Poker Tips by George: Playing Against a Maniac

By George Epstein
August 06, 2020

Aggressive poker players are common. In fact, some level of aggressiveness is recommended if you want to be a steady winner. But then there are those maniacs! According to Michael Wiesenberg’s Official Dictionary of Poker, “a maniac is a player who bets, raises, and reraises without regard to the quality of his hand; someone to whom getting in the last bet is a matter of pride.”

poker maniac

I label such a player a BIG maniac. He open bets, raises or reraises almost every hand. He craves “action” – lots of betting and raising, leading to bigger pots. A SMALL maniac is more discrete, but still open bets, raises/reraises at a relatively high rate.

It’s easy to recognize a big maniac because of the high frequency of his raises/reraises – practically every hand. Often, he is also a loose player, staying to see the flop with almost every hand dealt to him. Label him a LAG (loose-aggressive) maniac. He may also be a chaser – playing hands with just a few outs. It is harder to identify a small maniac.

I do not advocate that you become a maniac. It is important to learn how best to play against them, and even take advantage of their raises when the situation is right.

Maniacs are bound to experience more ups and downs than other players. Big maniacs usually go home big losers. Small maniacs have better self-control and often win, regardless of whether they’re playing at new casinos or more established gaming venues.

Advice for Playing Against a Maniac

Position is important

If you are seated to a maniac’s right, pay to see the flop only if your hand can stand a raise. If there is a second maniac at your table, expect to be whip-sawed with multiple raises after you call to see the flop. That makes the game much too costly for serious players. Ask the dealer for a seat change. It is best to be seated to the left of the maniac. While waiting for your seat change, play only premium made and drawing hands. A table change may be better.

READ MORE: Top 10 Reasons to Request a Seat Change

Use the two-step concept

Should you stay to see the flop, then your hand must show significant improvement. Be prepared to fold if you do not catch a made hand – top pair on the board, two-pair or better; or a drawing hand with lots of good outs – an open-ended straight draw (8 outs) or four-to-a-flush (9 outs).

Take advantage of the maniac

This applies only when you are dealt a powerful starting hand. After the maniac makes his raise, a reraise (a 3-bet) can help you by forcing out some of your opponents. Thinning the field, your hand has a better chance of keeping the lead; alternatively, should they all fold, you will get heads-up against the maniac, whose hand is almost certain to be far inferior to yours. Your edge.

When the maniac does not raise

That is not his playing style, so it is likely he has a really strong starting hand. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but typically this tends to be a good time to muck your hand – unless it, too, is powerful. The maniac may be trying to trap several opponents by check-raising. That is all to your benefit when the flop improves your hand.

With a maniac at your table, volatility – the ups and downs of the game – will be much greater. You will need a bigger bankroll to sustain yourself until the swings start to move in your favor.

Alternatively, you would be wise to avoid playing at tables with a maniac in the first place.

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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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