Why (and How) to Take Proper Notes in Poker

One of the most underrated skills you can have at the e-felt is the ability to take clear, concise, detailed player notes.

Think about it: you're playing hundreds of opponents daily. Trying to keep track of everyone in your head is a pointless endeavor.

Poker sites have built-in note-taking software exactly for this purpose, so take advantage of it.

Poker is a game built on information, and every hand you play with someone contains valuable insights into their playing style and betting patterns.

Valuable Poker Info at Your Fingertips

Note Taking 1
Good note-taking example.

When you add a note to a player it will stick with them, so if you run into them on the same site three weeks, a month, six months later, all of that valuable info will be right there at your fingertips.

You'll learn to love notes when you're three hands into a session and you're facing a giant turn raise with an overpair on a paired board.

You check the guy's note and see "likes to bluff at paired boards." A note like that can save you from making what would be a bad fold.

When taking notes, you want to them to be short. Don't use three sentences to say what you can in one.

note taking 2
Not so good note-taking example.

You'll have to refer to them in the middle of making a big decision, so as much as you want to just write, "IDIOT HITS GUTSHOT ON ME, WISH HE WAS DEAD," don't.

It may relieve some stress temporarily, but it will do nothing to help you in the long run. Save it for your blog.

Keeping the notes short, sweet and to the point while still communicating your opponents' tendencies is your ultimate goal.

The way you do that is by using abbreviations and acronyms. A few popular acronyms that will help you keep your notes clean and clear are:

  • OTB: Off the button
  • OOB: Out of the blinds
  • UTG: Under the gun
  • PFR: Pre-flop raise
  • NFD: Nut-flush draw
  • TPTK: Top pair, top kicker
  • TPNK: Top pair, no kicker
  • TPGK: Top pair, good kicker
  • OOP: Out of position
  • IP: In position
  • 3B: Three-bet
  • C/R: Check-raises
  • C/C: Check-calls
  • CS: Calling station
  • BVB: Blind versus blind
  • AI: All-in
  • BB: Big blind/Big blinds
  • HBL: High blind limper

This is not a complete list, but it will help you get started. And you can obviously use whichever acronyms you want as long as you understand them.

Let's take a look at a hand and then see what kind of notes we can take on it.


$1/$2 cash game with $200 effective stacks. It's folded to you on the button. You open to $8 with A♣ A♥ and just the big blind calls.

The flop comes A♦ 4♠ 5♠. BB checks, you bet $14 and the BB calls. The turn comes the 4♥. BB checks, you bet $20 and your opponent again calls.

The river comes 8♠. BB checks, you bet $50 and your opponent check-raises all-in. You call and he shows 6♠ 9♠ for the flush. Your aces-full scoops the pot.

Now what kind of note would you add for the BB? To start, you can say something like "Calls OOB with weak holdings against button PFR, C/C turn with weak FD on paired board, C/R river with weak made flush on paired board."

note taking 3
Take notes on your favorite pros even.

That note can prove quite valuable to you in the future. Against a more sane player you may have to fold to that river action if you hold something like a ten-high flush. However, now that you know this particular player overvalues flushes, you'll be able to make the call profitably.

You also know that he will defend his blinds with weaker-than-average holdings against late-position raises. From all this information you can infer that he is probably not that great a player.

I think it should be fairly obvious how this type of information will help you in future hands.

That is pretty much all there is to it. It isn't rocket science: the present you is just sending a message to the future you that says, "Dude, this guy sucks" or "This girl overbets with only made hands."

Note taking might seem mysterious and involved, but it isn't really. Just make your notes informative and easy to understand.

The future you - and your bankroll - will thank you.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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