Dealing with the lucky maniac

I sit to the left of a single player at a 4-seat table, 1k/2k, and get dealt JTo, flop Q8Q, hold on for the draw potential as my opponent pairs a K on the Turn and lose the first hand for a small pot.

I get dealt QQ on the button in the second hand, open to 3BB, V folds, I get nothing.

The table fills up, and then V open shoves the next 5-6 hands. Finally, one of the new players calls him, stacks him twice. Guy just reloads and fires away.

Maniac continues to throw chips in, mixing up open-all-in with 10-70BB opens. I consider just leaving the table and trying to find a more normal table where you can actually play poker, when I get dealt A5s, and I’m sick of throwing away my BB to the guy, and while A5s isn’t normally a hand I’d call a shove with, the guy showed garbage in the hands when he got stacked, so I raise him, he goes all in as predicted, I call, he has KK, and I lose my first stack as the board runs out to give me almost my outs but nothing at the river.

I reload, pissed. I’m never one to win any hand I play all-in preflop, but to get this treatment from the dealer when the guy plainly threw in with quite a few garbage hands, and then gets the second best pocket pair the one hand when I finally decide to go for it against him is rage-inducing.

I decide I’ll get my stack back, or lose a few million on this table, and reload. I drop hand after hand and top off after each one so that when I finally do hit, I’ll be able to get a full buy-in worth of chips out of it.

V gets me again when I play ATs for a big pot with top pair, and he guts me with 86 flopping two pair. In the space of about 10 minutes, he’s gone from down two buy-ins to up over 1.2M. Geez how lucky can you get?

I routinely catch these players when they’re running hot, try to get them, get coolered off of a few stacks, leave the table in disgust, and then check their profile a few hours later and find they went bankrupt and no longer have any chips at all. I’m just not meant to be the one to get them. It’s part of the tax system that the Curse inflicts upon me to slow my inexorable boulder-roll up the bankroll hill.

I finally manage to win a decent pot with K9 flopping middle pair, rivering trips, and getting paid off. I called a pot-size bet on the Turn after checking, almost certainly a bad call, but the river bails even me out once in a great while. It’s a good pot, and that’s what matters, but it’s not out of our Maniac’s chip-leading pocket, which is what I want. But it puts me a little closer to back to break-even.

I get a few hands like AJ AQ AJ in quick succssion and attempt to instigate my own BS giant opens, but no one wants to come along. V has switched from Maniac trying to put everyone all-in every hand to trying to protect his big stack with tight play. Fine. I just have to finesse a little and unravel him.

I think I might get it, when I get dealt KK, and flop a set. V calls along, and then the board runs out 8K756, which is an absolute nightmare run-out for flopping top trips, because now I’m beat by any random 9 or 4 that V could have. I go for a value bet on the river anyway and he folds. The pot is a lot smaller than it should have been, or needed to be. Frustrating.

The next hand, I finally get him. K6s on the button and I feel the Hunch. Preflop is normal, I limp-call to 7000, and it’s just the two of us to see the pot.

V throws in a huge overbet of 70k into 14k at the flop; I call with my flush draw, and commit myself to seeing a river with this guy no matter what.

I call another huge bet on the Turn, this one a little under pot, 112k into 157k, on a Turn that pairs the board with 55s, making a flush fill on the river little more dicey play now because of the full house and quad potential. Pretty questionable play except up against a maniac who is either bluffing air or overvaluing almost all of their range, and probably isn’t betting like this because they’re playing pocket 55s.

I do fill the flush, Qs on the river, and I have the K-high flush. So I’m beat by AsXs, 55, TT, T5, 44, 45, QQ, Q5, which is a decent amount of combinations, but the K-high flush is still a pretty strong hand to show down with, especially if almost all of V’s range is bluffs or weak junk like A4o or TX. If he does have trip 555s he might just pay off. V puts in one last large bet, 217k into 382k, and I shove. I don’t quite have him covered, and the rest of my stack is a little over 400k. V folds, which I guess is fine, maybe they’re a little better player than I’m giving credit for, and if so, if he’s calling here I’m maybe not liking the direction the chips move.

I take 818k, leaving V behind with still 700k, which is 700k more than they deserve. It would have been nice if I could have gotten him to pay off in full, but regardless this is a satisfying outcome.

I check my profit/loss on the session, and I’m now up at the table, slightly under +200k, which is almost a standard buy-in for this table, and that’s good enough for me. So – and this is the important part of the strategy when you are so unlucky that you only win all-ins about 1-in-10, I remove my chips from the table. This is probably the best way to for a no-luck player like me to punish players like this who seem to thrive on variance working their way.

As soon as I leave, they leave too. Bye, Felicia.

I think the key to beating goofballs like this when you’re never so lucky yourself is to not care about losing a few stacks, hang in for the long haul, and hope they’re loose-dumb enough to continue running up huge pots as if their luck will hold out forever.

Don’t get upset about feeding them a min-buyin stack or two; just keep reloading to match stack sizes with them so that when you win, you can get it all back, and then play as many hands as you can against them in order to see enough flops to catch a monster draw or two pair, anything that will beat AA, and wait for them to try to run one of their stupid bluffs, and trap them.

This is a classic “double or nothing” gambit and it’s often a sucker’s game for desperate gambling addicts who lose their judgment, but if you are able to jam with a high pocket pair, or if you can make reasonable plays like calling with a good draw to a nutty hand in the face of massive overbetting that is probably a bluff a high percentage of the time, when you hit you can immediately take the steam out of their engine.

It might not succeed every time, though, but if you pick your spots well, they’re not going to consistently win several times in a row, and as long as your rebuy can match their stack size, you only need to catch them once.

This is a rich player’s strategy, though – you can do it if your bankroll is much more than theirs, because over time they have fewer chances to reload when they lose their stack, and each time they do it will hurt them more than losing a buy-in to them will hurt your bankroll.

The risks are that the maniac will take the money and run before you can strike back. If you don’t care about beating them, it’s easier and safer to just leave the table, or sit out until they calm down or leave. But sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re going to find one like this at every table some days, and you have to be able to hang in there and deal with them.


If I had a top 10 list for dealing with maniacs, this would surely be on it.

Maniacs, assuming they are not insanely skilled like gg, El-jog or Ryan, have always been my favorite type of player to have on a table. We had more of those on poker stars, and I suspect that was something that allowed me to climb to a higher rank there than I’ve been able to obtain yet here.

In order to be able to go all in without reservation when you think it is +EV, being properly bank rolled for the stakes you are playing at is another key, the importance of which is hard to over state. One of the reasons maniac’s can often do well is that opponent’s can often be afraid of the volatility, of risking their stacks, which then leads to over folding. Having enough chips to lose several buy ins without making a large dent in your bank roll can help a lot here.

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The price of playing with free chips. Leave your emotions at the door before entering.