Live poker notes – Effective hand histories

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Why must you take live poker notes?

Playing poker without making notes, is not a great idea if you are looking to improve your game. Whatever your experience level, you will for sure make a lot of mistakes whilst playing. Sometimes you will not realize you have made mistakes. It is important to capture complete and accurate live poker notes. This is so they can be analyzed in a fair way later.

As soon as you sit down at the table, you should note the following (and update this, should anything change):

What information should I note?

  • Information about the game conditions, e.g. date / location / stakes / minimum & maximum buyins

Then for each hand of interest, you should note

  • What cards were you dealt?
  • What position were you in?
  • What were all the actions, on each street for every player involved (plus, a description of all players involved).
  • If there was a showdown (or any players voluntarily showed their cards) what was shown?

Example of good live poker notes

Date: Jan 8, 2020
Location: Pete’s homegame, New York (takes place weekly, with the same player pool – so all players are known to each other)
Stakes: $2/$5
Buy-in: $200-$1,000

We are playing 9 handed, and this is the first hand of this week’s homegame
Hero, who has $1,000 to start the hand, opens AhKs in the UTG position to $20 (this is hero’s usual open size, and also the usual open size for the game).
Henry, who starts the hand with $1000, calls on the Button
Henry is a winning TAG, he a regular at this weekly homegame – and I know he studies & plays poker regularly
John, who starts the hand with $750, in the SB position, who is a loose passive 60 year old recreational player completes – he is also a regular player at this weekly homegame, but he doesn’t play any other poker.

There is $60 in the pot, going into the flop, which comes:
Kc 6s 5c
Hero cbets $50
Henry raises to $200
Hero calls, John folds

There is $460 in the pot, going into the turn, which comes:
Hero checks
Button checks behind

There is still $460 in the pot, going into the river, which comes:
Hero checks
Button bets $450
Hero folds
Notes: Should I consider re-raising Henry on the flop? Should I call the river?

Save time at the table

You should use shorthand to save time whilst at the table. The more time you are focusing on the game the better. Something along the line of the following will still capture all necessary information, which you can use to write up a full hand history (including notes about players, your questions about the hand) shortly after the game, or during the game (if you are not involved in a hand, and it doesn’t seem interesting).

9h H AhKs UTG 20, BUT Henry (1000) & SB John (775) call
F Kc6s5c H50/c, B200, Sf
T Th x
R 9c Hx, B450, Hf