Poker Tips by George: Beware of Loose-Aggressive (Wild) Games

By George Epstein
March 05, 2021

One of my favorite poker authors is renowned poker psychologist Dr. Alan Schoonmaker. Years ago, in Poker Digest magazine, he published a series on “Selecting and Adjusting to Different Games.” His views on loose-aggressive games merit comment.

With two or more loose-aggressive players (Maniacs), expect frequent raises and three-bets, often with weak hands – just for the fun of gambling. I imagine you’d might find such games being played at online casinos in Kenya. Sensing a big pot, other players are prone to call or raise, even with weak hands. With so many chips entering the pot, a weak starting hand with only a few outs may gain a positive expectation; as more players want a shot at it. They envisage the huge pot they might win with a little luck.

very aggressive

My Advice

If, like me, you are a recreational player, in a loose-aggressive game it is best to play at low/middle limits. Otherwise, with wide variance, you may find yourself losing more than you can handle.

With more opponents staying in the pot, probability becomes more important. For example, in a hand with six opponents staying to see the flop (not an uncommon occurrence in wild limit hold’em games) it is much more likely one will draw out on you than if half that number see the flop. If you really want to play in such a game, it is essential to take steps that can make the odds and luck more favorable to you. Here are some ways:

  • Avoid games with more than one Maniac. They tend to raise and reraise with abandon, making it all the harder to manage your money. A few bad-beats can quickly send you to the exit.
  • Pay attention to opponents’ playing traits. That information will help you make better decisions before investing more chips. Be prepared when a bluffer makes a raise. And if a tight player (a “Rock”) open bets or raises, believe him: He has a powerful hand. Unless you happen to  have a monster hand, muck your cards.
  • Be on the lookout for opponents’ tells. A quick glance to your left can inform you when one is getting ready to raise as he gathers a handful of chips; he may even act out of turn.
  • Position is even more important in wild games. Sit to the left of Maniacs if possible. Play much tighter in early positions where there are many opponents yet to declare. Loosen up a bit in late positions after you see how most of your opponents act.
  • Bluff and semi-bluff less often because someone may call or raise, destroying your fold equity. Save some chips.
  • With a strong hand, check-raise more often. Someone will usually bet. Then, the pots really grow. You win more chips! Furthermore, your check-raise is likely to thin the field, making luck less of a factor against you.
  • Likewise, slow-play more often when you flop a monster. Let the Maniacs do the betting/raising for you. Opponents are much more likely to call their bets than yours. Wait until the turn or river to make your raise/reraise.
  • On the river, call the Maniac’s bet unless you are almost certain your hand is beaten. Yes, you will often lose, but a lost bet is not nearly as significant as losing a monster pot. That is a catastrophe! Maniacs often bluff on the river after a missed draw.

Discussing this column with Dr. Schoonmaker, he commented: “These games are fun, but they are dangerous. The swings are huge, and you will take some extremely bad beats. But, if you adjust well, these games can be extremely profitable.”

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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