Strategy: Note Taking = +EV!

Strategy: Note Taking = +EV!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Adapting to your opponent is essential in heads up. Similarly, note taking is essential so that you can remember how your opponent plays and what strategy you need to use.

You want to make every note something that will help you against your opponent. For example, if you note that your opponent bets 4BB preflop from the button it might be true, but if you have no plan for countering it then it doesn’t do any good. It will cluster your notes more than necessary and take away from the value of your notes that actually are helpful.

Here are some suggestions for helpful notes:

If you have access to their ROI, average buy-in, or number of games played then you can get a rough idea of the level of thinking that your opponent is going to be on. If your opponent has 10% ROI at mid-stakes games over a large sample then he is probably going to be good hand reader. Contrastingly, a player with -30% ROI at any stakes isn’t going to be playing based upon the line you took. He will be playing his own cards, and probably poorly at that. You should keep this in mind because you can make very transparent bluffs against one and not the other.

If I feel that my opponent is different from the average, then I note whether he is loose or tight and aggressive or passive. This helps me decide which hands I want to play and how I want to play them. If I am against a loose opponent then I am not going to be bluffing nearly as much as I would against a tight one.

Strange Plays
If my opponent raises me preflop with 64o but checks it down on A23J9 then I will make note of the hand. In this case, the part I find most unusual is that the hand has no showdown value and the villain didn’t cbet even though he/she could have a good chance at taking it down on the flop. After a few hands like this I should have a good idea of what types of hands he is continuation betting and which ones he isn’t. This will help me estimate his hand range as we get to the turn and river.

Another example of a strange play would be if I raised preflop and my opponent called. Then as the flop comes out he leads out for pot into me. Normally this “donk bet” is considered weak because a villain with a strong hand would always check/raise to get more value. However, some players take this one level of thinking farther and do this to induce a raise. My standard is to raise with any two cards in this case, but if my opponent does this with a strong hand then I will make note of it and be sure not to try it again in the future.

Bet Sizing
Some players will bet pot with their bluffs and half pot when going for value. Some will do it the other way around. Most will mix it up. However, if you do find a bet sizing tell against a player it can give you a huge advantage. A read this strong can allow you to win game after game against your opponent, so you should note it down rather than risking forgetting it.

Aggression With Draws
Some players will raise a continuation bet with any draw. Others will call it down and will not raise unless they improve. This is important to make note of because it affects your opponent’s range. If you continuation bet on the flop and the turn makes a possible flush then this is a big potential threat to you. However, if you know that your opponent would have raised you with the flush draw then you no longer have anything to be scared of. You should make note of the type of draw as well because an inside straight draw may not play out the same as a flush draw.

Taking notes will help you focus on adapting to your opponent and will allow you to maximize your profit with each rematch. In heads up poker a small edge can go a long way. Don’t pass up an opportunity to boost your ROI!

Ryan Dodge is an online pro as well as a poker coach who specialises in heads-up SnGs. Those interested in getting tuition should see here for further information, or can email him direct on

Tags: Poker News, Strategy:, Note, Taking, =, +EV!