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How to bring down a maniac?

If you’re playing a lot of online poker, you’re probably familiar with having a maniac at your table. If you’re a tight and more cautious player by nature, that maniac will give you trouble. He’s going to prevent you from seeing as many flops as you’d like, and thus limit your chances to take pots down.

When faced with such a player, remember one thing: he’s called a maniac because he acts on all sorts of hands. It is impossible for a person to be dealt only quality starting hands time and again, so he must act on garbage.

The biggest fear reasonable players have when they’re faced with a maniac is, that he’s playing a semi-bluff all the time. As such, the odds of going up against him – especially on average starting hands – might not be lucrative at all. Well, in most cases, the maniac is far from semi-bluffing. He’s just acting like a lunatic and that’s that.

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Another thing you have to know about maniacs, is that there are only a few things that they fear: one of them is that their preflop raise will remain unanswered and everyone shall fold to them. They’re also put off-balance by a good starting hand landing in their pocket (they’re likely to slow-play such hands, so beware when you see them limping). Last, they’re scared of check-raises.

At any rate, whenever you find a table where there’s a maniac wreaking havoc, you should view him as a potential source of EV+.

The strategy you need to apply against the maniac is largely dependent on the composition of the table. If all other players are tight and they’re visibly irked by the loose-cannon’s antics, then you want to sit on the left of him, so you can act after him. That way, you’ll be able to re-raise him, and/or to trap him with a check-raise every now and then.

Remember that most of the time, he’s likely to hold weaker hands than the ones you decide to commit on, so in that respect, you have control over him.

Do not be afraid to take the fight to him on hands like a high-pair or even a high card. If the other players stay out of the battle, you can virtually treat the whole setup as a heads-up situation. Take it to him on hands you’d play in a heads-up, because he’s likely not to be able to match them.

The problem comes, when an interesting, yet pretty common phenomenon kicks in at the table: spurred on by the maniac, the other players loosen up too, and the whole table blows up in a betting frenzy. Even though such tables provide great value for the single player who manages to stay off tilt and stick to strategy, they are more dangerous than the ones with a single maniac.

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First off all, the strategy described above, no longer works. The reason is, you cannot take hands like the ones you would in a heads-up, to an eventual showdown anymore. Texas Holdem is a game of high luck-variance, and as such, more competitors for the pot mean reduced edges for each and every one of them.
In this case, just keep calm and apply your standard cash-game strategy.

In conclusion: position yourself on the maniac’s left in order to gain tactical advantage over him, then re-raise him selectively, or trap him with a few check-raises. You can work with hands like A and something, higher connectors like J,Qo, even T,Jo. Tighten up though if you notice that there is another solid player who is playing the same game you are. Also, be careful if the table loosens up and people start betting and raising left and right.

No matter under what circumstances you run into him, do not be afraid of a maniac. He’s more of a source of income for you than a serious threat, if you play calmly.

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