PCA 2015: Want to improve? Here's a great Little piece of advice
It's often one of those things you know you're supposed to do, but you never really start. Note taking is a task that for some players just seems to get in the way. Either you're too busy playing the next hand or you figure your memory is good enough. You keep it all "up here," and might also tap the side of your head when you say it. There's also that fear of feeling conspicuous. Who wants to be the guy with the note book, particularly after taking the chips from an unimpressed opponent insisting on reading what you just wrote down.
Well Jonathan Little does, that's who.
If you're like me the reality is a lot different to that described above. I can be dealt two cards, play them three streets beyond their natural fold point, and then immediately forget what I had. Little makes sure moments like that never happen.
About a year ago we spoke to him about this subject. It was in Prague in Season 10 of the EPT, the end of another year in which the two-time WPT winner earned more than $600,000 (at $338,468, 2014 would be no bad beat either). Little, who regularly creates instructional videos, talked about his note taking, which he does of every hand. It's not so much a case study on every opponent, like that mentioned by Daniel Negreanu earlier this week, more a bank of information about his own play which he can then analyse in greater depth.
But this was a high roller event, a bigger buy-in tournament with a field much stronger than any regular Main Event or low stakes contest. Did his note taking here differ in any way?
"They're generally the same," said Little, whose table today has featured the likes of Negreanu, Mike McDonald and Will Molson. "Really I'm just recording what I'm doing. That way I can talk to my friends about it later, or look at it later on my own. It's not like I pay more attention in this one, although maybe I should. I try to focus on all of my hands.
"I mean I think if anything there's less information to collect, because the good players don't give off a lot of info. If I see stuff I'll certainly write it down, but you will not see as much in a high roller, because your opponents are better. Whereas in a smaller stakes tournament maybe everyone's giving off tells, or something like that."
Then there's the other aspect of all this scribbling that might put you off. You have to go away and actually do the work, using your notes to study how you played before talking to other players to get their perspective.
"I mean actually looking and dealing with those particular notes (I spend) probably about an hour after each day, and whenever I get home I'll go through them a little but more. But I always make a point to watch training videos each day and I study forums and stuff like that. Maybe two hours per day or something on an average day. Some days more some days less."
Let's be clear. If you didn't already realise, success in poker takes dedication and hard work. You can't just expect it to come your way. Maybe you're still unconvinced. But if you are and need a first step, here's some free advice from one of the best players in the game.
"Write down all of your hands, all the details, it's as simple as that. Then take that and go ask good players what they think about your play. And if you ask them enough spots you'll start finding where you're doing things they would do completely diff. And once you find those you can fix them."
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.