If you’ve played poker for even a short length of time, its a good bet that you’ve run into a maniac player at your table. Constantly betting and raising and seemingly involved in every hand with no apparent regard for strategic maneuvering except to bet a lot and to bet often, the maniac player presents a unique challenge. Without a doubt, the maniac causes every player at the table to alter their playing strategy. In order to combat and play successfully against a maniac, its important not to be intimidated by the aggressive tactics of such a reckless player who shows no apparent regard for the value of a dollar.
You may be curious why anyone would play in such a fashion and disregard a basic tenet of poker, which is to play only the hands that have a good chance of winning. There may be deep-seated psychological reasons for such behavior, such as the need to control the action at the table and have all eyes focused on what he does next. Or the maniac may simply enjoy gambling and is fortunate to be blessed with enough cash to throw around. Without delving too deep into the psyche of such a player, its important to realize that the maniac’s style of play can be advantageous in certain situations, such as heads-up competition against an opponent who tends to play passively or even short-handed tables with reluctant bettors.
So let’s examine the best ways to combat the maniac at your table. First of all, it will be crucial to tighten up your game and play only the best starting hands. This is problematic if you happen to run into a string of bad cards. But its important to restrain yourself when you see all the chips and money flying around the table and the maniac sometimes taking down pots with garbage hands. Stick to a game plan of playing only premium hands because if you widen your range you are playing into the intent of the maniac, which is to get you in on the action with weak or marginal hands. The maniac would love nothing more than a wild game with many players competing for very huge pots.
Your position at the table is vital to being successful versus a maniac. You want very much to sit to his left and have the advantage of always acting after him. If you are seated to his right, you will find yourself at a huge disadvantage and frustrated at having the maniac constantly betting and raising right behind you. If its possible to change seats to get in a better position, do so.
Whether playing online or in live action, it often seems that other players seated at the table cannot stop themselves from commenting on the maniac’s playing style. The remarks made are overwhelmingly of a disparaging nature and this is detrimental to the game as the maniac may take his reckless and free-wheeling play elsewhere. Despite the maniac’s style and ability to influence the actions of the entire table, you don’t want him to leave. If you play correctly against a maniac, your profit potential can be enormous. Comments are best left unsaid. Its best to let the maniac think that he can completely dominate the game. Let him believe that he can manipulate and run all over you, quietly biding your time to counter his aggressiveness with proper strategies. A cardinal sin of poker is underestimating your opponent. If the maniac feels that he can control you, he is committing a fatal error in not being cognizant of your skills in fending off his reckless style.
The maniac tends to meet his demise when other players become more disciplined and play poker in a technically correct fashion. When facing only one or two other opponents in a hand due to most players catching on and shortening their range of playable hands, its very likely that at least one of those two players will have a better hand. So your best defense is usually a tight-aggressive playing style that cashes in on the maniac’s multitude of bets and raises. If you wait patiently for the best hand and are confronted by excessive betting and raising by the maniac, you should hold your ground instead of being intimidated into folding.
Most maniacs come out on the losing end over the long haul. Regardless of experience and talent, playing too many hands and tossing way too much money into pots with the worst hand in hopes of inducing a fold or catching a miracle card on the river is not a winning strategy over the test of time. When confronted with a maniac at your table, remember to play tight-aggressive, seat yourself to the left of the maniac if possible, induce bluffs by checking to the maniac and raise after he bets when you know you have the best of it, don’t attempt bluffs as they won’t work, and let the maniac think that he’s the greatest player on the planet.