How to Win Money from a Maniac in Poker Cash Games
If you don’t know how to play correctly against these kinds of players, you might very well go bust. At least for that session.
To maximize your return against 'maniac' players you need to consider a few things. Most importantly position, starting hand selection and how to play post flop.
Tighten Your Starting Hand Selection
The first thing to do when you're up against a maniac is tighten up your starting hand selection. A maniac will raise almost all hands, regardless of position, and continue to fire bets on the flop, turn and river.
This means that you just should not play many weak hands. You want to play big cards, including suited Broadway and all pocket pairs.
If you're in position you can widen up your range some and you might get away with playing suited and connected cards. But you should flat call with most of these hands.
Some people think that the best way to handle a maniac is to apply the same style of aggression. The problem with this is that some maniacs will back off or will simply shove over you. This increases your variance.
Flat Call Pre-flop
Maniacs are so used to seeing people either fold or call pre-flop that they often expect a big hand when someone raises them.
When you raise them pre-flop you are giving them extra information. They are unlikely to fold but they often will play you on a range of hands.
So you'll want to flat call with a lot of hands pre-flop. The natural exceptions are when you want to get all your chips in with aces or kings.
Trickle Around Effect
The maniac is not the only player you need to be aware of. Other players at the table will now play differently as well.
It's usual for many players to tighten up when dealing with a maniac. This means that you need to be careful when other players come into a hand where you're trying to trap a maniac.
Consider the following example of a trapping situation. A maniac opens to 5x the blind in early position. It folds to someone in middle position. This person has been playing very tight. He decides to flat-call the raise.
If you have a hand like pocket tens you're well ahead of the Maniac's range and might think to raise for value. But this is a tricky spot. The tight player might have flatted with a bigger pair. If you put in a raise the maniac will likely call but when the action returns to him the tight player will often three-bet.
This puts you in a bad spot. If you call you're committing a lot of chips and the maniac has yet to act. If the maniac decides to shove you'll have to fold if the tight player also moves in. It would be better to simply flat the raise pre-flop.
Playing Past the Flop
From the flop and beyond you'll rely heavily on your position and whether you actually hit anything on the board. Unless you have odds you don't want to chase too many draws as it will often just drain your stack quicker.
When hit a monster against the maniac you want to do what you can to induce a bet. This is easy when you're out of position as most checks will induce a bet.
When in position you can either slow play or bet the pot in such as way that induces a call. Give the maniac odds to chase, especially if he's chasing an inferior draw to your hand.
When you have a solid hand but one that could still be vulnerable you want to bet for value. Don't give them a chance to catch against you. Taking down the pot on the flop or turn is just fine.
If You Miss
If you miss the flop you still want to continuation bet in position. Out of position you will want to try and get a free card or get out of the way and try again another hand.
It's also important that you don't make the same move every time. Don't fall into the trap of automatically checking and folding to a bet if you miss the flop.
Don't always slow-play when you hit a monster. When you make the same plays over and over, the maniac will catch on and you won't get action when you need it.
It Doesn't Have to Be High Variance
Some poker players assume that playing against a maniac will result in a high-variance session. That doesn't have to be the case.
Winning in poker cash games against a maniac player will often require you to play tighter than you normally would. While this may not seem the most exciting form of poker to play, it is still a profitable one.
Poker is all about switching gears and sometimes the only way to beat a maniac is to lull them to bustoland.