Poker strategy basics: Spotting the sucker

You’ll make the most money from the weaker players at the table – we show you how to find them, keep them at your table and put a smile on their face

Poker’s a game of skill and luck. Over time the luck will even out, which means that the more skilful players will win. (This is a very good rule to say out loud every time you suffer a horrendously bad beat.) As a result it’s extremely important to play against people you have an edge over and avoid those you don’t.

You should be able to spot weak players fairly quickly, but if you’re nding it hard just follow this four-step guide. And remember Mike McDermott’s advice in the excellent poker lm, Rounders: ‘If you can’t spot the sucker in the rst half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.’

If the players at your table haven’t shown any of the following symptoms in the first half an hour, it could be time to move on.

1. Bet sizing

Weak players don’t have much idea about the size of the bets they’re making – they just know (or think) they should be betting. Look out for players who regularly raise four or five times the big blind pre op, and either massively under or over-bet the pot post op.

2. No positional sense

Position is crucial in poker – anyone who’s serious about the game knows how important it is. It’s also a concept that’s hard to grasp for beginners, who can’t adjust their game whether they’re sitting UTG or on the button. If you see a player raising with hands like A-8 and K-J UTG, or regularly open-folding the button, you want to target and try to isolate them as often as possible.

3. Calling station

This is possibly the biggest giveaway a sh can make. They love calling with hands whether they’re in position or out of position, and regularly limp-call raises pre op before folding when they miss. Calling stations are also unable to put their hands down, so if they hit top pair they’ll generally call all and any bets you make. Make them pay when you’ve got a monster, like a set.

4. Showdown

The easiest way of spotting the sucker at the table is at showdown. What hands are they turning over after calling bets all the way to the river? Have they been paying way too much to chase draws or over- valuing a pretty weak holding?

Try and pay attention to all the hands that are going down, whether you’re involved with them or not. You could pick up valuable information which will come in handy further down the line.

Keep them at your table Once you’ve identified your target, it’s important you don’t chase them away. Pointing out their weaknesses in the chatbox online – or worse, actually criticising them to their face, isn’t a pro table or a good thing to do.

Bad players generally don’t mind losing money (they’re used to it), but they need to be enjoying themselves while they’re doing it. Getting berated by another player isn’t going to help and might mean they never play again.

If you’re playing live try and engage them in conversation and make their stay at the table as enjoyable as possible. That way, everyone goes home a winner.


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