poker note taking

How to Take Notes on Your Opponents Like a Pro

Learning how to take notes efficiently is an underrated skill in online poker.

Ryan Office Note Take

By taking notes, you give yourself easily accessible information about how certain players approach the game.

This article will help you take better notes on your opponents, while also providing you with abbreviations that will allow you to do so quickly in-game.

Let’s dive in.

What Should We Look For When We Take Notes?

Let’s start with an overview of what we’re really looking for when we take notes.

Anytime you see a player make an abnormal play, consider taking a note of it. If you’re playing live or on a poker site without a note feature, you’ll have to make it a mental note, or perhaps use the notes app on your phone.

The most noteworthy plays are those that reveal a glaring deficiency in a player’s strategy. Some examples of this could be:

  1. Someone calls a raise preflop and gets to showdown with an extremely weak hand.
  2. Your opponent checks back a very strong hand on the river with which they should have bet for value.
  3. A player bluffs a turn or river with no equity or range advantage.

The conclusions you can make about these three players are:

  1. Someone that called a raise preflop with an extremely weak hand (like J♠ 3) is ultra-loose preflop.
  2. The player that checked back a very strong hand on the river is overly passive, perhaps scared money. Also, his river bets might be more polarized.
  3. A player that attempts a wild, overly ambitious bluff is likely bluffing too often and you should call down lighter against her.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you can imagine many other plays that would be worthy of a note.

What to Avoid When Taking Notes

Don’t take notes that will more than likely be ambiguous to your future self. As good as it may feel to write “idiot” or “donkey” in your opponent’s note box, such a note is quite unlikely to serve you well in the future.

Instead, take note of specific hands played by your opponent that demonstrate why he is, for example, an “idiot” or a “donkey.” That way you can come up with more precise counter-strategies when you play against them in the future.

Now you know what to look for and what to avoid when taking notes. Let’s move on talk about learn some shorthand abbreviations that will save you time when notetaking so you can spend more time focusing on the game.

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Positional Abbreviations

Before diving into more complicated abbreviations, we’ll start with something simple: position abbreviations.

There are the 9 positions in poker (6-max players can ignore the first three and start at Lojack).

the 9 positions in a texas hold'em poker game

The nine positions in Texas Hold’em game.

And this is how they can be written as abbreviations:

UTG: Under the Gun
UTG1: Under the Gun +1
UTG2: Under the Gun +2
LJ or MP1: Lojack
HJ or MP2: Hijack
CO: Cutoff
BTN or BU: Button
SB: Small Blind
BB: Big Blind

Whenever you note a hand, start by noting which position that the player was in. This is one of the most key components of any note because position has such a massive impact on the optimal strategy in a given situation.

For example, suppose you see a player raise K♠ 9 from Under the Gun. You can safely assume that this player raises way too wide from the early positions, and you can take note of this in a matter of seconds with the short-hand:

opened k9o utg

Now you know the positional abbreviations, so let’s move on to more complex abbreviations that show how a player played an entire hand.

Action Abbreviations

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of short-hands for different actions:

Pro Tip: Make a copy of the following list and keep it with you when you play. Using these abbreviations will help you quickly discuss hands with other players which will help you improve much faster.

Big Blinds = bb
Check = X
Call = C 
Check Raise = x/r or XR
Check Call = x/c or XC
Check Back = x/b or XB
Continuation Bet = cbet
Cold Call = CC
3-bet = 3b
3-bet shove = 3bs
4-bet = 4b
4-bet shove = 4bs
5-bet shove = 5bs
Final Table/Final Two Tables = FT/F2T
Double/Triple Barrel = DUB/TRIB
Check to Showdown = XTSD or x down
Fold Equity = FE
Limp Call = l/c or LC
On the flop/turn/river = OTF/OTT/OTR
r at the end of a board = rainbow board (all different suits)
cc at the end of a board = two clubs are on the board
sss at the end of a board = three spades are on the board
x after a board or card = an irrelevant suit

Feel free to tweak these abbreviations to your preference or add your own.  

Now, let’s go over two example hands to cement the notetaking process in your mind.

Example #1

A player in the cutoff 3-bets all-in preflop for 40 big blinds with 44 after a player raised UTG. Here’s how we could quickly take this note:

CO 3bs 40bb with 44 vs UTG raise

Just like that, you’ve quickly made a note of an abnormal play, which you can now reference when making decisions against this player in the future.

Let’s do another that’s a little bit more complicated.

Example #2

A player raises from the Button with a 30bb stack and gets called by the player in the big blind. He c-bets for one 1/3rd pot on A♣ T♣ 3♠. He follows up with a half-pot bet on the J turn, then goes all-in on the 2 river. His opponent calls and he shows a bluff with Q♠ 4.

This very noteworthy hand could be written quickly as:

BTN raise 30bb with Q4o TRIB AT3cc Jx 2x vs BB

Now you can quickly be reminded that this is a player worth calling down light.

A Quick Word About Live Poker Note Taking

The easiest way for live players to take notes on their opponents is using Notepad or a similar app on your phone. You could create a separate folder on your phone where you track unorthodox plays against the people that you most frequently play against.

Even though you won’t be able to access these notes during the middle of a hand, you can still study them when you’re away from the table or not in the current hand.

What is a Note-Worthy Play You’ve Seen at the Tables Recently?

Let me know in the comments.

I hope these note-taking strategies will help you out during your next session!

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author
Josh Jones

Josh Jones

Just an MTT player trying to get to the long term #variance

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