Want to know a secret to chalking up big returns in the stock market? You don't have to focus on picking stocks that go up. Instead, concentrate on picking stocks that don't go down, and, more importantly, picking stocks that don't go down big time. This approach ties into Warren Buffett's first rule of investing: "Don't lose money." Avoiding the big losers will dramatically increase your returns, and doing so may be easier than finding the big winners.

"That's all well and good," you say, "but how do I know which companies are going to be the next Citigroup (NYSE:C) or Ambac Financial (NYSE:ABK)?"

One way is to piggyback on the picks of other smart investors, such as the All-Star investors in CAPS, The Motley Fool's interactive stock-rating database.

All-Stars have a rating of at least 80 out of 100 -- in other words, their picks are outperforming 80% of the 60,000-plus rated CAPS members. The top players have accuracy levels of better than 60% and are so good that they've even won some media attention. It pays to follow what they do.  

We can easily search for the All-Stars' least favorite picks using the handy CAPS screener. For example, when you search for at least 350 All-Star "underperform" picks and for stocks rated with one out of a possible five stars, you'll get the following:

Company Name

CAPS Rating (5 Max)

All-Star Underperform Picks

General Motors (NYSE:GM)

*

682

Ford (NYSE:F)

*

645

Vonage (NYSE:VG)

*

470

Beazer Homes (NYSE:BZH)

*

351

Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM)

*

349

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

It's probably a good idea to stay away from these stocks. I'm all for being a contrarian, but do you really want to go up against 470 All-Stars and make a positive bet on Vonage? To be fair, 55 All-Stars have bullish calls on the company, but that's nearly a 9-to-1 call for underperformance.

See whether the CAPS All-Stars have put an "underperform" tag on any of your stocks by heading over to CAPS yourself.  

Andrew Sullivan isn't quite a soccer all-star. OK, he's not even close. Andrew has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.