive:       LA or LAG
Tight Aggressive:        TA or TAG
Loose:                         L
Tight:                           T
Passive:                       P
Maniac:                       M
Calling Station:           CS

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