Making Reads and Taking Notes on Players

It has become the norm for people to play a lot of tables at one time when playing an online poker session. A lot of players believe that they can maximize their hourly rate by playing as many tables as possible, believing that for each table they will make a multiple of their single table win-rate. The truth however is that none of us plays as well on several tables as we do on a single table.

As we add more and more games in, our concentration becomes diluted and we begin to play robotically, particularly later in the session when fatigue begins to become a factor. Having to tend to so many tables causes us to not see the action in key hands that we’re not involved in, and makes us miss out on key information about our opponents’ playing tendencies.

More and more players are accepting that mass multi-tabling is having a dramatic effect on their win-rates, particularly nowadays when the games are much harder than they were a few years ago, and there are a lot solid opponents on each of the tables.

Many players will have leaks which they don’t even notice due to the fact that they’re playing so many tables. The way to exploit people who are still playing too many tables is to reduce the number you’re playing yourself and engage in diligent note taking and studying of their game in order to develop reads on their play that will allow you to have an edge over them.

Developing Reads

If you limit the number of tables you play to four, you’ll find that you have much more time to watch hands unfold and understand gameflow and how each player is playing, when they are tilted, when they are on auto-pilot etc. It’s simply not possible to notice and be able to use this type of information effectively when you are playing a thousand hands an hour. The things you should be looking out for in the regulars in your games are:

  • Bet sizing tells: Do they bet different amounts with their bluffs and strong hands? Are they paying attention to board texture and betting bigger on coordinated boards when they have a made hand?
  • Continuation betting tendencies: What types of hands are they checking back with? This is quite an easy read to develop if you’re paying attention and can be very profitable for you.
  • 3-Betting tendencies: Are they 3-betting a polarized range (only very strong hands and complete bluffs) or a merged range (one which has medium strength hands also)?
  • Timing tells: Are they acting quicker in one spot than another, and does this tell you anything about their ranges in those spots?
  • Are they balanced?: You’ll see a lot of talk on poker forums about having a balanced range for every action you make, but the truth is that only very good players who are really paying attention will notice. You should start to look out for spots where players are unbalanced. An example would be a river check-raise. Some players will only ever do this with value hands.

Taking Notes

Taking good notes on players is also very important. If you play at small to mid stakes on some of the bigger online sites, the player pool for your games will be huge and there will be hundreds of regular players that you’ll have to deal with every day. Getting to know their tendencies and remembering would be next to impossible were it not for the note taking facility offered by most poker clients and Holdem Manager.

A lot of players are quite poor at taking notes, and only realize this when they go to use them in live play. It can be quite difficult to take effective notes when you are multi-tabling, but is a skill that you should develop and it is something that becomes easier with practice.

An example of a poor note would be something like ‘very aggressive’ or ‘bet 3-streets with top pair’. In the first instance, Holdem Manager stats will tell you that he is aggressive, there’s no need to take a note that tells you the same thing. In the second case, there’s not nearly enoughh information contained in the note for it to be of any use to you. What was his hand? What was the board? What was the pre-flop action? Was his opponent a fish or a regular?

An example of a good note for a hand you observed would be: ‘3b reg oop with KJo and CRAI on JJ2r board’. This note is written in shorthand and so is very quick to write when you’re playing and gives you detailed information about the way he played a big hand.

In this case I used 3b for 3-bet, reg for regular player, oop for out of position and CRAI for check-raise-all-in. You can develop whatever shorthand works for you, so long as you remember what all of your abbreviations mean.

If you see a player doing something once and want to make a note of it, put a question mark after the note, so that when you go to consult it, you know that it is slightly speculative and that it is not a solid read. If you seem him do it again, remove the question mark, and if you see it a third time, put an exclamation mark after it, indicating that it is a very reliable read.