Can you Take Notes at a Poker Table?


There is a lot that goes on in a live poker game that is hard to keep up with. Because you’re not Einstein or equipped with a brain that works like a flash drive, it’s difficult to record every action for future reference. It would be easier if you could take notes, wouldn’t it? I thought so too. So, I decided to learn if casinos allow note-taking at live games.

Can you take notes at a poker table? Yes, you can. Casinos have no rules forbidding note-taking at games. Many high profile poker players in poker tournaments record game details on their iPad, phone, or with a note and pen. Some casinos may frown at the use of electronic devices at poker tables, and if that’s right, you can still use a pen and notebook.

It’s one thing to know you can take notes, but it’s an entirely different thing taking a comprehensive note that will be useful to you. It’s important to know what to record and how to record these details.

Example of my notes on a certain opponent’s actions.

Why Do People Take Notes at Poker Tables?

Agreed, some players find it a little annoying. Imagine that you’re playing cash poker, and some guy is staring you down and writing down notes; you probably would wonder what he’s going to do with those little notes. The answer to that question is a lot! It is impossible to improve at poker if you’re not reviewing your moves and learning to play the right hands and when to fold. If you can record your plays efficiently, you’ll be able to analyze them better.

Many great poker players record every significant move they do during a game. At the end of each game, they sit down with a clear head and a relaxed mind to review their gameplay. This review can help them pinpoint any weaknesses in their game and fix them accordingly.

For new players who are still learning the game, taking notes to record significant game action can help them while discussing their moves with more experienced players, friends, and mentors. No doubt, a professional poker player can help strengthen your gameplay with a few tips on how to make your moves and to anticipate your opponent’s moves. Without necessary details on your moves, it’s almost impossible for anyone to help you effectively.

Also, if you play against the same players often, it will be helpful to take notes on their plays to help discover their playing methods. Details to note may include whether the player plays many or fewer hands if the player is risk-averse or bluffs a lot. This information can help you develop an efficient strategy when you’re up against that player.

Some players tend to take mental notes of some of the above information as opposed to taking real notes. Unfortunately, taking mental notes is a poor strategy that may affect your gameplay. Poker is mentally demanding. While playing against intelligent players who are mentally and emotionally ready, the last thing you need is to recite in-game details in your head. You need your head in the game, and for that to happen, full concentration on the game is necessary. When you take notes down and not bother yourself with keeping a good memory, you’re more relaxed and fully engrossed in the flow of the game.

Poker Notes Live is great for taking notes on your mobile during live play.

How to Take Notes at a Poker Table

Taking notes the wrong way will hurt your winning chances and affect the general flow of the game. If you slow down the flow of the game as you take notes, you’re likely to infuriate other players and lower your chances of having players willing to play against you next time. So, it is necessary to adopt a method that allows you to take quick notes.

Also, it is important to choose the important actions to record on your notes as opposed to recording every bit of the action. For example, you don’t need to track all your opponents at a game; it will slow you down and take away your focus from the game itself. If you have to record every single move at the poker table, you’re probably going to spend around 70% of your time taking down notes while missing out on the action flowing around you. So, this is not a wise thing to do.

An excellent example of an unusual action to record is when you’re playing against a 3-bets pre-flop, and the player often check-raises. ¬†When an opponent checks the flop after 3-betting, you’re easily fooled to think they’re done and out. So, your next move is to place a bet and claim the pot. That mistake is a move you won’t make if you knew that particular player likes to check-raise. That simple knowledge can save you money and your sanity.

The best way to take notes during a live poker game is to come prepared. If your casino allows electronic devices like phones and iPads, you can prepare a table on a Word doc or a google doc. This table should have all the critical actions you wish to record. Important details to record include

  • Your position
  • Opponents range
  • Your range
  • Bet size
  • Blinds size

You can add other game dynamics you’d like to check. If your casino does not allow electronic devices, prepare a table on your notebook with rows and columns. Assign a column to each detail you’re hoping to record. This way, you’ll be able to record every important detail in an orderly manner. If you’re a professional poker player, recording your moves on a word or google document could be immensely helpful as you can save them and email to a friend or your coach to get an instant reply.

Another way you can improve your notes is to record details with abbreviations. This will make your notes shorter and help you record them faster. It doesn’t matter how you abbreviate them; there’s no specific rule to follow. Whatever comes to your mind can work perfectly. For example, ”Buttons” can be abbreviated to letter ”B’‘ while ”SB” can stand for ”small blinds” and ”BB” for ”Big blinds”.

Can You Show Your Opponents Your Notes?

From my experience at cash poker games, other players are usually curious about the notes I take. A few jokes here and there about my notes is also a frequent occurrence. I have met players who were uncomfortable with the notes I made, which isn’t a problem for me as long as I’m not breaking any rule. On a few occasions, some players have requested to see my notes out of curiosity. If I’m taking notes on my game, I don’t mind showing my records to players who want to know what I’m up to. They usually hand it over the minute they see its nothing more than just game statistics. If I’m taking notes on an opponent, I don’t show my notes to players at the table, and I don’t think anyone should. Your notes on a player are part of your strategy, and allowing another player to see this information can ruin your plan. Also, some players are not too happy to know you’re recording their playing style. So, it is better to keep that information to yourself.

Related Questions

Are there apps that help players take notes at live poker games? There are a few apps on various mobile app stores that are specifically meant to help players take notes during live games. An example is Poker Notes Live, which is available on app stores.

Why do some casinos prohibit the use of mobile phones? Different casinos have different rules governing their poker tables. Some casinos don’t allow mobile phones to avoid players who text each other during live games.

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