Unlike the super aggressive players found today, the true maniac will bet or raise at every opportunity. When they are at the table, every round of every hand will be capped. He will always put in the last raise if possible. The action at the table is unbelievable and appears to be a great opportunity for profit, but it can also be a black hole that will quickly gobble up a bankroll. Even for the good player it is a game laden with traps and tripwires, which can cause even the most centered player to steam and tilt off large amounts of chips. Heads up or at a table with tight experienced players that will respect a play by others, the maniac can be easily treed, but the habitat of the maniac is the low limit table where he can get the most excitement for his chip. These low limit tables usually include two or three novices that often stymie any attempt by the more experienced players to trap the quarry.
During my years in Las Vegas I usually encountered one, maybe two, maniacs a month but I really remember three:
- Jesus: I only played against him once. In fact he was 86ed, (kicked out, barred) by the graveyard manager that night. (The manager was fired the next day.) I remember Jesus because he would expose his hand and bet or raise all the way to the river. He never checked and NEVER called, unless the betting was capped.
- I come to play, Ray: "My name is Ray and I come to Play." Is the way he introduced himself to me. I played with Ray about once every three months for two years. He was on the alert list. Anytime Ray was in town, the poker room manager contacted all of the regulars and the game was on. The result was quite comical since many locals showed up and often left broke. Ray wasn't lucky and never won, (One weekend I saw Ray burn through $400 per hour in a $1-5 Stud game.) but the nature, structure, of the game simply ate the bankrolls, of the winners and losers alike. (I'm afraid Ray isn't around any more, but he is no doubt making JC and Moses cuss at the Friday night game.)
- Joe: Joe came to town more frequently than Ray and he quickly converted to Hold'em. Then the games got really wild and the dark pit got deeper and darker. His wife played the slots and actually lost money faster than he did, and many of the locals who came to play against him actually lost money, quicker than they thought was possible. At thirty to forty hands per hour the money flew like feathers in a summer camp pillow fight.
I should note before I discuss the phenomenon. Many Las Vegas locals actually play poker quite poorly. They have a tight-weak style that requires little knowledge of the game, but has a low variance and many eke out a small living playing at the low limit tables around town. I often asked them why they choose to play that way and the usually responded with, "I'm a winner. Why should I change?" Anyway there were two reasons the locals did poorly against the maniacs, fancy play syndrome (FSP) and the rake or cost to play.
The experienced locals would usually respect the play of the others, and never contested someone else's pot unless they had a major hand. It wasn't collusion. It was more like checking it down at the end of a tournament to eliminate an all-in player. (Explicit, no - implied, probably.)
The tourists on the other hand could not recognize the "fancy" plays used by the locals. They had no idea what isolation meant and simply played their hand the same way they always played it. If they would call one bet with two suited cards, or a small pair, they would call four bets with the same cards. Eventually, usually after the second buy-in, the locals realized that raising to thin the field was fruitless, and they turned into passive sheep, passive calling stations that seldom raised. Also the pots were huge. You really did have the pot odds and implied odds to call with almost anything. Joe or Ray could turn a table with several "Solid Las Vegas Rocks" into a group of super lose-passive donks. I loved those games.
The real reason so many people lost was the rake or cost per hand. The pots were big and the rake was usually maxed out at $4, before the turn, and with gigantic pots even the tightest local would usually tip $1 or $2 instead of 50c. With the maniac and the tourists tipping even more, the average dealer tip was probably $3. Add $1 for the jackpot. (The waitresses did well too.) A good dealer could put out about 40 hands of Hold'em per hour, and at $8 per hand, $320 was leaving the table per hour. The dealers raised their tip average which was deserved, but most of the money simply went round and round and down the little hole next to the dealer, like "residue" in a flushed toilet.
What should you do if you encounter a maniac? If you have to ask, I suggest you take a spot at the rail and watch unless you are at a table where the other players tend to "cooperate" and allow each other to isolate the maniac. (Any other game is -EV for most players.) It should be entertaining.
If you have experience with, and have no problem beating, a No Fold'em Hold'em game, you probably have a shot, but strap in, it will be a wild ride. If you just feel you have the "right stuff," and just have to take a shot, tighten up. Any hand you play must withstand at least one raise. If you raise to thin the field, you will be reraised and still may get several callers. Hitting a draw will be expensive. Peddle the nuts and value bet often. The variances will be high but it may be worth it if you have skill and patience. Drop me a private message, and let me know how you did, but remember a Maniac will often step on toes.
GL (You'll need it.)