Finding Your Inner Maniac

A couple of years ago, I was wandering a Vegas poker room after busting out of a tournament. I was looking to play a No-Limit ring game, but the higher stakes games had long waiting lists. I decided to take an open seat in a $2-$5 game.

When I sat down, I did a quick assessment of the table. There were a bunch of young guys — I guessed they were in town for some college road trip. The others were retirement age. All seemed very concerned about the money they had on the table. They were playing very timidly and I was certain that I was by far the best player at the table.

How was I going to attack this group?

I open-raised the next 67 hands. Actually, that’s something of an exaggeration. But from the moment I sat down, I was willing to raise to $20 or $25 in any position with almost any cards, and I was talking it up as I did. "Raise it up again!" I’d say after popping it for the 15th consecutive hand. I was trying to give the impression that I was a certifiable lunatic.

To my opponents, I seemed reckless but, at this table, there were strategic advantages to this style. First off, I was benefiting from a tremendous amount of information. If I raised with something like 4-9, I knew this group of opponents would get rid of any marginal hands that could cause me a lot of trouble. So, if I happened to hit trip 9s on the flop, I wouldn’t need to worry that I was out-kicked by a hand like 9-T or J-9.

These guys would only call with hands like pockets 7s or A-Q. In fact, there were so few hands that they’d call with that I always had a very good idea of where I stood. But they had no idea what I held. Given this disparity of information, I knew when I could pick up a pot with a bet on the flop — which was most of the time.

I was making a fair amount of money by raising with trash and betting the flop when I actually found a big hand, pocket Kings. I raised the standard amount, to $25. Then the small blind came alive and re-raised me. I then came over the top in a ridiculous way: I moved all-in for $4,000. My opponent was in agony. He let everyone know that he had pocket Jacks and that against any other player he’d fold. But me — given the nut case that I was, he felt he had to call, and that’s what he did.

This guy was so convinced that I was crazy that he made a huge mistake. He bought into the act and failed to realize that in all that seemingly maniacal play, I never risked much. I had convinced him that there was no difference between a $25 raise and a $4,000 raise.

You might want to experiment with this approach in your No-Limit play, but before you go out and start splashing in every pot, I have a few suggestions:

  • Make sure you’re at a table of weak, timid players. Against a group of calling stations or tough opponents, this style will not work.
  • Play at a limit that’s well within your bankroll. Part of your advantage should be that the money on the table really does mean a little less to you than it does to everyone else.
  • Use this style more in a casino than online because it can be easier to pick up tells when you’re face-to-face with weak opponents.
  • Be sure you’re the best player at the table.

If all of this works out, give it a shot. You may find that being a "maniac" can be profitable and a lot of fun.

Greg Mueller