Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: How to Spot the Sucker

If you want to make money playing poker, find a game with a few suckers, fish, donkeys, live ones, or whatever you choose to call a bad player.

Just don’t let that sucker be you.
If you’re the sixth best poker player in the world, but routinely play against the best five, you’d still be the fish at the table, despite the fact that you’re an excellent player.
When you visit Las Vegas, or even more so California — the poker capital of the world — you’ll have a wide variety of games to choose from. At a spot like the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, you’ll find a sea of tables with all sorts of betting limits, varieties of poker, and most importantly, players with a wide-range of skill levels.

Here’s how to identify the weakest opponents in the room.

Head for the Low-Limit Games

For a solid player, low-limit games can often be frustrating to play, but that’s where your edge is the greatest.  With lots of novice players learning the game, calling too many bets, and making all kinds of foolish mistakes, this is where you can really clean up.

In a typical $3-$6 Hold’em game, most of the players simply aren’t very good. You might find one or two experienced players, tops.

The composition of a high-stakes game is much different. If you sit down in a $100-$200 game, you’d hope to find one or two suckers; the rest of the players are likely to be professionals.

Look for Games with Loose Action

The most common characteristic of a sucker is that he plays too many hands. So, before taking your seat, watch a few rounds first and see how many players are going to the flop on a regular basis. The more players that see the flop, the better the game is for your bankroll.

In a low-stakes game, five to eight players commonly see the flop almost every hand. You can’t really bluff those types of players, but you can win huge pots when good hands come your way.  It makes sense to be patient and wait for premium hands.

In high-stakes poker, $100-$200 limits or higher, you’ll usually see hands being played heads-up, or sometimes three-handed. That’s a sure sign that you’re looking at a tough table.


Look for New Faces

Another sure sign of a tough table is one where you see the same faces day in and day out. It figures that those players are winning the game more often than losing. Winning players are able to sustain the ups and downs, while bad players will come and go.

Always look for fresh faces, as they’re more likely to be bad or inexperienced players.

It’s those familiar faces you should be wary of.


Be Honest with Yourself

Everyone thinks they’re good poker players. Until you realize that you know far less about the game than you thought you did, you’ll always be somebody’s sucker.

The biggest mistake most players make is that they compare their best game to their opponents’ worst game. They remember their competitors’ bad plays but neglect to admit their own mistakes.

One of the ways to avoid getting in over your head is to ask a friend, whose opinion you value, whether he thinks you can beat the game you’re in. An objective observer will see things more clearly than you will.

If you receive positive feedback, sit down and bait your hook.


Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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