Take Advantage of the Maniac

There will often be a “maniac” at your table. He loves to bet and raise – and reraise! He does it almost every hand. How can you best play against the maniac; and. better yet, can you take advantage of his playing style?

If you are seated to his right, you must declare before he acts. In that case, it is advisable to stay in only with hands that can stand a raise. Best is to move to a seat to his left; then you can see what he does before you invest any of your precious chips. That information is valuable; it can save or earn you “tons of chips.” What’s more, playing against a maniac can be fun and profitable – especially if you use the raise/reraise discreetly – to your advantage.

Raising/Reraising the Maniac

It’s best to explain this strategy with a typical example: You are in a middle position in a limit game, seated to the left of the maniac. Preflop, an early-position player calls the big blind to see the flop. He‘s a loose-aggressive player who would have raised if he held a medium pocket pair or better. You peek at your holecards: A(hearts)-Q(hearts) – a premium drawing hand, almost certain to be better than the maniac’s – possibly the best hand at the table at this point.

After the maniac raises (as is his custom), seated to his immediate left, you reraise – announcing it loud and clear! Like an Esther Bluff, show lots of confidence and some excitement. The players yet to declare, confronted with a three-bet, promptly fold. The blinds may also fold. Even if an early-position player stays in, you have just “bought” the button position for yourself for the rest of this hand. Being last to declare, you have gained an edge over your remaining opponents.

If the early-position player also folds to your reraise, then you will have isolated the maniac. That’s great!

But, if the early-position calls the double-raise, pause a moment; consider his playing traits. A tight player usually has a strong hand. Likewise, if he is deceptive (tricky), be cautious. If he’s loose, chances are he called the raises to defend his original call.

Don’t be surprised if the maniac makes a “four-bet.” Just call to you see the flop. As the flop comes down, look for tells. If you spot any, it can help in making your next decision. The maniac, very likely, will bet into you. Fear not; after all, he is a maniac! Unless the flop looks very dangerous while failing to improve your hand, call his bet. If you do connect, consider reraising for value. Most probably, your hand is way ahead of the maniacs. If the maniac has been winning previous pots or has lots of chips, he is more prone to call your three-bet and may even reraise you. The odds favor you, especially if you connected on the flop or even if your A(hearts) and Q(hearts) are both overcards to the board (giving you six outs). The maniac could be holding almost anything in the hole, but he may have paired up on the flop. That will happen about one out of three hands; most of the time, he will not pair up. So the odds are in your favor.

By this time, any early-position player likely would have folded unless he hit his hand or has a “ton” of outs to catch the winning hand. If he’s still in the pot, respect him; he may have a better hand than yours. . . In that case, it is wise to play cautiously, considering your assessment of the early-position player.

Best is if you are heads-up with the maniac. The odds are in your favor. You won’t win every time at the showdown, but considerably more often than not. Eventually, his stacks of chips should move over to you. Of course, there is always the matter of luck, over which we have no control. Even maniacs can get lucky…

Mark Brown
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