Tommy Angelo Presents: On the Importance of Paying Attention

4 min read
Tommy Angelo Presents: On the Importance of Paying Attention

Ed. note: Poker coach, author, and player Tommy Angelo shares an article of his from an era before smart phones and shuffling machines.

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I take notes at the poker table. Some people consider it rude I guess. You tell me. I'm sitting there playing poker, with a pen in one pocket and a piece of paper in the other, and a thought on my mind that I will certainly forget unless it is immediately recorded on a 3×5 card that will remain in my pocket all the way home, where it will find its way into a pile of other barely-used 3×5 cards that will all get tucked away somewhere when company is coming over, only to be unearthed by me years later, at which time I will look at each card until I come upon the grand words written so long ago at the poker table, words important enough to risk irking my beloved poker opponents by writing them down:


Okay, maybe it's a little rude. Or maybe just weird. To grab little cards out of my pocket and jot frantically while you are right in the middle of a poker hand. People might think I'm tracking the action, for later scrutiny…

"Moe raised with A9 and Larry reraised with J9 and Curly flashed his AJ to me before folding it. The flop came A-J-9, with blanks on the turn and river. Curly mumbled something about an idiot, and a moron, and I wondered: Was he talking about Moe and Larry? Or himself? Hard to be sure."

Would that even fit on a 3×5 card?

My notes are nothing more than insurance protection against my memory. Reminders and such. And captured bits of association, such as, I'll notice that it's getting dark at 5:30 and that means it's December so I'll make a note to buy a Three Stooges video for Christmas for my nephew. Because it's dark outside. Yeah, I know. Hard to follow. That's why I have to write stuff down.

And besides, doesn't being a writer give me license to be a bit odd? Tilted in a harmless way, like Pluto's orbit?

One of my oddities is to work on a work-in-progress no matter what else is in progress. But I do try to be polite about it. Like when I'm in line at the post office. I won't use the back of the person in front of me as a writing surface. Or if I'm playing hold'em, I won't sprawl full-size sheets of paper all over the table, and I always wait until the shuffle to ask the dealer for editorial help.

With courtesy in mind, when I revise poker articles at the poker table, I keep the papers in my lap, with one one eye on the game, so as not to slow things down when it is my turn to fold. And usually there's no problem. But there was this one time, when it didn't go so smoothly…

At my main casino, I was playing $20/$40 limit hold'em, happily cocooned with my cap on and head down, revising away, and I hardly noticed the new player who sat down on my right and posted four $5 chips to get a hand. His chips registered in my distracted mind as a big blind, which would make me first to act before the flop, so I glanced at my cards and I folded — whoops — out of turn. My fold caused a chain reaction of out-of-turn action behind me. Earnestly I apologized for causing a train wreck, but I kept on revising.

A few hands later, it was my big blind. One player limped and no one raised and the action was quickly on me. Too quickly. I was scribbling away in my lap.

The dealer gave me the standard verbal nudge: "Your option."

I was entirely unready. Everyone had to wait while I freed my hands from pen and paper, and looked at my cards, and then, finally, as expected, I checked.

This guy I'd never met before got angry at me. He said, "What the hell are you doing over there under the table that's so important?"

One of my buddies spoke up to defend me. "Don't mind Tommy. He's the village idiot. And he writes poker articles, which is probably what he's doing right now."

The angry man grew even more so. He glared at me. "Oh really? You write poker articles? Like you know something we don't know or something? Okay Mr. Wiseguy. What great lesson are you writing about right now?"

I replied, "It's an article on the importance of paying attention."

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Tommy Angelo Presents: On the Importance of Paying Attention 101

World-class coach and author, Tommy Angelo is considered a modern master of poker's mental game, and has helped pros and rec players alike achieve less tilt and more focus. Called "the seminal poker text of the 21st century" by The London Times, Angelo's Elements of Poker has revolutionized how serious players approach the game. His latest book, Painless Poker, already a bestseller, can be found on Connect with Tommy on Twitter @TheTommyAngelo, and visit his website:

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