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Keeping Notes on Players

April 22, 2008

One thing I’ve started to do is take notes on players. I have system to my notes that I thought I’d share. The system is simple. I characterize each player on only a small set of factors. I will make determinations after seeing one or two hands and amend my notes from there. I don’t care if my notes aren’t perfect. Here’s what my notes say:

Loose/Tight (might include the qualifier “very”). This is mostly about pre-flop hand selection and how many hands the person plays. If I see a player at the table play the first three hands of a tournament, that player is loose. If I’ve only ever seen hands or betting patterns that indicate the person is playing only premium hands they will get the coveted “tight” designation.

Aggressive/Passive (also potentially “very”). I’ll give the “aggressive” designation to players who will bet more than the pot on the flop. This, to me, might be the most important thing to know. If I raise the pot, how likely is this player behind me going to re-raise me and make me make a big decision? I love the passive players.

Everyone gets those first two designations, the following are only for some players and only when I have enough information.

Tricky/Straightforward. If I see someone play tricky, like slowplay a straight or check-raise with some “hidden” hand, that player with get the “tricky” label. On the other hand, if a player is aggressive pre-flop but then checks to me after the flop and folds to a small bet, that player is straight-forward. Better yet, if I see them play jacks or queens by the book. It’s great not to have to wonder “do they have it?” A straight-forward player will let you know. If he bets or calls or raises, he does.

Smart/dumb. This seems self-explanatory to me. If I see a player call a re-raise after the flop and the turn and get a K on the river to make his AK good, that player is dumb. I’m waiting for my chance to play a good hand against this player. I’m going to be careful to play something better than a good draw or top pair though because this player doesn’t know better than to fold with a marginal hand, so I can’t win unless I make my hand.

<What they play>. These notes include “loves suited cards” (which warns me to fold to aggression when there’s 3 to the flush on the board. Others include “plays any ace” or “suited connector guy”.

“Plays often”. I play a lot these days and I know that playing often helps your game a lot. I’m afraid of players that play as much or more than me. So players I recognize get the “plays often” label. Worse than that is if I meet them at the final table of my favorite tournaments a few times. I treat these players with a little extra respect.

“Late chip leader in X tournament”. I think it is generally a sign of a good player if they are the chip leader late in a tournament. I give these players some extra respect.

“Big winner at cash table”. This is for the player that is sitting at a max $10 buy-in table with $50. I’m not messing with that guy. He’s been waiting for me to sit down so he can extract my money. I don’t want to give it to him, not this time or the next time when he doesn’t have everyone’s money yet.

Here’s the rub though. All these notes and I can tell at least 3 stories where I had the right notes (e.g. “straight-forward, bets only made hands”) and I made the wrong play anyway (like bluffing Mr. Straight-Forward). It hurts more when you don’t listen to yourself.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 23, 2008 12:03 pm

    Looks like you’ve worked out a decent system for yourself there.

    When I was grinding the Sit ‘n Go’s I noted just about everything, in a lengthy shorthand, even including every single hand every player showed down, and how they played.

    In the Sit ‘n Go’s, I was often quite proud of my ability to read my opponents, and that in part was probably due to my excessive notes, which likely speed up the process of getting a feel for the game.

    Since starting cash however, I’ve changed my strategy completely. I only note key hands, and how the hand played out. A few things I might note is players who min-raise with aces, players who min-raise with junk. Players who re-raise on the river with the 3rd nut etc.

    Being aware of the regulars is a good tactic, I tend mix up my play a lot more if I’m playing against someone I see frequently, though thats in the cash games.

    Best of luck

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