Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Selling a Poker Hand is like Selling a Car

There is a core skill that you need to master in order to do well at the poker table: the ability to sell.  Figuring out the right amount to bet is one way to showcase this talent.  

You see, being a great poker player is like being a successful car salesman.

When a salesman tries to sell you a Chevy, there are several tells he’ll look for. This information helps him get maximum value for the sale. He’ll ask you what you do for a living, how much you make – things like that. The more information he gathers, the more likely he’ll be able to sell you a car at the highest price.
So, you ask, what in the world does any of this have to do with poker?


In No Limit Hold’em, the amount you bet could be the difference between getting fully paid off for your strong hand or scaring away a potential “buyer”. It could mean the difference between a winning session and a losing session.

The key difference in poker, though, is that you only have one chance to get it right.

A car salesman can always lower his price if it looks like the sticker is too high, but a poker player doesn’t have that luxury.  Therefore, it’s even more important to do your market research and understand who the buyer is.
At the poker table, the clues you’re looking for are right in front of you.

  • You hold powerful cards, but how strong is your opponent’s hand? The stronger you think it is, the more you should bet.
  • Does your opponent think you bluff a lot? If you were caught bluffing earlier, how much did you bet then? This is important because you may now want to bet the same amount with a strong hand.
  • How many chips does your opponent have? This is similar to the car salesman who asks his customer how much he makes. The fewer chips your opponent has, the more precious they are to him.
    Selling your hand for maximum value is a skill that truly separates the great players from the wannabes. It takes true talent to figure out how much you can squeeze out of an opponent without scaring them off — especially since you only have one chance to get it right.

I recently did a reality show where my job was to teach Rob, of “Survivor” fame, how to become a professional poker player. In one particular session, he took home a decent win of about $400, yet I still blasted him.

Rob could have won more from his opponents if he’d bet the right amount, but he just didn’t get it. His response was, "I won, didn’t I?"
Yes, but he didn’t win enough. If he had played his cards right, he would have won $1,000! The way I see it, Rob lost $600; when you’re a professional poker player, that’s how you have to look at it.
You can teach anyone the right cards to play, the odds of this or that, and the power of position. However, the most important skill — knowing the correct amount to bet — is the most difficult to teach because it relies so heavily on your ability to sell.

Listen, there’s a big difference between a bet of $1,200 and one of $1,325. If you could have won $1,325, but instead only pocketed $1,200, you just lost $125 that an expert wouldn’t have lost.

Like a good car salesman, study the customer and then close the deal.



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


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