NLHE Tournament Play: Avoiding Mistakes Against a Maniac

Moxie Mike

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The purpose of this thread is to hopefully discuss strategies on how to defeat a certain type of player.

No one likes playing against a maniac. Typical characteristics of this player:

Their indecipherable almost meaningless bet sizing;
Their seemingly thoughtless bet/raise frequency;
Their willingness to call virtually any preflop raise regardless of price or position;
Their propensity to jam all in as massive overbets when it is neither reasonable nor appropriate to do so;
Their calls on the flop and later streets with no pair and no draw;
Their high frequency of bluffing.

In recent days, I've made a couple catastrophic mistakes against a player of this variety. Both were pretty bad:

Hand A) 50 mins into the tournament Maniac opens from under the gun with a 60BB stack for a 7x preflop raise - a common move from this player. HERO looks down at 66, figures to be ahead or flipping with most of Maniac's range and jams a 30BB stack. Maniac call with JJ and HERO's tournament is over.

Hand B) 150/300 level. 90 mins into the tournament HERO is chip leader with 37000 after stacking a player in the previous hand reducing the field down to 6. Hero is dealt JJ in the C/O and opens to 800. After the button calls, Maniac (stack 28000) raises to ~4200 (probably just mashing the 'bet pot' button). HERO calls button folds. Pot ~10k.

Flop comes 7-8-10 rainbow. Maniac immediately without hesitation open jams first to act. Again, this is really common for this player. He jammed so fast it took HERO a second to realize why it was his turn to act already. HERO tanks for half his time bank and finally calls. Maniac turns over AA. Maniac goes on to with the tournament and HERO bubbled.

There's plenty of justification in both ill-fated decisions. But the bigger mistake - especially in hand #2 - was the lack of patience/discipline and failure to consider the consequences of doubling up the maniac so egregiously.

The obvious strategy against a maniac is to patiently let them implode and set traps to use their aggression against them. But that's easier said than done - since opportunities to trap aren't always so plentiful in NLHE. What I would really like to discuss is how to avoid catastrophe when facing constant off-the-charts aggression.

Thoughts?
 

upNdown

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You can’t out maniac a maniac. Let the game come to you and view the over bets and donk leads as a chance to play perfectly. The hands above might just be variance, too.
I was going to say that you just have to be patient and pick your spots, but that seems to be what you said. It's pretty generic tournament advice, but if you're a decent tournament player, it's everything.
And easier said then done, especially if you're not playing your A game.
 

Moxie Mike

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The hands above might just be variance, too.

The hands I mentioned were bad because I didn't have to make either play. If a knowingly strong player raised or 3-bet strong, pocket sixes would go straight into the muck with a 30 BB stack. Instead I jammed with little if any fold equity only to find myself in a worst-case-scenario spot and I was properly punished.

Hand #2 isn't as bad - I'm pretty sure if I posted a strategy thread about that hand by itself 75% would advocate a call there. But it's wasn't a move I had to make. I could have released and continued to enjoy the chip lead. Results notwithstanding... there are times where you call because you're probably not going to find a better spot to chip up; this was not one of them though.
 
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Steve Birrer

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A. I am never jamming over a 7X raise no matter how much of a maniac the player is. You "figure to be ahead of flipping for MOST of his range." Yeah and the rest of his range you are way behind. Bad shove IMO.

B. Not sure what to make of this hand. Does he super fast jam with junk? Seems like his insta shove was an alert that he had an overpair, or flopped a set or straight.
 

CraigT78

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Sounds like you got out played in both hands. This guy has a soul read on you.
 

Moxie Mike

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A. I am never jamming over a 7X raise no matter how much of a maniac the player is. You "figure to be ahead of flipping for MOST of his range." Yeah and the rest of his range you are way behind. Bad shove IMO.

B. Not sure what to make of this hand. Does he super fast jam with junk? Seems like his insta shove was an alert that he had an overpair, or flopped a set or straight.

I wasn't really looking to discuss those hands but since you asked, yes he open jams the flop after raising pre quite often. Another player (from a game last week) counted him doing so 12 times in 45 mins.

He was going to jam ANY flop. He probably didn't even look at the flop before clicking the all in button. It happened THAT fast. It's probably the closest you can get to betting blind in an online environment.
 
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Have a few maniacs in my home game, but one super maniac.
Two things I like having against said player is History and position.
We’ve played a lot, I read him fairly well and I think he respects my game more than the other players... which I use against him.
I make it a point to play pots in position vs him and play small pots with the bottom of my ranges, play big pots when I have strong holdings and when I feel he’s weak and I may get a bluff through having no fear in bluffing off my stack if I feel he’ll fold.
I’m no pro by any stretch, but having position and making the best decision possible when it’s on you is the best recipe vs any opponent. Sometimes it’s as easy as just folding.
Generally players like this are way better FOR the game than NOT. They love to gamble and they’re gonna get lucky, they’d never play if they didn’t have either. Punish them for it and hopefully fade the luck
I hope this example helps :cool
 

MathijsVS

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Hand A is a clear cut case of trying to out-maniac the maniac, as said here before. Jamming there immediately put you on a three-sided gamble:

Scenario A: He has a very weak hand and decides to fold in the face of you firing a canon at him. Very small gains for max risk.
Scenario B: He has a medium strength hand (44-TT, suited connectors, etc.) and puts you on the back foot or at best a 50/50 with your entire tournament at stake. Lots of danger here, as a pair of 6s rarely holds up against most pocket pairs or anything that connects with the board. (keep in mind: with a low pocket pair, you're banking on him to have either a worse hand and to miss all board cards, since you only have 2 cards that can reasonably improve your hand left in the deck)
Scenario C: He shows a broadway hand, and your chances of winning nearly evaporate.

None of the above 3 scenario's is very appealing.

Honestly, if you have a decent hand, just flat call him and make your hand look weak when facing this kind of opponent. He'll try to outbluff you or convince himself that he has a bigger than reasonable chance of winning and you'll get to reap the rewards. Never try and bluff him out of a hand and only face him with very solid hands.
 

Steve Birrer

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I tend to play tight tight tight against maniacs. Sooner or later you'll hit a monster. But that doesn't work that well if you know each other well. You know the ol I know that you know that I know that .......:ROFL: :ROFLMAO:
 

MathijsVS

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A. I am never jamming over a 7X raise no matter how much of a maniac the player is. You "figure to be ahead of flipping for MOST of his range." Yeah and the rest of his range you are way behind. Bad shove IMO.

B. Not sure what to make of this hand. Does he super fast jam with junk? Seems like his insta shove was an alert that he had an overpair, or flopped a set or straight.

Exactly. Situation A was a misguided jam against a loose cannon with a dangerous hand.

Situation B: yeah, even a maniac doesn't insta-shove like that without a damn good reason.
 

upNdown

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[/QUOTE]
Hand A is a clear cut case of trying to out-maniac the maniac, as said here before. Jamming there immediately put you on a three-sided gamble:

Scenario A: He has a very weak hand and decides to fold in the face of you firing a canon at him. Very small gains for max risk.
Scenario B: He has a medium strength hand (44-TT, suited connectors, etc.) and puts you on the back foot or at best a 50/50 with your entire tournament at stake. Lots of danger here, as a pair of 6s rarely holds up against most pocket pairs or anything that connects with the board. (keep in mind: with a low pocket pair, you're banking on him to have either a worse hand and to miss all board cards, since you only have 2 cards that can reasonably improve your hand left in the deck)
Scenario C: He shows a broadway hand, and your chances of winning nearly evaporate.

None of the above 3 scenario's is very appealing.

Honestly, if you have a decent hand, just flat call him and make your hand look weak when facing this kind of opponent. He'll try to outbluff you or convince himself that he has a bigger than reasonable chance of winning and you'll get to reap the rewards. Never try and bluff him out of a hand and only face him with very solid hands.
Most of this makes sense except the call advice. I'm probably never calling 7bb's with a 30bb stack in a tournament, to set mine.
 

Sambukan

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Dont see why at least situation b supposed to be a maniac hand. I would say well played by the maniac.
 

Frogzilla

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In my opinion, good poker requires creative bluffs, exploitative sizing, and some postflop stickiness on dry boards. If your maniac is skilled this type of play is very difficult to play against. My advice it twofold:
-shore up fundamentals
-don’t let your own ego be your downfall

It was your time to die if you have JJ and flop comes T97, no doubt about it. Nothing wrong with your play there. But the move with 66...that’s spewy and a poor adjustment to his 6x open freq
 

Moxie Mike

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Dont see why at least situation b supposed to be a maniac hand. I would say well played by the maniac.

Betting 23k into a 10k pot seems normal to you? You can say well played if you want - from my perspective open jamming kills his action from almost all the hands he beats. I almost correctly folded JJ there... which would have been a huge lost opportunity for him. He could easily have gotten his stack in with a series of structured bets of 6k, 8k and 9k respectively on all subsequent streets with a much higher likelihood of being called. Even 6k on the flop and jamming the turn would be reasonable.

It's maniacal because he does this a lot. Obviously, he doesn't have aces every time but he does this with such frequency he can't possibly have a strong hand every time.

In my opinion, good poker requires creative bluffs, exploitative sizing, and some postflop stickiness on dry boards. If your maniac is skilled this type of play is very difficult to play against.

I'm not sure how skilled he is yet. I've seen him make some pretty dumb river calls though - but maybe his reasoning is solid.

It was your time to die if you have JJ and flop comes T97, no doubt about it. Nothing wrong with your play there.

I'm fine with it in retrospect but as I said before it wasn't a play I had to make given my stack. Less chips and there's not much of a case for folding... but I was 100BBs deep at this point.
 

Steve Birrer

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Betting 23k into a 10k pot seems normal to you? You can say well played if you want - from my perspective open jamming kills his action from almost all the hands he beats. I almost correctly folded JJ there... which would have been a huge lost opportunity for him. He could easily have gotten his stack in with a series of structured bets of 6k, 8k and 9k respectively on all subsequent streets with a much higher likelihood of being called. Even 6k on the flop and jamming the turn would be reasonable.
I think I disagree. 23K isn't perhaps normal but a 7, 8, 10 flop opens up a lot of danger hands for maniac to be playing against. Your very hand for example. Not only does he need to dodge a J but also a 9. Now lets take this same hand and give you 99 instead of JJ. Would you still call his preflop rerasie with 99 instead of JJ? Now he'd have to dodge not only a 9 but a 6 or J. Post flop he's only 63-37 favorite. Easily could see a shove there to avoid playing against so many draws.
 

Beakertwang

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I've never explicitly thought about it, but if I had to boil down playing against a maniac to bullet points:

  • I let the maniac do some of the betting for me (but sometimes lose value preflop)
  • I push back, only when I'm really strong
  • I'm prepared to make calls when you're about 50% sure you're good
  • I'm prepared to get stung when the maniac hits cards
  • I shake my fist in the air and yell "DAAAAAAVVVVVVIIIINNNNN!" when he runs really good.
 
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MrCatPants

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Just have to be prepared for variance. And I think theres flavor of maniacs - the hyper aggressive yet still thoughtful players and the pure morons.

I have one in my game who is the former - he just believes too heavily in fold equity and implied odds with disguised hands. My players think he's nuts. I just see a poker berserker. He does back out when he knows hes behind and will fold to reraises sometimes but also super enjoys sucking out on people.

The thing I always remind myself of is that maniacs get hands too. I occasionally use min raises against flops that were bad for their range to keep them in check.
 

Moxie Mike

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Just have to be prepared for variance. And I think theres flavor of maniacs - the hyper aggressive yet still thoughtful players and the pure morons.

I have one in my game who is the former - he just believes too heavily in fold equity and implied odds with disguised hands. My players think he's nuts. I just see a poker berserker. He does back out when he knows hes behind and will fold to reraises sometimes but also super enjoys sucking out on people.

The thing I always remind myself of is that maniacs get hands too. I occasionally use min raises against flops that were bad for their range to keep them in check.

It's worth mentioning that this individual is a reasonably thoughtful player. The issue is making sense of his betting patterns.

It's difficult because you can't always control your position. Obviously, we'd love to be in position for every situation but that's not reality.

To your point about variance, it's especially challenging when you really don't want to play a big pot but have a hand you really shouldn't fold, like 88 or k-10s. It becomes problematic when you get yourself into a marginal situation in a pot that's 1) larger than it should be for the situation; and 2) you're facing a bigger than normal c-bet having flopped a decent yet marginal hand.

So if you're holding 88 on a 10-7-2 board and your facing a c-bet, obviously you call. But when do you do when he barrels again on any turn card? You basically have to guess - you can argue for a raise at some point but what are you going to do if he continues in what's now a bloated pot - or worse are forced to fold when he re-raises you?

Obviously it's a nice situation when you have a great hand like top-top or better... not so much with more marginal holdings. Conversely, you can't just play tight and wait for the perfect opportunity. They'll come along here and there... but monster hands are just too much of an uncommon occurrence.
 

MathijsVS

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It feels like you’re talking yourself out of good strategy.

You obviously don’t have to wait until AA or KK to come along to challenge a maniac, but 88 on a 10-7-2 board is dangerous territory.

Same goes for position play: just because it requires patience doesn’t mean you should try and take the shortcut.
 

Frogzilla

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It's worth mentioning that this individual is a reasonably thoughtful player. The issue is making sense of his betting patterns.

It's difficult because you can't always control your position. Obviously, we'd love to be in position for every situation but that's not reality.

To your point about variance, it's especially challenging when you really don't want to play a big pot but have a hand you really shouldn't fold, like 88 or k-10s. It becomes problematic when you get yourself into a marginal situation in a pot that's 1) larger than it should be for the situation; and 2) you're facing a bigger than normal c-bet having flopped a decent yet marginal hand.

So if you're holding 88 on a 10-7-2 board and your facing a c-bet, obviously you call. But when do you do when he barrels again on any turn card? You basically have to guess - you can argue for a raise at some point but what are you going to do if he continues in what's now a bloated pot - or worse are forced to fold when he re-raises you?

Obviously it's a nice situation when you have a great hand like top-top or better... not so much with more marginal holdings. Conversely, you can't just play tight and wait for the perfect opportunity. They'll come along here and there... but monster hands are just too much of an uncommon occurrence.

One thing I do when I find myself in a spot I don’t like, but am afraid if I fold I will just get run over, I randomize. Maybe that might help.

Wednesday I was holding 78 OOP on KK288 runout, 20bb pot, 20bb effective. I faced a pot size jam. His range had plenty of Kx and the action was consistent with Kx. But I can’t just auto-fold every 8, as my river check range doesn’t have that many K to call with. So I decided on a call frequency, and let randomness take over.

You could do the same thing in your 88 on T72 example. That way you wanna buckle up and call down sometimes but not always
 

PlayerADK

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Publicly and loudly berate him, calling him a donkey, asking him why he even plays poker, etc. Tends to be the go-to option for most people.

Hahaha really though, everybody already touched on some good points. Patience + traps, leverage aggression. Not sure I shove preflop with 66 but I know it's necessary at certain levels of the tournament.
 

Eriks

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We have a guy with similar tendencies in my game. He’s fearless and likes to gamble. He doesn’t really re-evaluate hand strength so AA and KK will be treated as THE NUTS no matter board texture and action. Sometimes he seems to decide that ”I’m gonna win this hand no matter what” and sometimes he seems to act completely random. Very tough to know where you’re at with him.

I usually let him do the betting. Obviously prefer to trap with big hands but, like you said, those are far inbetween.

I think you either have to stay out of his way with marginal holdings or buckle up, be ready to call down fairly light and accept the variance.
 

Klobberer

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Based on the hands you described, I may be a maniac! I consider myself tight aggressive and, without knowing the other players at your table, I would have played his hands the same way. Maybe give us a larger sample set of his maniacalness. That's right, I just invented a new word! I think...
 
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