|Posté le: Dim 10 Jan - 20:35 (2010) Sujet du message: How To Use Player Notes
|How can I best use Player Notes to track my online opponents?
Last updated: May 2005
Copyright © 2009 MJ
The official and up-to-date version of this answer is here.
For more by this author, visit MJ's Party Poker Strategy Guide where he has more detailed suggestions for taking notes.
As an online poker player, many of us are accustomed to the fact that playing the live game vs playing the online game can often be a very different experience. In a live game, you are in a sensory rich environment, with the ability to identify and incorporate visual and audible cues from your opponents. These cues all add up to subtle hints in the quest of putting your opponent on a hand.
In an online game however, these cues all but fall by the wayside as you have nothing more than the beep and hum of your computer to tell you that your opponent has made a bet, raise, call or fold. Naturally, this would make most people think that playing online is a huge disadvantage. It might well be, but there are certainly tools at the online players' disposal that can help mitigate some of those disadvantages - and one of those tools are Player Notes.
What are Player Notes?
Player Notes are features built into the software of most poker sites these days that allow you, the player, to take text notes on each and every one of your opponents. The notes are saved so that if you come across this player again, you can already have your own little collection of information about this particular opponent. The live game equivalent would be taking a notepad into a game and jotting down notes on each of your opponents in front of you as the game progressed. While this is not against any rules, you'd certainly get some funny stares for your odd habit. This isn't the case online however since your opponents can't see you, thus giving way to one of the advantages of playing over the internet.
How to effectively take notes?
The biggest question many players have is how to take effective notes on other players. While there is no one correct or standardized way of note taking, the idea is that any set of notes are good if they will help you make good decisions that save or make you money in the long term. As such, there are a number of attributes and traits that make for some key note taking ingredients.
Most importantly, you want to know if your opponents are tight or loose players. This piece of information itself can help you make big decisions when the heat is on you, so it's the most important to identify first. Luckily, it's also one of the easiest to identify with passive observation.
To find out if a player is tight or loose, simply make notes of the types of hands he or she regularly plays. While many of your opponents' hands will be folded, at the end of every hand be sure to note what each player is going to showdown with (ie, "plays: AKs, ATo, KQo, QJs, 77"). After a few orbits, you should start to get an accurate picture of each player, just based on what they are going to showdown with. A player who regularly shows down with big cards like AA or AK for example, you can peg as a tight player as they only play premium hands. A player who is the opposite and often plays rags, you can peg as a loose player. Just be sure that you aren't over-zealous and take notes of what players are holding in the big blind and small blind however, as they will often automatically be in the pot with any hand.
(Tip: Many sites often have hand histories available which show what your opponents were holding at showdown, regardless of whether or not they actually showed their hand. Using the hand history feature is a great way to collect showdown information.)
The second most important thing to know about your opponents is whether they are a passive player or aggressive player. Because even if you know they are tight or loose, a loose player can still play passive while a tight player might be extremely aggressive after the flop. Knowing these two facts can lead to great success in figuring out your opponents.
Figuring out if your opponents are aggressive or passive is a bit trickier, but not by much. To gauge their style simply involves concentration on your part, observing your opponents' betting patterns all the way through a hand compared to what they had at showdown. For example, if your opponent bet his hand all the way to the river and showed down a busted flush draw, you know that this opponent is very aggressive. If they check and call with top pair, strong kicker, then they are obviously a passive player. On the other hand, if they bet top pair with moderately strong kickers or bet a flush draw with overcards, then they may be semi-aggressive players. Use these type of betting cues combined with their hand to figure out their aggression level.
Using acronyms to save space
As mentioned before, there are no standards for note taking. That said, if you took notes in proper English that went along the lines of "Player is aggressive and bets flush draw to the river in a multi-way pot", you'll only be able to fit two sentences into the window before you're out of space. This is where acronyms come in handy. The following are some abbreviations that are easy to identify and save space:
|TP = Tight Player |
STP = Semi-Tight Player
LP = Loose Player
AGG = Aggressive
PSV = Passive
PR = Hands that opponent pre-flop raises
P = Hands that opponent plays or limps in with
PP = Pocket Pair
FF = Face cards
RR = Rags
+ (denotes "better or bigger than")
- (denotes "worse or lesser than")
So, an example of a combination of these notes for a fictional fishy player could look something like this:
|LP, AGG |
PR: +PP, -PP, FF
P: A2s, 65s, 73s, 42o, QT
In English, the notes would be roughly interpreted and translated to mean: "Player is loose and aggressive. Likes to pre-flop raise with high pocket pair, low pocket pair and face cards. When they are not raising and just limping, they generally play junk hands."
So, acronyms are good for making a quick look at your notes and figuring out the player when you don't have time or space to fit in your entire notes box with detailed information.
Expert note tips
While this isn't a complete primer on how to take notes, there are a few key notes that you can take which will benefit your game immensely as well.
The first is whether or not an opponent will bet or raise his or her draw (ie, flush draw, straight draw)? Many aggressive players often do this to scare players out of the hand and it's very useful information for you to know.
Second, does your opponent bet into the pot in late position? Smart and aggressive players will often bet into the pot when checked to them, so knowing this can give you an idea of whether or not you are in trouble with hands like mid-pair.
Third, after pre-flop raise, does your opponent bet their hand all the way to the river? Many low limit players will often over-bet their hand this way and you can capitalize on it by knowing if they are over-aggressive like this.
Lastly, if you are able to spot tells from your opponents, like if they make small bets when holding a weak hand or if they push all-in when holding a monster hand, you should definitely make a note of this in well. If you are sure of your read, you should make very visible notes, such as "TELL: Goes all-in with monster!" in order to be quickly identifiable.
So, while the live game certainly gives more extra-sensory information than the online game, you are not at a complete disadvantage while playing online. Use notes to your advantage and you definitely see an improvement in your game by plugging the information gap.
Just remember that like any other poker skill, it takes time and patience before you get comfortable with it, so keep working on your note taking skills and soon enough, it will be second nature.