Poker tricks - Journal

Best Poker Journal Note Taking | How to Play Poker

If all your focus on poker takes place at the table, you’re only doing half your job when it comes to drafting a good poker strategy. You’re going to need to do your homework as well, and that means spending some time keeping your very own Poker Journal.

To be honest, keeping a poker journal is really one of the least complicated things you’ll do when you’re learning. It’s not as tough as memorizing the poker rules or keeping track of the value of any given poker hand, for example. Plenty of people want to make it seem tough, but it should be a fairly natural process.

One notion to enlighten yourself of is that there’s a right way to keep a poker journal. Just as there are many different types of poker games, there are many different ways to keep notes. What we’re going to discuss is just simple ways to get started.

Rules for Your Poker Journal

Don’t Overdo It – You really want to keep your journal as simple as possible Don’t add more information than you’ll actually need.

Be Consistent – No matter what type of system you decide to use, make sure that you stick with it. Your initial attempts at keeping a poker journal are probably going to be awful, and that’s fine. What you want to make sure to do, though, is to keep taking those notes as you move forward.

Stick to the Good Stuff – Don’t bother writing about the things you can predict. If you’re playing in Texas hold’em poker tournaments, don’t bother writing down the things that normally happen. You already spend enough time simulating how things should go in your mind, so they don’t need to be in your journal.

Instead, do your best to focus on the weird stuff. If you’re playing a lot of Texas Hold’em and you suddenly see a player who’s successful (or unsuccessful) in a completely unintuitive way, make sure to write that down. You’re building up your knowledge base by looking for the novel, not the ordinary.

poker journal - strange player

Make Your Own Shorthand – You really don’t want to fill your poker journal up with too many long words. You need something that’s going to jog your memory, nothing more. Spend some time figuring out shorter versions of common plays and actions that will make sense to you even if they don’t make much sense to anyone else.

Don’t Skimp on the Detail – Yes, you need to minimize what you write in your poker journal. This does not, however, mean you can leave out the pertinent details. Make sure that you include as many relevant factors as possible when making an entry.

If you’re talking about Texas Hold’em poker, make sure that you add in data that flesh out the game. Mention the limits, the blinds, where you’re playing, and who you are playing against. If you’re in Texas hold’em poker tournaments, talk about the stage of the game, blind levels, players remaining and average stack sizes as well.

poker journal

Always spend some time talking about what players did, as well. If it’s worth putting in the journal, it’s definitely worth going into at least a little bit of detail. If you are writing about a player’s unusually effective bluff, give some lead-up to what happened and how it impacted the game afterward.

Also, take some time to talk about table dynamics in that game. You definitely want to build a profile of the people against whom you played (aggressive or passive type player), especially if you’re trying to figure out why you lost. Even if you never see that player again, you can refer to your notes to determine how to deal with a similar type of opponent in the future.

Don’t Forget to Review – At some point, you’re going to want to transfer your play notes into a real poker journal. You’re probably not going to bring the big book with you to the table, so make sure that you bring your table notes home so that you can review them before committing them to your poker journal.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your review process is to date your notes. Make sure you add not only the date and time but also the location, amount of buy-in, blind structures and amount of players of the poker tournaments in which you are playing. You’d be amazed by how useful that information can be later on.

Detail When it Matters – While conservation of detail is incredibly important, there might be times when you really want to start writing about an unusual situation. Though the notes at the table should be kept to a minimum, there’s nothing stopping you from diving in deep when you think that doing so can help you.

One of the most common reasons that writers go deep is because they play against a particular opponent fairly regularly. Building a dossier is a really good idea, as is adding more information over time. You might even want to transfer these notes to your computer so that you can have individual files based on the opponents against whom you most commonly play.

Always Do Your Homework – What you’re looking to build here isn’t necessarily a personal journal, but more of a database. If you can create data-rich but reasonably short notes, you can transfer them over to a poker journal and start to build the kind of research tool that’s going to help you to win more games.

Think about how useful your notes would be to a stranger when you take them. If all you’re putting down is cryptic information that’s easily misread, there’s a good chance that you’re going to fail your future self when that information becomes relevant again. Your goal is to learn a way to keep your notes short but to make them mean quite a bit.

In the end, what you want to create is a document that’s going to make you a better poker player in the future. You want something to which you can refer back when you’re playing later and that will help you to become better at your poker game. You are engaging in a process that’s not only incredibly important, but one that will separate you from the vast throngs of uneducated players.

Yes, this is a very scary process to start. You’re going to take a lot of useless notes at first, and you’re going to waste even more of your time. As you create new notes, though, you’ll learn what’s really useful and what’s worth leaving out next time. You need to give yourself room to fail so that you’ll late have room to succeed.

The good news, however, is that even your mistakes have a lot of value.

Think about it – every piece of info you save is information that you might have otherwise forgotten. You’re going to learn something from that information, even if it’s not exactly what you were hoping to remember at the time. You’re going to separate yourself from everyone who takes things one game at a time because you will have a history to which you can actually refer.

So, what are you going to do? – You’re going to keep a record of your wins and losses, your failures and your successes, and the way you play your games. You’re going to keep a poker journal, in short, and you’re going to do it in a way that’s going to make you a much better poker player than you could otherwise hope to become.

Honestly, your biggest obstacle is going to be the usual reticence to do homework. Just like in school, this homework is going to reinforce your other lessons. Unlike what you have learned in school, though, this homework is going to help you make money.

Examples Poker Journal Entries

First and foremost, make sure to ignore anyone who tells you what kind of media you need for your poker journal. Use a tape recorder, save a file on your computer, or get a notebook – whatever works for you is good enough.

Below are a few examples of what your poker journal might look like:

Journal Entry: Played NL tourney. Drew more than I needed to.

Journal Entry: Good day. Screwed up against a big stack. Need to focus on starting hands.

Journal Entry: Fooled opponent with good pair and bad kicker. Check raised, bullied out stronger opponent.

Journal Entry: Have to learn how to draw better when I’m out of position. It’s losing me too much money.

Journal Entry: Did better with my poker position. Cards were bad, but bets were good. Stole more pots than I should have. Don’t get over-confident.

Journal Entry: Tried Limit Poker, didn’t like it. Don’t limp in, that loses you money. Will push you out even with good cards. Focus on making better choices.

Journal Entry: Did well with speed changes, learning to adapt. Getting better at changing table image. Opponents were tricked easily and didn’t follow my moves.

Journal Entry: Don’t worry about the blind. Don’t defend too harshly. Have to remember that it’s spent money already. Don’t let other players steal more than they absolutely must. Be smarter, not more defensive when on the blind or will lose everything.

Journal Entry: Ace suited is killing me. Not as strong as I think it is. Learn the odds and position before I get too overconfident with this type of hand.

Journal Entry: Tex and Slim suck at Limit. If you play aggressively with them, they fall apart. Can I use this in No Limit? What does it mean at other tables?

Journal Entry: Did well early in a tourney, but fell apart late. Not really holding my own against stronger players, so I’m losing money. Have to figure out how to survive those middle rounds so I can have a bigger stack later on. Need to think about how my poker style is impacting my late game.

poker journal - notes

Each of these sample journal entries has different kinds of information, but they’re all valuable. You’ll need to get used to writing down different types of things just to get the experience, so feel free to do some experimentation.

Final Thoughts

Once you have a journal entry written down, go back and re-read what’s already there. Your goal should be to add another entry to your list every day so you’re constantly adding new information while you’re soaking in what you’ve already learned.

What you’re going to create over time is a document that details your history of play. You’ll see where you were weak, where you were strong, and what you’ve learned. You will get to analyze your own play like you were a stranger, and use that information to improve your game.

Journaling is a vital part of getting better at poker. Make sure that you learn from yourself so you can get a better idea of who you really are as a player. Once you can accomplish that, you can start fixing your flaws and building on your strengths in a realistic manner. See you at the WSOP!

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Poker Journal – FAQs

Q: How do I record hands during a live poker session?

A: I keep my phone on my right thigh and record notes on the Notes app.

Q: Can I film my poker hands while playing in a live game?

A: No. This is illegal. A lot of people do it anyway, but they’re very slick about it. I wouldn’t recommend attempting this.

Q: How do you analyze poker hands?

A: You start at the beginning, such as pre-flop action. Then you go through all the actions of each player throughout the hand. When you analyze poker hands, you learn a lot about your opponents, and you might find and fix some of your own leaks.

Q: How do you keep a poker journal?

A: I keep all the notes on my phone and then transfer those notes to a traditional notebook. After that, I transfer those notes to my laptop. This allows me to see the notes many times, which helps me remember everything.

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