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We’ve all been there before. We’re playing in a game and there’s a guy who is seemingly flatting or 3betting every one of our opens and putting in a lot of big bets postflop. His pressure feels relentless and we’re not sure how to proceed. If we don’t have a plan it can feel both hopeless and incredibly stressful, and we may end making a huge mistakes if we don’t adjust correctly.
When we play against a maniac we want to adjust our preflop and postflop strategy so that we don’t overfold against him; this is the main thing. If we do have a habit of overfolding we are just playing into his game and getting exploited in the long run. Against this player type it’s the wrong approach to just wait for a super strong hand. By the time we find one he will have robbed more off us than we can make back. Let’s have a closer look at 3 tips we can use to start profiting big off this player type.
#1: Tag Your Opponent – Pay close attention to showdowns
It’s really important to understand what our opponent is doing in order to exploit him. What kind of maniac is he? Just how many hands is he playing? Is he usually flatting when someone raises or is he more aggressive and 3bets a lot? Does he prefer to do so more when he’s in position or does he just do it from anywhere? Pay close attention to how he likes to bet postflop as well. Once he bets flop does he always continue on turns and rivers? Most maniacs will follow through very often with all their bluffs, but some will just be betting flop and turn aggressively and sometimes giving up. Does he regularly bluff vs multiple opponents or only when it’s heads up? Is he willing to put in a big checkraise on the river as a bluff? We need to pay very close attention to any of his showdowns, and make a note of it either mentally or in our phone. When he gets called by a weak hand and mucks then we also know he’s bluffing. Maybe we see he loves to bluff on dynamic runouts (flushes and 4 card straights hitting). Maybe we see he overplays his value hands. Maybe we see he will turn all sorts of pairs into bluffs. All this information is invaluable. We need to be vigilant and focused at all times if we want to play effectively vs him in the future.
#2: DO NOT Fight Fire with Fire!
When a maniac is constantly 3betting us it can be really frustrating. Many people will adjust by starting to 4bet bluff them very wide. But is this the correct counter strategy? Remember, he doesn’t like to give up and wants to be the one getting the last laugh. While some maniacs will fold under the pressure, there are many who will simply be willing to call the 4bet and try to outplay us postflop or even just put in the 5bet jam. We will find yourself in huge pots with a weak range far too often if we take this approach. These are not the spots we want to be in. Instead you we can just call a lot more hands to his 3-bet. It’s that simple. When he 3-bets a wider range we need less equity to have a profitable call vs it. We’re also going to have high implied odds with our range when we do hit because he will blast off with bluffs so often. With our 4betting range we just use very strong hands, and can also widen it for value a bit since he will continue vs us with many weak hands. We can also tighten our preflop opening range a bit in order to not raise-fold too many hands. This is especially true when he has position on us. Just take some the hands near the very bottom of your normal opening range and fold them. You can also take some of the more marginal hands which have good implied odds or playability (66, 78s for example) and limp with them planning to call his raise. This will keep the pot smaller and allow us to see a flop more often.
The concept applies to postflop as well. It is a very dangerous and costly game trying to outbluff the bluffler. These players revel in making the big hero calls, and putting in the last bluff. It’s not a game we’re going to win. So instead we just give him the rope to go crazy and stick with our solid strategy. He will have a very wide range in most spots so we can put in some small bluffs here and there, but try to stick to a more value oriented approach. We let the game come to us, but we also don’t just back down and wilt under his pressure.
#3: No Hero Folds!
We can’t call the flop and turn with a decently strong hand only to fold the river vs these players. It’s just burning money. Instead we can use the information about his range and tendencies (tip #1) along with the fact that we’ve been giving him rope to keep bluffing wide (tip #2) to start picking him off. When a player consistently bets over multiple streets and plays a very wide preflop range as well, he’s going to show up on the river with a ton of air. It’s impossible for him not to. Even if he bets full pot we only need to beat 33% of his range. So we have to take advantage of this and start to widen our calldown range significantly vs this player type. Yes, we will end up playing more large pots with marginal holdings (and losing a good amount of them too) and this may make us feel uncomfortable, but if we’re looking to attain the highest winrate vs the maniacs we will have to get used to it. So buckle up and get ready to play. If we are unwilling to make this adjustment then it’s best we just leave the game and look for a better table. Conversely we could play extremely tight preflop and on the flop, but again this will not be the most profitable approach. The maniac may just end up walking all over us the entire night. There’s also a good chance we might be playing at stakes which are too high for you.
So be sure to always try to remember these 3 overarching tips when we’re sitting with a maniac. Mark down the hands we played with him or saw him play and review them later with others. Remember that he just has 2 cards to play with like the rest of us. As we make the necessary adjustments and realize he is exploitable, our confidence will grow and we will no longer be feeling uneasy everytime he’s at the table.
Until next time good luck at the felt!
Tim and Michael