Winning against poker maniacs takes serious thought

I always find it exciting to be playing at a poker table with a maniac as an opponent. That’s a player who loves to bet and raise – and re-raise. He often does so without regard for the strength of his hand.
I once saw a maniac raise without looking at his hole cards. (Idiot?) It’s not uncommon to find one or even two such players at your table. To win against a maniac requires some serious thought. It also offers special opportunities to your advantage.
Seat Position is Important
Most important, if the maniac is seated behind you, so you must declare before him, your bet/call exposes you to a potentially high investment to see the flop or the next card. That makes hand-selection all the more critical. Always fold a marginal drawing hand in such cases.
More important, get seated to the left of the maniac so you know how he bets before you must declare. Then, you can easily fold a marginal starting-hand or even a somewhat better hand, without costing yourself even a single chip.
For example, I would normally stay to see the flop with hole cards such as 10-9 offsuit from any position. It offers the opportunity to connect with a variety of potentially winning hands. But, with the maniac laying in wait behind me, it’s “healthier” to fold it.
Another case is when I hold A-rag suited in a late position. That’s a possible exception to Epstein’s Hold’em Algorithm. Even with several opponents already betting to see the flop, knowing the maniac behind me is almost certain to raise it up, it is wise to fold.
As soon as a seat becomes available at or near the left of the maniac, don’t hesitate to let the dealer know you are moving into that seat. (Otherwise, another opponent who is equally astute, could make the move before you.)
Seated behind the maniac, you get vital information before you must declare: Will he raise the pot? In a no-limit game, that could be a huge bet; but, even in a limit game, it means it will cost you at least two bets to see the flop. Also, other players may loathe to call a double bet, thereby reducing your potential profit when and if you connect.
Using the Maniac
Most poker players fail to realize there can be an upside to having a single maniac at the table. In a middle position, seated just to the left of the maniac, you are dealt pocket Kings – a made hand. The under-the-gun position calls to see the flop. Then maniac makes his customary raise preflop. It’s your turn.
Remember, starting with a made hand (A-A, K-K, or Q-Q), you would like to force out enough players so you are favored to take the pot with your K-K even if you do not improve. Up to three opponents remaining in the hand would be OK.
Better yet would be to go heads-up against the maniac. He has a random hand, not likely to hold an Ace that could beat you if it paired up. And, you would like to force out players with pairs or Ace-anything who could catch the one card they need to beat your K-K unimproved.
With two Kings remaining unseen, you would have just two outs – a big long shot if an opponent caught a pair of Aces or a set on the flop. Of course, your best decision is to re-raise.
It’s quite costly for your other opponents to stay, hoping to connect on the flop. So they all fold and only the maniac calls. That leaves you heads-up, holding, most likely, the better hand. And, you also have betting position over him. He must declare before you.
Yes, having a maniac at your table can make life real interesting and help you to build your stacks of chips – if you know what to do.

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