In poker, you’ll encounter many types of players. “Nits”, or “rocks” are the most passive players you’ll ever meet. Afraid of getting involved in the pot with anything besides the best hands, they’ll constantly fold and never bet. “Calling stations” will play every hand regardless of the actual odds; they’ll call any bet with any hand, leading to lots of losses at the showdown.
Adjusting your poker strategy to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses is one of the most important parts of poker, and that is why poker is often referred to as “a game of people.” However, one of the rarer and more intimidating types of poker player is the “maniac.” While this strategy is wildly inefficient, it can sometimes be very challenging to deal with. This poker guide will explain what exactly a maniac in poker is and how to play against one.
What is a maniac?
A maniac in poker is a hyper-aggressive player that frequently raises and re-raises, even without a strong hand. Think of them as loose-aggressive players taken to the extreme.
They are very loose, meaning they will play anything from premium hands like AA to drawing hands like 98s to trash like 2-6o.
They are just as aggressive, constantly putting pressure on their opponents with bets and raises. They don’t rely on pot odds or any other logic for their decisions, they simply bet and see what happens.
That is where the name “maniac” comes from, as most play like they simply don’t care about the game and mindlessly bet.
While being a maniac is almost certainly a losing strategy, it can actually confuse some players who don’t have much experience facing them. Their actions are very unpredictable and intimidating, so it’s understandable if you’ve struggled with them.
Weaknesses of being a maniac
If you’ve been struggling with maniacs for a while, you may be wondering why exactly the style is bad. It may look strong when you go against it; it seems dangerously unpredictable and it has a chance of winning you pots you never would have playing passively.
However, being a maniac has many glaring weaknesses. The first and most apparent is that it gives you very little control over your own game. By mindlessly playing every hand, you leave yourself at the mercy of your own luck. Bad beats will be far more common as you’ll frequently lose the pot playing drawing hands or air when trying to bluff.
The second weakness of being a maniac is that its aggression only compounds its losses. Since you’re already playing a lot of hands, you’ll frequently lose pots. By betting big as an attempt to be aggressive, you only commit more money to pots you’ll likely lose. Being a maniac is essentially throwing your money away.
If becoming a maniac still appeals to you after knowing the style’s weaknesses, we recommend becoming a LAG instead. They have many of the same benefits of being a maniac, such as being able to win the pot without a strong hand and being difficult to anticipate.
However, the LAG style has almost none of the maniac’s weaknesses, as it relies on intelligent aggression instead of mindless betting. This makes it more challenging to learn, but when mastered, the LAG style can be the best way to play.
Dealing with maniacs: Fighting back
Pre-flop, a great way to deal with maniacs is by trying to take back control of the pot. Their aggression actions aim to give them control of the pot regardless of their actual hand strength. If you have a decently strong hand, you can try raising their pre-flop bets instead.
Depending on the player, you may see different reactions when you raise their bets. Some will continue onward, keeping up the aggression even when their hand isn’t good at all. Others will fold, recognizing that they aren’t likely to win and giving up on the hand before it’s too late.
Whichever kind of maniac you’re up against, fighting back pre-flop ensures one thing: You aren’t playing into their hands. They want you to give up and play passively, as they can take advantage of that weakness.
By matching their aggression pre-flop, you can stop them from outplaying you later on post-flop. You also can make them fold outright if you have a tight table image and they have a weak pre-flop hand.
Dealing with maniacs: Slow playing
Post-flop, a fantastic way to deal with maniacs is slow playing your strong hands. Slow playing is when you play passively even with a strong hand. It’s a deceptive technique that aims to trick other players into staying in the pot so that you can win at the showdown with a monster hand.
While slow playing doesn’t work most of the time since you’re forced to rely on others building the pot, it works well against maniacs since they will often do all the betting for you. Playing passively also signals weakness, which maniacs will be eager to try and exploit by getting you to fold.
What NOT to do against maniacs: Bluffing
You have different approaches for dealing with maniacs, from fighting back pre-flop to trapping them with slow play post-flop. However, one general rule when playing against maniacs is to tighten up and don’t get involved in pots with bad hands.
Bluffing against a maniac is a terrible idea for two main reasons. The first is that they will often grow the pot tremendously if you get into a raising war with them. This puts you in a terrible spot if you are raised without a good hand.
The second is that some maniacs will essentially never fold. Bluffs are meant to make your opponents fold so you can win even without a good hand, but this will almost never happen against maniacs. Bluffing is actively detrimental to you against maniacs, so don’t even bother.
Play online poker to practice!
In conclusion, maniacs may seem scary and tricky to counter, but they do have a few weaknesses you can take advantage of. Playing against maniacs is all about experience since each one is different. Building up experience takes time, but you can accelerate it by playing online poker. Its fast pace and variety of available games make it the perfect way to practice.