Anyone who watched the 2004 World Series of Poker
Main Event coverage on TV may well remember the scene of Greg Raymer calmly writing in his notebook, while Mike Matusow tauntingly compared
the size of their “cajones”. It’s quite possible Greg was scribbling something like, “guy in the one seat likes to lead out with a flush draw”
– however at that particular moment, I think it’s safe to say that the note read more along the lines of, “guy in the one seat is a complete
asshole”. Either way, the information is something Raymer would undoubtedly use again throughout the rest of the tournament. Perhaps it were those
accumulated notes on “The Mouth” that ultimately gave Raymer the confidence to move in on the hand that ended up crippling Mike’s stack? Regardless
of the information he used to influence his decisions, Raymer didn’t have to rely on just his memory on his way to winning $5M.
Online players have the ability to keep tabs on opponents as well, and in a much easier fashion than using pencil and paper. Yet despite its
availability and great potential value, “note taking” is probably the most neglected tool offered to online poker players. A feature on most
sites, simple note taking can mean the difference between a “donk call” or an amazing laydown. Keeping the simplest of notes on any player who
stands out in the crowd can reap rewards when you least expect it; whether it is two days, two months, or even a year after first encountering
an opponent worth remembering.
The mechanics of note taking are very quick and simple, yet it is surprisingly underused. By merely “right-clicking” on any player’s icon or
avatar, a new “context menu” appears near your cursor. Among a few options (such as “Block Chat”, “Block Image”, etc.) and usually at the very
top of this menu is the word “Note”. By clicking on this word, the normal “table chat” area of the screen is switched to a blank “note pad”
layout. Normally, the player’s name you just clicked on will appear above this new text box as confirmation about which opponent you are about
to take notes on. Now all you have to do is beginning typing. (Note: the process may vary slightly depending on the site, but is very similar
“But how will I remember who I’ve taken notes on, when I’m facing hundreds of different and new players every month?” If you are asking yourself
that question, don’t give it a second thought. Anytime you are seated at a table with a player you’ve already taken notes on, a small symbol
(usually an “N”) will appear on or close to their name – indicating you have stored previous information about this player. Just clicking that
“N”, or the “Notes” tab on your screen, will immediately display what you wrote about them yesterday, or six months ago!
Simple, short phrases will go a long way now that you’ve begun your “case history” on any particular player. A thesis dissertation is definitely
not required about each and every hand someone plays. In fact single words might be all that is necessary to jog your memory about a player’s
style or ability. In the simplest cases, those single words are usually ones like “idiot”, “moron”, “clueless”, etc. But even that will be a
valuable reminder if it’s been five weeks since you first ran into this clown. More often, when you meet up with someone whose play is more
sophisticated and skillful, you will probably end up spending the time to jot down a few key phrases, and perhaps even document specific actions
made throughout an entire hand (or several hands). After all, it is these players you are more worried about who will warrant the most detailed
information. Eventually, after taking several notes on the same player, you may begin to see a pattern in their play! This is the pot at the
end of the rainbow - a “tell” in writing! If you are observant, and bother to “take note” (literally) of players’ habits, such knowledge can be
permanent even if your memory isn’t.
If you are not taking advantage of online note taking, you should. Any player worth his salt is never that busy during a poker game (i.e. – involved
in so many hands) that “not having the time” should be an excuse to disregard this valuable tool. You don’t have to take notes on every single
player at every table. But there will always be that one maniac, or the super-tight mouse that stands out. If you bump into those same players
separately weeks later, you may not remember which was the mouse and which was the maniac – unless you made the effort to take some notes. The
number of players crowding the online poker arenas is growing daily (perhaps upward of 100,000 players logged in every night on just one of many
popular sites). You stand little chance of memorizing the styles and tendencies of more than just a very few individual players without help.
Using notes, you don’t have to remember anything, with the added bonus of broadening your knowledge base without limits.
Note taking may benefit the cash game player somewhat more than a tournament player. Ring game players are more apt to scout out the same few
tables and run into each other far more often. Tournament players don’t have the same “control” in picking and choosing their tables or opponents,
and there is a much larger pool of players within any given multi-table tournament than, say, the handful of $10-$20 Hold’em cash games going on.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t bother taking notes during a tournament. Many of the top online tournament players (especially at the higher buy-ins)
end up facing each other quite often as they approach the final table. There is little doubt these successful players have their own “databases”
(in the form of “online notes”) about each other, which further contribute to their consistent cashes in such events.
Recently, I was playing in a No Limit Hold’em cash game online. After a short while, a new player entered the game. I was happy to see the little
“N” embedded in the frame surrounding his name. He was seated two spots to my right. I could not remember for the life of me anything about this
particular player – but I knew I was about to be reminded of something I hoped would be useful. I simply clicked on his little “N”, and this is
what I saw at the bottom of my screen: “extremely aggressive... likes to bluff. If folded to him on
always raises 4-5xBB, even with garbage...”. I was anxious to test the accuracy of my previous take on his bullying antics. Sure enough, the first time
he had the button and it was folded around to him, he came out charging with a 4xBB raise. I had rags, but reraised him substantially. He postured for
a moment and then folded. The next round, it happened again – same scenario. He raised 5xBB this time, and I reraised even more with two napkins! He
folded again. He must have been wondering how he got so unlucky to run into two monster
hands in a row. I was smiling to myself all the way to the cashier. Had I not taken those previous notes on that player (who knows how long ago?), I
would not have reaped those extra profits. Try it out. You never know how or when “notes” will surprise you in a good way!