We've all seen players get it all-in blind; we've seen players do it multiple hands in a row, but only twice have I ever seen it last for an extended period.
The first time was when I was still new to the game. I had a very small bankroll, but very big aspirations.
As I walked into my regular poker room at an unholy hour on a Wednesday, instead of the typically exhausted and low-key atmosphere things were in an unusual uproar, with a crowd around one of the tables. At this table sat four people.
The game was $2/$5 No-Limit with a $1,000 max buy-in. Three of the players at the table had typical stacks from $600/$1,500. In seat one sat a slightly inebriated gentleman with a stack that took up not only the space in front of him, but the seat next to him, and some of the seat beyond that.
In a $1,000 buy-in game, this guy had somewhere around $12,000 in $5 chips. For those of you who don't want to do the math, that's 2,400 chips: 120 stacks of $5 chips, each stack 20 chips high.
I asked one of the spectators what was going on.
"This guy has been going all-in every single hand for the last three hours."
It was at this point I understood why there were only three other players at the table: this guy had literally busted everyone else off the table. None of the remaining players in the room felt like gambling. This is where I made my mistake.
If you have the roll for it, this is a golden opportunity. You just wait for premium hands, get it all-in and let the stats do their thing.
Unfortunately, if your entire roll is the size of three buy-ins to the game, chances are you shouldn't be taking the shot.
Well, this very green $4/$8 Limit and $1/$2 No-Limit player decided to take that shot. I just looked at the situation and figured it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I decided to gamble and bought in for $800.
In less than 20 minutes I was dealt a strong ace and lost my entire stack. I have no idea what sort of garbage he had, but my meager statistical advantage wasn't enough to bail me out.
Without ever sitting at the $1/$2 table, I lost the equivalent of four buy-ins to the game I had come to play.
In the world of bankroll management, this night would be filed under the mistakes category.
The next time I came across this was a result of a very good player logging in to play poker while very drunk.
I was in the middle of a multi-table session when the player logged on to one of my tables. I was playing $1/$2 online with a $200 max buy-in. I had ground that up to just under $600 before the player logged in.
This player decided to move all-in every hand, sometimes waiting until the flop to do it. I shouldn't say every hand - he was still a good player at the core, so he threw away complete garbage, and wouldn't overpush against multiple reraises.
But if he had anything close to a playable hand, chances were it was going all-in.
I killed all my other tables and just focused on this one. The best part about facing a player like this is getting to pick off the other players trying to isolate against the maniac.
I had made another $600 on the table without ever playing a pot with just the maniac. I can't take credit for those winnings, as they came from being dealt aces. It's easy to get paid when the table is in a frenzy of action.
The player going all-in was suffering some heavy losses, reloading to try again. As soon as my stack hit around $1,500, he went on a rush. Every time he got it all-in, he won. Soon enough he had a stack of $1700.
Having learned from my first time in this scenario, I knew enough not to gamble with a large percentage of my roll (remember, I'm playing a $200 buy-in game with $1,500 on the table).
Typically with this much money on a table, the correct move would be to recycle onto another table. Unfortunately, the only table worth playing at was this one, and the waiting list now had over 50 players on it.
Instead of stuffing my stack preflop with any decent hand, I decided to learn from my mistakes and wait until I had a clear edge. Since the maniac was allowing players to see occasional flops, I figured the best course of action would be to limp in to every pot, and wait until I connected with a flop.
I could afford to lose the amount of the limps, and figured that one good flop could be worth 700BB, more than enough to make this strategy profitable.
After an orbit or two of limping, I found myself going to the flop holding J♠ 9♥. The flop came 9♠ 9♣ Q♥. Being first to act, I fired out a bet 50% larger than the pot.
The idea was to balloon the pot size as quickly as possible - because our stacks were so deep, I needed some way to allow the maniac to justify getting it all-in. Best-case scenario, he'd assume I was bluffing. Check-raising would show too much strength, so I went with an overbet.
To my delight, the maniac responded by playing back at me. I instantly reraised, moving all-in on him. He insta-called showing Q♦ K♠. My trips held, and I was shipped the $3,000 pot.
You're going to run into players playing a maniac style. When you have a maniac at the table, the entire table dynamic changes. Sometimes these players will go on a run; other times they'll be busto and gone in record time. The idea is to keep your head, pick your spots and always stay inside your roll.
Playing against a player like this turns poker into gambling. Fortunately, if you play smart you can almost always get your money in ahead.
Fight the urge to join in with the gamblers; instead play shrewdly and beat them at their own game. Get it all-in when you know have the best of it, instead of when you just hope you do.