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To The Right Of The Maniac

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Oct 16, 2013

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Roy CookeManiacs present a whole new set of problems, requiring significant changes to your strategy. Many players grumble about playing with maniacs, reflecting on the difficulties they create rather than the upside potential they generate. Played correctly, they will add a lot of positive expected value (EV) to your game.

After waiting what seemed like forever, I finally got a seat in the live $40-$80 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio. A maniac on total tilt was blasting away at the game, tilting others and creating extreme confusion even amongst those still somewhat emotionally stable. Of course, the seat I obtained was to the maniac’s immediate right as all the players shifted to the best available seat to acquire position on Mr. Maniac.

Sitting to a maniac’s right presents a different set of issues than if you have position. Without position, you are highly likely to get raised preflop and on the flop by an opponent with position who is going to be impossible to put on a narrow range of holdings. It makes things significantly more complicated.

Several laps into my session, I picked up the 10Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit in second position. The under-the-gun (UTG) player folded, and I raised, fully aware that Mr. Maniac was highly likely to three-bet, which he did. One player called, and another opponent who was on total tilt and not playing very differently than the maniac made it four-bets. The small blind (SB) called, the big blind (BB) folded, and I flat called, knowing that Mr. Maniac was going to cap to $200 behind me. Of course, he did. We took the flop five-handed, $1,040 in the pot.

The flop came down QHeart Suit 9Spade Suit 8Heart Suit providing me with a gutshot and a pair that beat second-pair. With the texture of this game, two tens had a reasonable chance to be good. The SB checked. Looking to represent a strong holding, I led, reasoning that Mr. Maniac would raise with a large portion of his range, thereby putting my other three opponents in the precarious position of facing a double-bet with the highly likely possibility of being trapped for additional bets.

Mr. Maniac, true to form, hit it a lick, folding the opponent immediately behind him. Mr. Total-Tilt called, and the SB folded. Having accomplished my goal of limiting the field with a vulnerable hand, I flat called. The 4Club Suit came on the turn. Feeling Mr. Maniac would bet, I checked, he bet. Mr. Total-Tilt called as did I.

The river came the 10Heart Suit, making me a set, but placing a three-flush and a four-straight on the board. Any two hearts or any hand containing a jack beat me. I knuckled, totally in the dark as to where I was at in the hand. Mr. Maniac wagered and Mr. Total-Tilt called.

I’m always cautious about overcalling. Not only do you have to beat the original bettor’s hand, but the caller has to have a hand of significant value. The combination of having to beat both hands increases the odds of being beat significantly more than most people intuitively think. Should you have a 50 percent chance of beating the initial bettor and a 25 percent chance of beating the caller, then the chance of beating them both is 12.5 percent. That said, this pot contained $1,680, providing me with 21-to-1 odds, I tossed in $80. Mr. Maniac turned over the JDiamond Suit 8Club Suit, having flopped bottom pair and a gutshot, and converted the gutshot when I hit my ten. Mr. Total-Tilt tossed his hand into the muck, I followed suit. I never established what Mr. Total-Tilt held.

Analyzing my decisions in retrospect, I liked them, though I wasn’t fond of the result. I’d protected my medium pair as best I could. And the tens were probably good until I rivered the set.

Many of my complications in this hand were due to my location to the right of Mr. Maniac. In a perfect world I’d always like to be to the maniac’s left. But you have to adjust to the situation you are in the best you can. There are strategies that will, to a certain extent, compensate for your positional disadvantage. And no matter where you sit, it’s still a very good thing that the maniac is in the game.

When you’re out of position against a hyper-aggressive player, you can trap with your volume hands by calling, letting the maniac raise as he is prone to do and then make a determination on how to play your hand based on the increased level of information available after all have acted, playing it like a semi-permanent button. If you have a big A-K suited or A-Q suited hand, you want to reraise. Even with hands like J-10 suited or 10-9 suited, you can build massive pots when your opponents who seek to get involved with the maniac call with sub-marginal holdings only to end up trapped when you reraise and the maniac, forever seeking to build pots, reraises with substantial portions of his range. One additional advantage is that the maniac will perceive you as a “partner” in action, and be more inclined to give you action in other circumstances.

Another advantage of having a maniac to your left is the ability to convert his aggression into easier hand reading. By letting him take the lead, you can read all your opponents’ actions before making your decision. With that additional information, your decision should be crisper. Additionally, maniacs on your left make great check-raise stations. You can trap all those opponents’ loose calls in-between.

With hyper-aggressive players on their left, many players make the mistake of raising aggressively with speculative hands, thinking that their hand plays well against the maniac’s range. What they fail to take into account is how poorly their hand plays when they are in the one in the lead with no read against opponents in position. Often you will cost yourself much equity . You may still have the best of it, but in many cases better options are available.

Maniacs create complications. Think carefully about how to play them. Even maniacs can be somewhat read, albeit more by their emotions than their thought process. And if you calculate correctly, you’ll have many fewer bad beat stories to tell! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke