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Tips From the Full Tilt Pros

Let the Maniac Hang Himself by Greg Mueller

We’ve all played poker against those guys who are relentlessly aggressive, who’ll make moves with any two cards. The fact of the matter is that you have to make a stand against those guys sooner or later. The key is picking the right time to do it. There’s nothing more painful than being the sucker who pays him off when he finally has a monster. But it’s a gamble you have to take on occasion in order to be the guy who gets all of the maniac’s chips when he runs an ill-advised bluff.

At the 2008 Aussie Millions, I had one of those aggressive players at my table on Day One. He was an 18-year-old online guru, I think he was from Norway. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he was playing loose: involved in a lot of hands, making some big calls and making some big re-raises. He was seated two positions to my left, so I had to be careful about entering pots and prepared to make a stand against one of his re-raises eventually.

That opportunity came with blinds at 150/300. I had roughly an average stack, about 19,500, and the Norwegian was the big stack at the table with about 44,000. I was two off the button, and he was on the button. The under-the-gun player raised to 800, the next player called, I looked down at Kc-Jc and called, the cutoff called, and then it came around to the aggressive kid on the button. I’d noted that almost every time there had been five or six callers, or a raise and several callers, he had put the squeeze play on. Something in my mind was telling me he didn’t have anything most of the time and had just been making this move to pick up some dead money.

So of course he did it again on this hand, raising another 4,000 to 4,800 total. Everybody folded around to me, and I had to consider how much it was going to hurt my stack to call. I didn’t have a lot of chips and would be committing about a quarter of my stack. But something just told me that this guy had NOTHING. So I made the call.

We were heads-up, and the flop came Q-J-8, rainbow. I checked, and I made my mind up that I was calling a flop bet no matter what. But he checked behind, and the turn came another Jack, putting two spades on the board. I checked again, and he bet 4,000 chips. I tanked for a little while, making it seem like a difficult call with a marginal hand, but eventually I called. I didn’t think he had anything at all, so raising would have made absolutely no sense.

Then a King came on the river, giving me a full house. Again, I checked, and he put me all in for about 10,000 chips, and I insta-called. He didn’t even want to show his hand, but eventually he did and turned over 10-7 off-suit.

I was proud of the way I played the hand on two fronts. First, my read was dead-on that he was wanting to make a move with absolutely nothing, and I trusted that read and made a tough pre-flop call. Then, when I turned a big hand and rivered a monster, I continued to trust my read and fed him rope to hang himself. If I had bet out on any of those streets, I might have lost him. But these aggressive players often think they can bully you off of pots with all-in bets, so when I made my full house, I let him use his aggression to my advantage and I doubled up through him.

Greg Mueller

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