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It’s no secret that I take notes while playing poker. I do it openly in front of all the other players. Some question me, even snarl. Some ask to see my notes. No way. I just smile – and proceed to take my notes.

In fact, I teach the concept to my students in the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. I even share with them the abbreviations and special short-hand notations that I use. Some have thought about and even tried it. But that’s as far as it goes.

A few have explained that “it’s too much trouble.” Well it does take time and a bit of effort. I think it’s well worth the trouble. Besides, taking notes helps me to focus on the game and do a better job of learning what I can about my opponents. (It also helps me keep score on my poker statistics that I sometimes write about or share with my poker students.)

So let me tell you how my notes saved me from getting bluffed out of a good-size pot the other night (and this was not the first time).

I was in a $3-$6 limit game at the Hustler Casino. After about an hour of play, I was comfortably ahead when this hand came up: In a middle position, I looked down at pocket Kings.

Now, we all know that K-K is a made hand, second only to A-A. Both are quite rare. You can expect to be dealt either pocket Aces or pocket Kings about once out of every 110 hands dealt. That translates to about one time every three hours or more.

K-K could win the pot even without improvement. I raised to protect my hand, hoping to force out players with hands like A-rag or small pairs that could catch a set on the flop. As it turned out, three opponents stayed in – the Button, the Blind, and the Under the Gun (UTG) player. My hole cards: K clubs, K diamonds.

The Flop: Q diamonds, 7 spades, 2 clubs.

After the flop, my K-K still looked very good to me. Since I had raised preflop, the Blind and the UTG both checked to me. Of course, I made the bet, hoping to build what I hoped would be my pot. All three opponents called to see the turn. Then the dealer gently placed the A diamond on the board. Now I had reason for concern.

Could one of my opponents have another Ace in the hole? Quite possibly. Limit game players often stay in with an Ace in the hole. Many play Ace-Anything, even Ace-rag. My raise preflop may not have induced an A-rag to fold. After all, it was only a $3 bet.

After the Blind and UTG checked to me, I decided to “test the waters” and made the big bet ($6). The Button folded but the Blind raised me. “Oh, Oh,” I said to myself, “am I in trouble? Does he have the Ace in the hole, which would make my K-K a poor second-best?”

I pulled my 4-in x 5-in. note sheet from my shirt pocket and quickly glanced at what I had observed about this player in seat No. 2: He is aggressive and deceptive. Armed with this information, of course, I had to call his raise. And then, when he bet out on the river as a blank fell, I called again.

Showdown: He turned up a pair of 5s. The dealer pushed a hefty pot my way – as I showed my K-K, while saying to myself, “George, aren’t you glad you take notes?”

“The Engineer,” noted author and poker teacher in greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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