The man who may hold the balance of power after the election is considered the best card player among voters, according to the latest Herald-Digipoll.

Forty-one per cent of voters thought New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was the best player among political party leaders, streaks ahead of Prime Minister and former merchant banker John Key on 26 per cent.

More than 18 per cent of those polled did not answer.

Mana leader Hone Harawira, on 6 per cent, was the only other leader to register above 3 per cent.


Mr Peters has ruled out working with what he calls race-based parties after the election but has refrained from saying if he would prefer to work with National or Labour.

He said he would talk to the party with the most votes in the first instance.

"I don't play my cards until I've seen them, though there's a few out there that want me to play them before I've seen them," Mr Peters said.

He had a fondness for the card games poker and 500, he said, and he had a good poker face.

Auckland University political marketing specialist Jennifer Lees-Marshment said Mr Peters' ranking was hardly surprising.

"He tends to move position between elections and be responsive to his target markets. He has a political agility that would seem akin to card playing."

She suggested that the result for John Key showed that he was not "an overtly manipulative or ruthless politician".