If you're anything like me, you have a hard time keeping mental track of the different little pixels on your screen while you play. Sure, after an hour, you know who the maniac is, and you know who likes to raise with A-rag. But who's tight? Whose preflop raise actually means that they've got something?
A while ago, I decided I wanted to spot the types sooner than after an hour - for many reasons. One is that I don't always play more than an hour, but more importantly, rarely do my opponents stay for that long. I wanted a faster read on them, basically, but at the same time, I didn't have time to catalogue everything they did, as much as I'd like.
So I started taking notes on how they act preflop. It's easiest if I sit at a shorthanded (say 6-max table), but works at a full table as well, of course. So I write this on a piece of paper:
... Where Sam, John and Eve are my opponents. All I'm interested in tracking is how they act preflop. F for "fold", C for "call" and R for "raise". I don't write anything for a blind who checks.
After a while, a short while at that, my list ends up looking maybe like this:
So, here it seems that Sam is tight, John is loose but passive, and Eve looks to be somewhat loose, and might raise preflop.
Nowadays, I usually only keep score on people for their first 25 hands. After that, in my experience, it doesn't usually change much relatively. That way, the hard work is when I sit down at the table myself; after that it comes down to keeping track of the new guys who join up.
This is information that I feel I get relatively cheaply, by only making a little mark on a piece of paper. What surprised me, when I started doing it, was how quickly the data became accurate. I didn't need 100 hands, because they had already shown their patterns after 20. I also noticed how much easier certain folds were, like folding ATo when Mr. Tight had suddenly decided to raise preflop, or how quickly I can notice when someone decides to go on tilt, even if I don't keep score of them anylonger, because now I know what to expect and I immediately register when something out of the ordinary starts to happen.
Anyway, this has helped me a lot, and if you feel like trying something new out, give this a shot. Do you have any similar tricks to this one? Can it be improved?
If you use it, don't forget to make a note in the software on the players that you have a solid read on, like the "I will call everything"-people or the "anything but AA is crap"-ones. Or, for that matter, put in their F/C/R values in the note-window.