If you want to be good at poker one of the most important skills you need to learn is the ability to read your opponents
. Once you spot a player always plays a certain hand one way, or you think you can recognise when they are bluffing it's crucial to keep hold of this information. You never know when it could help you to win a big pot in the future.
The best way to do it is by using the player notes function available on PokerStars. To access this you just double-click on the player in question and it will bring the notes tab up where the chat box is usually found. From here you can choose to stick a coloured tag on the player, or type specific notes. Tags can be a useful way of quickly identifying what type of player you are up against. It can be worthwhile to come up with a couple of categories
– such as good player, bad player, aggressive, tight, calling station and so on – and then assign a coloured tag to each of these player characteristics. Once this is done you'll know at a glance what type of player you are up against and can make your decisions accordingly.
Making effective notes
Making notes takes a little more time but can also be more beneficial. Try to ensure that you are not wasting your time by only noting things that will actually help you at the table. So don't write 'very annoying player. Always gets lucky!', but instead write 'likes to limp with his big pairs from early position'. One of those statements is just venting whereas the other could directly help you win money.
Whenever you spot something out of the ordinary
, make a note. There's no need to say obvious points like, 'he raises with strong hands' but you would want to note something like 'she raised from the cut-off with K-6'. The first statement is just stating the obvious; the second one can tell you that this player is loose, aggressive and knows the importance of stealing the blinds. Now that you have this information you can play back at her by making light 3-bets because her range is wider than usual.
If you can save time by writing abbreviations rather than full sentences this can be a benefit too. Here's an example of an abbreviated note, 'r BTN K6o 3xBB, cbet K22, cc t+r.' Can you work out what it means? Here is the unabridged version: 'Raised on the button with K-6 offsuit to 3 big blinds. On a K-2-2 flop made a continuation bet, before checking both the turn and river.' There's quite a difference between in length between the two but the same information is construed in both. You don't have to follow the exact same system when making your notes, but if you can come up with a way of effectively shortening the observations
you make it will make your life a lot easier (and faster!).
Don't go all-in on your notes
An important thing to bear in mind is that all notes, tags and reads on players should not be set in stone. To be reliable first of all you need to have seen more than just one or two hands from a specific player. Just because they slow-played pocket Aces one time doesn't mean that they will do it every time – pay attention to see if their strategy changes
the next time before putting full confidence in a read you've made. Players can also adapt over time too, meaning that a great note or observation you made a year ago is no longer valid because that player now plays the game differently.
We also suggest you check out these other Poker Strategy topics.
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