Taking notes at poker table provides big edge over opponents

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My previous column focused on the art of taking notes at the poker table. We listed valuable information that could help to move your opponents’ chips to your growing chip stacks.

We quoted Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker, famed poker psychologist, on possible reasons why players do not take notes, to which I added my own explanation.

Having presented a poker class lecture on this topic, I decided to query some of my more poker-gifted students: Why don’t you take notes at the poker table? I’ll share some of their comments. . . But first let’s review the Bottom Line from that previous column: “Rather than rely on your memory (there are eight or nine other players at the table), taking notes at the poker table offers a big edge for winners.

Bill Gardner joined our Claude Pepper Seniors Group after the class on the why and how of note taking. Bill was a highly regarded contracts administrator for the L.A. Community College District, and served as the Contract Manager for a multi-billion-dollar bond program.

“I never really thought about it,” he said, adding that he had “never observed anyone taking notes” (at the poker table). He will consider it if “it would help my results.”

(Bill, be assured that it will greatly improve your poker results, provided you take the “right” notes and know how to use that information in your own best interests.)

Ron Ross, part-time movie/TV actor, ragtime pianist par excellence, and tax preparer, who has become an excellent limit hold’em poker player, had an admission. He had attended the class at which we discussed taking notes at the poker table. Actually, he had “started to do it, but I guess I just got lazy.”

My comment: Isn’t that part of human nature? It takes effort to take notes and not much fun. It’s a “chore” and takes self-discipline. Perhaps it depends on how badly you want to go home a winner.

On the other hand, I would point out to Ron, observing your opponents and taking notes after folding your hole cards preflop (as should be the case for most hands dealt to you – assuming you use the Hold’em Algorithm) helps you to remain patient while waiting for decent starting hands.

Without patience, don’t expect to be a winner! Taking notes gives you something worthwhile to do, rather than scanning the big TV on the wall.

Chet Zaluga, a computer software developer in his earlier career, and now an attorney practicing and teaching law in El Segundo, Calif., joined our Pepper group sometime after the lecture on note taking. This may explain his response:

“I do not take notes. I never learned how.” Then he added reasons that indicate deep introspection, deserving of our deliberation:

“I do not want to appear too serious; I want the other players not to respond by getting serious. I do not want them (my opponents) to notice and remember me.”

Interesting. Dr. Schoonmaker commented: “If you are a serious player, you will get more respect, which (subsequently) makes it easier to bluff.”

That’s a good point. My suggestion to Chet: Try it; you’ll like it.

Rich Levier, a poker dealer who works the Seniors’ Poker Event at the World Series of Poker, and enjoys playing limit hold’em, commented (tongue-in-cheek): “It angers the Poker Gods!” (Maybe Dr. Schoonmaker will interpret that answer.)

In conclusion: Taking good notes at the poker table provides a big edge over your opponents. It is worth your time to learn how to do it and how best to use that information. It’s only natural to regard note taking at the table as a chore and find excuses for avoiding it.

Once you learn how and do it, note taking will become easy and so valuable. Go home a winner! What could be better?

(“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in West L.A., is a recent inductee to the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.)


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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