How to spot professional poker players

Professional poker players

Think you might be sitting at a table with secretly professional poker players? There are a few signs that could show if your suspicions are correct!

Don’t think that poker pros can only be found at the big tournaments. To keep their skills fresh, and sometimes to try out new strategies, it is not uncommon to find professional poker players playing in smaller games too.

Signs to spot professional poker players

Here are some top tips to help you spot those hidden professional poker players who might be at your poker table.

Focused on the Game

Poker is a great game because it can be serious and measured but also very casual and convivial, it all depends on the table. You could play in a full tournament, or it could even just be a casual night with friends (though you will probably know if your friends are poker pros here!). No matter what type of table professional poker players sit down to, you can be certain that they will be focused on the game. They might be happy to engage in some of the banter going on, but their primary focus will always be on the cards.

This is usually because they are either trying out some new ploy that they wish to fully test, or it could be because they are focussed on improving their own game. Though they have come to play poker just as you have, there might be reasons beyond simply wanting to try the game out. If it feels like they are focusing on minute details as they play, and you can see the cogs turn in their head while they consider checking or folding, you might be up against hidden professional poker players.

Screen Names

Playing online poker? Sites like GGPoker offer some great opportunities to play real money poker from the comfort of your own home. However, since you can’t see your fellow players and only their screen names, how can you be certain that you are not playing against professional poker players? After all, they could be anyone.

Taking a quick look at those screen names can sometimes give you an indicator as to whether you are playing against a pro. Sometimes, they might use a random name so they can just get in and out without any fuss. Other times, they might use something that points to who they are. For example, poker pro Daniel Negreanu has been known to play under Kid Poker, his old nickname from the tables. If you log onto a game and see a Kid Poker waiting to play, there is always the chance that it might be him!

Unafraid Plays

If you are new to the world of poker, you might be a little more measured in your plays. If there is a slightly risky raise in front of you, you might hesitate to chase it down. Sometimes, you can feel safer folding rather than calling out someone’s bluff.

Professional poker players know what they are doing, and so their plays tend to be a lot more confident. They might not necessarily be quicker, as they will still want to think about what they are doing to ensure they get as good a result as possible, but you might see them make plays that are a lot more confident than others. If it seems like you are playing at the table with someone who is very confident with their plays, no matter what they might be, there is a chance that you might be playing against a pro!

How to play more like professional poker players

Many believe that professional poker players are very good at bluffing, arithmetic, or reading the body language of their opponents. While these are important qualities for a successful game, the use of information makes all the difference.

Very good professional poker players watch everything that is going on at the table and note every detail, even if it seems unimportant at first. As a result, valuable information accumulates after just a few hands, which is worth cash or tournament chips! The faster, more attentively and intensively you proceed, the more information is available and can be used.

If you sit a beginner at a table and tell him what to look out for, he will be totally overwhelmed and quickly lose interest. Indeed, it takes an incredible amount of practice to achieve the desired result, but that’s exactly what the really good professional poker players like Helmut and Ivey can do. Anyone who has watched Ivey before should have noticed that he (almost) continuously scans the table as if he was being followed. He picks up every little thing and tries to use the information.

Even if it will be difficult at first, observation is everything! Those who simply know “The Mathematics of Poker” by heart, who is relying on mathematics and only looks at his cards and the ones on the board will never be able to be as successful as professional poker players who have trained their observation skills sufficiently. A “good bluffer” cannot successfully bluff if he does not pay enough attention to his opponents.

Tactics of professional poker players

First of all, of course, a certain amount of knowledge is required. Hand reading, pot odds, and pre- and post-flop play should be well trained. Of course you can easily beat your friends or weak players in the casino with it, but if you want to fight your way through the ranks, you have to be able to observe and soak up all the information at the table! If the theoretical knowledge is secured, you should definitely play as much as possible with your friends for play money (or cents).

Then you start reading your opponents on the first hand. Since a good player doesn’t play a hand most of the time, he has plenty of time to do so. First, the player on the left is examined. This is always right after you and therefore most important first. It is best to put yourself in the position of the player. What does he think, which hand he represents how and how much bet, etc.

If you get a showdown at the end, you just have to save the information. Next it is the second one on the left of us, then the one on the right, etc. Once you have mastered the game, it will not be difficult to save and use the information. The former requires training, the latter theoretical playing ability.

Of course, the more information you can gather, the better it is. But even a single piece of information helps and can be a lifesaver. It is these “little things” that either save chips or bring in significantly more! It takes a lot of time and practice, but it will definitely pay off.


If you think there are professional poker players at your table, you need to make sure that you stay calm and don’t try to outplay them. Focus on your own game, and make sure that you are making the right plays for your game!