The Poker Player’s Guide to Effective Note Taking

This is a transcript of the video below by Dr Tricia Cardner, who is a Peak Performance Coach, co-host of The Poker On The Mind Podcast and co-author of Purposeful Practice for Poker.

Hey guys, it’s Dr Tricia Cardner, and in today’s video I’m coming at you with some tips on how you can more effectively take notes while you’re reading books or articles or watching videos. So if that’s of interest to you just stay tuned.

Greg, a member of my private Facebook group Poker Mindset Mastery Lab, left a message on the wall asking if I had any guidance on properly making notes when watching training videos. Now I do have tips and these will work if you’re watching a training video, you’re reading a poker book or you’re just reading a poker article. So let’s get into those tips now.

The first thing that you want to do when you’ve found a piece of material that you want to study is to prime your mind with some questions. For this example, let’s pretend that I’m going to be studying a video from my good friend Gareth James from MTT Poker School and it’s his video called ‘How Do You Approach Preflop Range Construction? Power Equilab Tutorial'.

The first thing I’m going to do is prime my mind with some important questions such as: Why is this important? When should I use Equilab? And what pieces of data will I need in order to use Equilab? Having these questions in mind at the start of the video will help keep me on task while I’m taking notes. You see, it’s not important that I write down every single thing that Gareth says or every single word that is in a book or other training video. It’s more important for me to get the key pieces of information.

You see, no matter what we’re studying, our most important goal is to extract the most important information and it’s also to be able to retain and remember that information so that we can apply it later. And overall we want to reduce the time it takes to do all this.

The Cornell Method

There’s a pretty nifty way you can do this and it’s often referred to as the Cornell Note-taking Method and what you want to do is divide your sheet of paper into three sections. The first section will have your questions. That is you could also write your keywords, your main ideas, your most important questions. Your largest section is where you put the details. This would be definitions, examples, pictures that you draw, anything of that nature. And the last section would include a summary. Now I’m going to get into all of these different areas in a little bit more detail so that you’ll know how to best take your notes.

When you’re taking notes one of the main things you want to do is keep on top of the questions that you wanted to have answered by the learning material and make sure that you’re getting those particular details down. As you go along, you’re going to add more questions because the teacher is going to be speaking on things that you will likely have more questions about.

Once you have finished consuming whatever you’re learning material is, you want to go back through your notes and then you want to summarise what are the say 3-5 most important things that you learned today?

Now let’s take this one step further, suppose you have multiple sheets of notes that you took on the video or the book chapter, whatever it is you’re consuming. You don’t want to have to wade through all those pages, so you want to do is put that all away, take out a clean sheet and write a summary of the most important points that you can remember from whatever it is you just consumed. The bonus of this is it will be more active, it tests your recall and when you’re reviewing you can just use that.

Going one step further...

Another way to extend your learning is to go ahead and extend your questions into what if questions. What if the opener is weak how does that change my preflop range construction? What if they’re loose? What if they’re tight? What if they’re shortstacked? If you can answer all these questions, then you know that you really mastered the preflop range construction video.

Now it’s quite likely that one video or one article or one book chapter is not going to answer all of the questions that you just came up with. In this case you may need to go ahead and find additional materials. And then all you’ll do is repeat the process and take notes.

There’s another added caveat that I want to pin on this. When you’re taking your notes make sure you put everything into your own words and connect it to ideas that you already have. Use your own examples, use your own stories. That’s going to help you learn and remember far more effectively than just trying to write down everything in the teacher’s or author’s words.

So to go back to Gareth’s video, I took notes on the hand setup and then I made notes on, in this particular situation, what hands I would call with, what hands I would 3bet with, what hands I would bluff raise with and when I should add hands to these ranges and when I should subtract hands from these ranges, and why. And having done that I gotten my notes to just a very concise few things that I need to think about.

Now obviously I’m not going to learn everything I need to know about preflop range construction from one short video, but this is getting me on the path to where I need to go and I would encourage you to do the same. More questions are going to come up for you. Make a note of those questions and then keep going.

If you want to take your learning to new heights, you can check out my latest book with Gareth James called Purposeful Practice for Poker. in this book we go over a ton of ways that you can more effectively and efficiently learn poker and we outline a number of poker learning projects that you can use to actually apply everything that you’re learning and get better at the table in no time.

In summary

So to sum it all up, what you want to do when you are taking notes, is:

1. You want to prime your mind with key questions that you would like to have answered;

2. You want to write down the key details in your own words;

3. You want to summarise what you’ve learned into just a few key points;

4. Look to extend your learning by going even further and seeing how you can connect this to what you already know.

Finally you want to practise! It’s not enough for me to watch a video on Equilab; I actually need to open up Equilab and put some of my own hand histories through and figure things out from there. Otherwise it’s just me wasting time watching a video if I don’t do anything with it.

If you have any questions, comments or ever ready present random thoughts you can follow me on Twitter or come over to Facebook into my private group which is Poker Mindset Mastery Lab and I’ll be happy to help.

Until next time keep working on that mindset.