When you join a Home Games poker club, you're signing up to play poker repeatedly with the same 50 people. It follows that you're going to get to know those 50 people quite well, in terms of each one's poker strategy.
That's a dream come true for you, the serious, strategically-minded card shark. You know that your edge comes from knowing your opponents' tendencies and being able to exploit their weaknesses. Thus you love the idea of Home Games, a format where the player pool is limited to just a few people.
Key to making reads on your opponents is keeping track of what they do. If you notice the actions your opponents make but forget them 5 minutes later, you might as well have not noticed them at all. Thus the importance of taking notes.
In the same vein, if you take notes but take them in a nonsensical way, they will be useless to you in the future. I know a guy who likes to write down absolutely everything he sees an opponent do--every bet, every call, and every showdown gets transcribed into his opponent's note box for future reference.
Thing is, there's so much information in those damn note boxes that they are essentially useless during a game. The noise-to-signal ratio is just way too high. My buddy is the worst hand reader I know, because he takes poor notes.
So let's figure out how we can optimize our note-taking in PokerStars Home Games.
You've got to learn to filter out the crap you don't need to write down from the stuff that's essential to record. The goal is to strike a balance between minimalism and zealotry.
If you see an opponent take a line that is obviously wrong, write it down. It could be indicative of a broader leak in his game. For example, if you see an opponent consistently limping preflop in a Home Games cash game, write it down. That's a huge leak, and a reliable indicator that the player is a total fish. This is really good information.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are things like "raised preflop with AA," or "went to showdown with a pair of kings." These pieces of information aren't useful for a couple of reasons. First, they're devoid of context. Second, they're too broad to help us out with reads.
A lot of people raise AA preflop, as they should; there's no need to write that down. And a ton of people show down a pair of kings; that's not news. Recording information like this will clutter your notes and make it harder to get accurate reads on your opponents.
Keep in mind that when you're writing player notes, you aren't crafting the next Great Novel. Your notes are mainly a memory tool, and they should be treated as such. Keep your notes as concise as possible without leaving out any critical information.
Most good players I know devise their own shorthand note-taking systems. They will invent little codes for common patterns they observe in opponents. For example, a player who plays way too loose and passive in position might be ascribed the label "LPIP," loose and passive in position. A player who spews chips preflop might be labelled "LAGTARD." And so on.
The idea is to write down with as little effort as possible the most information you can possibly convey. It doesn't matter if nobody understands your notes but you; they're your notes, and nobody else has to use them. The only thing that matters is that your notes are useful and understandable on your end. Achieve this however you want.
Don't fall into the consistency trap; revise your information as newer information becomes available. There is nothing worse than having inaccurate notes. If your notes on a player are incongruent with how the player actually plays, you will end up losing a lot of money!
Since time does not stand still, it's safe to assume that a poker player will play a bit different as time passes. Perhaps he'll get worse, perhaps he'll get better, or perhaps his game will just get weirder. Whatever the case, we want to be vigilant in our observations. At the first hint of a player's having changed his playing style, revise your notes.
As a Home Games poker club member, this is more important for you than for a player in the public player pool. Since you'll be playing against each opponent in the poker club with a very high frequency, each inaccurate note you have will add up very quickly in the form of losses.
The smaller the player pool, the more important revising becomes. If your Home Games poker club is a small one, you'll want to pay very close attention to the accuracy of what you write down.
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