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How to Play Against a Maniac
Frequently, and especially when playing online, you will find a "maniac" at the table. Maniacs are characterized as such because they will play almost every hand, and raise or re-raise with any two cards. This type of player can be on tilt, drunk, or simply having a good time by creating a lot of action. However, the reasoning behind this type of play is less important than making sure you maximize your winnings against this player.
It may sound easy to play against a maniac, but they pose a serious threat to your game because they are extremely aggressive and will really put you to the test, adding many swings to your bankroll. Often times, a maniac can virtually put the entire table on tilt, thus creating a very profitable situation for the player who remains calm and applies the correct strategies.
So, how should you play against this loose, aggressive, and crazy player? Please, read on...
First and foremost, we advise that, if possible, you seat yourself to the left of the maniac. By doing so, you will be acting behind and can frequently re-raise whenever you are going to play a hand. This has several advantages, specifically, you are more likely to isolate your opponent and will hopefully get the pot heads-up when you have superior position.
In addition, on average, your hand will be much better than your opponent's hand. If the other players allow you to do this without interfering, then power to you! Indeed, they will be placed in difficult situations due to your repeated re-raises, and will have a very tough time playing hands like A-x, pairs, or big connectors (J-T and bigger) against a raise and a re-raise.
The aforementioned hands are the kinds of hands you will re-raise the maniac with. The is because they are good hands to play heads-up and are much better than an average hand, which is the type of hand the maniac will be holding the majority of the time.
Particularly strong hands include the A-x and pocket pairs, as they will often win heads-up pots unimproved on the river. Drawing hands, such as 87s, decrease in value when there is a maniac at the table because these hands require good implied odds. And, given the fact that the maniac will generally raise pre-flop, which will make it expensive to see the flop and also limit the field to a few players, the implied odds are usually not the best.
However, occasionally it happens that the whole table loosens up, and players begin to call raises with more hands in the hopes of winning a big pot against the maniac. If this happens, and you are sitting in late position, then the implied odds will be great and the small suited connectors become playable.
Your essential strategy should be to sit on the maniac's left and selectively re-raise with A-x, any pair, and big connectors (J-T and bigger). You will have to play a lot of these hands unimproved to the river, and cannot fold on the flop every time you do not improve. You can play in this way so long as your opponents do not start re-raising or calling behind you. If that happens, you have to tighten up significantly both pre-flop and on the flop, and the more the game moves in that direction, the more you will have to revert to your standard ring game strategy.
Of course, if a solid player raises and the maniac re-raises, you must be extremely selective of what hands you choose to play. As well, you have to be extremely selective when you are sitting to the right of the maniac. However, you should still raise with more hands if the maniac is the kind of player who re-raises a raise almost every time, thus letting the maniac isolate you instead of vice versa.