This is the second in a four-part series of Table Image articles.
Playing like a maniac might seem easy at first, but it requires one to play with extreme attention to detail. In this article, I will demonstrate exactly what I do when I wish to be perceived as a maniac at any given table. The most important thing to understand is that I lay down many hands on the flop, sometimes even top pair, top kicker. Indeed, you will definitely be laying down more hands after the flop than you may currently think is necessary.
The first step is to simply raise a lot of hands pre-flop as soon as you sit down. Sometimes I will get on the table and raise the first five hands three times the big blind (3 x BB). You will notice that the table you are at may become very loose after your raises. This is good.
After raising a lot, I will usually settle down and play tight poker until I feel the time is right to raise again. Two things will happen during the raising period: (1) You might hit your trash hand and take someone all-in; (2) You will establish yourself as a loose player.
Playing like a maniac is fun, but it can get you into a lot of binds if you can't lay a hand down. I would advise playing the role of a maniac in CASH GAMES ONLY. In a tournament it is much easier to sit back and be patient. Tournaments are much more profitable when played patient in the early rounds and aggressive in the later rounds. Unless you are up against players you know well, don't play like a maniac in a tournament.
Employing Maniac Strategy
When you demonstrate to the table that you are a maniac, you will start getting more calls than you thought possible. This is both good and bad. Although your bankroll will likely take bigger swings, you will be forcing players to make incorrect assumptions about your play and you will profit in the long run as a result.
The key to maniac strategy is laying down many hands if you hit the flop weakly.
Let me show you an example: After joining a table, I decide to raise the first five or six hands to loosen the table up a little. On my seventh raise, I decide J9s looks pretty nice so I raise 3 x BB. A guy with pocket aces in late position only CALLS because he knows I am prone to raising anything. The flop is Jc-9d-2s, perfect for the guy with aces. I bet big, he comes over the top, and I laugh as I take him in. Then he complains, "Nice call pre-flop, idiot." I simply say, "Thanks," and shake my head at the new players who just don't understand the method to my madness.
The point I am trying to make is that in a No-Limit Hold'em cash game, when your bankroll allows it, playing hands such as Q9s or J9s with the image of a maniac can bring instant death to many fishy opponents. What most people don't understand is that these hands, as well as pairs, suited connectors, and A-x suited, will pull in the best pots of the night.
Let me show you one more example, this time illustrating the fact that when you first join a table, occasionally you will raise with trash and hit. This is a real hand that I experienced a couple of days ago:
I raise a really tight player's blinds with Kc-2d. I usually steal this guy's blinds, but this time he calls my raise of 3 x BB. The flop is 2c-Qc-2s. I throw out a huge bet on the flop to make it look as if I am stealing. He comes over the top all-in and I immediately call. I win another huge pot on a trash hand that has almost no value pre-flop. As he showed down his kings, I had to laugh. Of course he tells me, "Horrible play," but we all know what is going on here. Although I got really lucky on the flop, the idea is to put your money in on a really good flop when you hit it.
Let me show you an example of a lay-down: I had Ac-Kd and finally I get some callers, two to be exact. The flop is Ah-4c-5h. I bet big on the flop and a guy re-raises me all-in. From what I have observed, he has folded almost every hand. I have also seen him show down kings and queens before.
I think for a second and then I fold. I throw the hand face up on the table as I say, "Nice hand, I had you on two pair. Good luck." As I leave the table, the guy approaches me and asks how I laid that hand down when I had been raising everything. I never told him what I am about to tell you: The real key to playing the role of a maniac is to play nuts on the flop.
ALWAYS play tight on the flop. If you only have a pair and see a guy put you all-in, he most likely has you. Always err on the side of folding rather than calling. In No-Limit cash games, the most money is made when you put your money in on the nuts. Wait for the other guy to make the mistake and then pounce on him.