I openly take notes while I play poker; anyone can see me as I write down different types of information. This information helps casino me win more money more often, while losing less.
Taking notes helps me in many ways: it makes me more focused on the game, helps me know what bluffs are the most successful at the table, and it informs me on what kind of player each opponent is, along with their traits. Then I can know, for example, that a player is tight, and that when he raises early he has a good hand. If I have a bad one, this lets me know to fold, and therefore save chips. My notes also help remind me which players are easy to bluff out and which are “calling-stations”, or more difficult to intimidate. Knowing this helps me raise my bluffing statistics, and therefore raise my profits.
I had an “ah-ha” moment while reading Irene Edith’s recent column on rating your personal poker skills. She pointed out that “There are many degrees of luck and skill… If you are a consistent winner and the amounts won are growing with time, then you must be rated as highly skilled.”
Before having my revelation, I marked an opponent’s skills by measuring how well they used the Hold’em Algorithm (Ref. Hold’em or Fold’em?-An Algorithm for Making the Kay decision; see ad in this issue). I considered someone who did not use the algorithm or an equivalent a “pigeon”, and I wrote a “P” alongside their seating position. Someone who did use the algorithm or an equivalent was designated “T” for “tight”.
But it’s just as important to recognize the highly skilled players at your table, perhaps even more so. Use extra caution when playing against them. If there’s two or more at the table, consider changing tables. If there’s only one, you might consider changing your seat so he declares before you’re forced to act. This kind of information is vital to your poker health.
How can you tell which players are highly skilled? To start, highly skilled players are likely to have significantly more chips in from of them than average. This isn’t always accurate, however. Another way to spot a skilled player is watching how many hands they muck. Skilled players do this much more than average ones; a truly skilled player doesn’t stay to see the flop more than a quarter of the time when in a late position, and pays to see even fewer when in an early one. Skilled players also prefer to mix up strategies and tactics, making it even harder to predict them.
On this reasoning, I’ve added an “S” to my notes for “highly skilled” or “shark”. With nine or ten players at a table, and with players constantly changing, this new notation makes it much easier to play, and with much less stress.
Always try and find ways to improve your game. This small change in my note taking certainly helps me.