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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Poker Plus - Tools of the Trade

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In our quest to be a good poker player, we need to use all the tools available to us. In a live game, we use our visual observations to pick up “tells” and get a read on our opponents. But how do we do that while playing online? One way is to take notes on our opponents.

Almost all online poker sites offer a “notes” option. Right click on a player’s name at PokerStars and an option menu pops up. Click on NOTE and you can take notes on the player; your notes appear where the chat box is. Note taking is an invaluable tool for serious players. Since we have no visual way to perceive a player’s tells, taking notes helps us remember how our opponents play. We can still pick up tells, even online.

Does a player go on tilt if he loses a few hands? Do they bet fast when they have a hand? Or maybe they bet fast when bluffing? Do they play cards like 8-5 off suit in Hold’em? Do they always raise on the button? When you notice any of these things about your opponents, make a note.

The next time you find yourself in a game on PokerStars with a player who has a small “n” on their avatar frame, you will know you have notes on them. By reading your earlier notes, it will help you get a read on how that player plays.

As players, we can never know TOO much about our opponents on the green felt. Every scrap of information we gather, can help us have an edge when playing with them. The more we know about how other players in the game play, the better our chances of winning. And, by playing online, we may go a long time before we play against the same player again. If you don’t have a total recall memory, your notes will remind you about the player’s traits, even if it has been several months since you played with them. I take detailed notes on 80% of the players I play against and use them whenever I play. I make notes on good players, like if they are a slow player, check-raiser or if they check a hand I would bet, like trips.

For action players my notes are shorter, as they are harder to pinpoint on their play. Since I play mostly Stud H/L, it is a big edge for me to know that a player will play hands I consider un-playable, like A-8-J off suit. If I know this player has poor hand selection, then his bet when he is showing an 8-7 up doesn’t deter me from calling with my 8 low draw. When I sit at a table with players I don’t have notes on, I watch them and note their play accordingly. With the multitudes of online players, it is impossible, for me at least, to remember all of my opponents and how they play, so taking notes is invaluable.

After you have notes on action players, how do you find them on your favorite poker site?

Finding action players in B&M poker room is pretty easy because everyone knows them. Bigger poker rooms have several action players, smaller rooms have one or two, but online poker sites have thousands. After I take notes on the action players, I add them to my “find a player list” on PokerStars. The list is not very long, as I only add players who are known to put a lot of action and money in the game. When I play, I go to my ‘find a player’ list and see if any of these players are in a game, then decide if I will join their game.

Joining an action packed game however can backfire. Don’t be surprised when the action players put bad beats on you, over and over again. When this happens (and there are days it will) what do you do? One option is to get your patience in check and continue to play. You grind along, being careful not to gamble too much, hoping things will turn around and the cards come your way. This is what most players do when it is a good action game. You may be down two buy-ins, but it is hard to leave a game where one pot could get you even. Or, you can switch games. Often you will have better luck in another game.

If things just keep going downhill, it is better to quit and try again later. And later may be a few hours, or a few days. Myself, there are times I need a break when my head starts pounding, from bashing my head against the poker wall. Taking a break and clearing your mind of bad beats will readjust your poker attitude, which is good for your game. Come back fresh and everything will look brighter, those bad beats will be a distant memory. This hopefully will be the day when things will mesh, the cards come and your good hands that should win, do win.

Too bad there is no calendar that will tell us when these days will be. In the meantime, I want to be at the table when my lucky streak comes, so I keep playing and hoping.

Years ago I owned a horseshoe, a real one, but it never did much for me in the luck department. I haven’t found where to buy a Crystal Ball yet either, but I am still looking.
Grab a chair…see you there!

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