I was working on a poker strategy article for beginners today when I came to the 10th and final tip - Keep Notes. For those of us without photographic memories, this can't be stated strongly enough. It has saved or earned me untold sums by having previously typed or had notes on a player. The online realm is an anonymous world and any efforts to gain clarity is extremely helpful.
In the real world, we have many visual cues that help us to assess a situation. We observe the person; their age, sex, dress and mannerisms. When we move to the online world, we are without those easy automatic visual assessments. What do you say when entering in a chat room? ASL? We look to type the person by age, sex, and location to give us a base point to proceed. At the poker table, we have limited information as well. We can see what country they are from, but that has limited value. We can observe their play, but there is a costly learning curve while we attain some discernible patterns.
So what are the types of notes that are most helpful? For me, I like to know if they are particularly loose and aggressive pre-flop, versus tight or passive limping into pots. The second important area I like to have notes on is if the player is straight forward or tricky. If they will bluff or pull a particular move, that shows a greater likelihood of it in the future. Knowing a player only bets with strong hands is incredibly helpful to play against. You can also take notes on bet sizing or specific patterns to their play.
There are many serious players who employ poker tracking software and heads up displays to assist them in this typing process. The limitation is that two players with similar statistics can play quite differently. There is always room for interpretation of what the statistics mean about their hand ranges, bluffing tendencies and the like. It is only one more set of information for you to factor in.
Some poker players will take note taking further than others, developing whole systems to micro-analyze their opponents, but I found that having general notes or especially color dot typing a player is sufficient to send off a warning light when you encounter them next. It gives you an immediate sense of what they are capable of doing. There is no guarantee that they won't deviate from your typing and notes, but it gives you something instant and concrete to begin your current evaluation. And no, I won't be offended if you type me as weak tight. Watch me play PLO and you will see that note is outdated. GL at the tables...