Poker is a game of situations and decisions. Most of these situations are rare, but some recur with some regularity. With that in mind, we conclude this series on pre-flop play with a look at several situations and people that you will encounter often enough to discuss.
Specifically, we will take a look at:
After making this list, I find that I have enough to say about maniacs to make a whole lesson out of it. So we will make this a two-part lesson and just focus on maniacs this time.
For some reason hold’em seems to attract maniacs. Having one or more in your game increases your volatility and definitely adds to the challenge. But the opportunity for profit is definitely there.
Before we examine the types of maniacs you will encounter and how you should deal with them, let’s explore a couple of things that many maniacs seem to have in common:
One of the things a maniac learns is that everyone always assumes he has nothing (and, of course, they frequently are correct). Maniacs therefore make many value bets on the river because they know they will always get paid off. Who would throw away a pair when left alone with a maniac on the end? Similarly, maniacs in general cannot be bluffed. They know you think if you bet with noting you might win, since they probably have nothing too. So maniacs call very liberally, expecting to be bluffed.
Now that we’ve seen what they have in common, let’s look at how maniacs differ. Most people don’t see these differences. One maniac seems the same as another. In fact, there are very important differences between maniacs, and they require fundamentally different strategies. The most important thing is to define your maniac. I divide them into three types:
I always hate it when some pontificating expert (me, in this case) tells us where to sit in some situation or other. Don’t they realize that when you get to the table, generally there is only one seat open? That you can’t just rearrange the table to suit the article you just read? While it is nice to get to the best possible seat eventually, what do you do while waiting for people to leave so you can rearrange yourself? In maniac games, the answer is to play very tightly (sorry) and be on the lookout for traps. Your savvy opponents, if there are any, will be using the maniac as leverage against you. Beware of calling one bet post-flop if you have a mediocre hand, for it may well be three bets to you before it comes back.
Sometimes, you will find you have been invaded by multiple maniacs in the same game. The presence of more than one usually means that nearly every pot will be capped, since they will keep raising regardless of their hands until the rules force them to stop. It hardly matters where you sit, but it matters a whole lot which hands you are going to play. Typically, in multiple maniac games, the table becomes immune to these raises and resigns itself to playing whatever hands they feel are appropriate no matter how much it costs. After all, they came to play, and the pots are very big. If you live in California and play low limits, you are probably already aware of how common these games are there.
Hand selection becomes crucial in these multi-way (five or more opponents) capped-pot games. Here is how you should play. Play any pair or any suited ace from any position. Call all of the pre-flop raises. Look at the flop. If you started with a pair, see if you flopped an overpair or a set. If so, bet and raise like crazy. If not, fold as soon as you can.
If you started with a suited ace, see if you flopped either a flush or a flush draw. If so, start betting and raising like crazy. Do not slowplay this or any other hand, in a multiple maniac game. If you have no flush or flush draw, you almost always need to hit your hand twice in order to continue. For those who do not know the term, it means you need to have two pair or trips to go on. The only exception is a pair of aces with a large kicker, or top pair with (of course) an ace kicker. Play all of these hands cautiously, but you will need to stay in with them. With all of those players in the pot, and the pot size dictating that your opponents are getting terrific odds to draw out on you, one pair will simply not win very often.
You will notice I am recommending you actually throw away AKo, and the suited connectors that a lot of people like to play in these kinds of pots. With AKo, you are usually trying to make one pair stand up, which is a bad bet with lots of opponents staying to the river because of the price the pot is laying them. Suited connectors work OK in pots where you can get in late for one bet, or maybe even two with a lot of opponents, but for four of five bets, you simply cannot get value. You will be chasing with non-nut draws because of the pot size. If you must play suited connectors, restrict yourself to KQs, QJs and JTs. At least you could make a large flush or a top straight.
Maniac games can be fun, in a bizarre way, and you can make money. You need to keep your emotions on an even keel, because you will be subjected to large swings. If you stick with it and maintain control, you will play very few pots, stay in even fewer, get drawn out on frequently when you do stay, but still make enough money in the rare pot you do win to show a sizeable profit.
Next time we will continue with Part 2 of Lesson 6 by looking at situations where you have to post a blind before you get to see your hand.
Lesson created by Barry Tanenbaum.
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