Maniacs can be dangerous! But they can also be quite profitable as well. You just have to have a little heart and a lack of reserve in order to profit from them. I think this primarily comes from reading people and seeing what extents they are capable of. There were a few maniacs in my session last night at Hollywood Park. They came in two separate instances.
The first $400 table I sat at was pretty weak tight. In fact, there was very little action at all. Most of the pots were small and it played like a $100 or $200 game where 4-5 people would limp into a pot and see who hit the flop. Not my type of game. So I raised a few pots and took the small ones down. Then I raised with AhKc to $45 and under the gun limper reraised to $200. I knew he had a big pair but I didn't think with the lack of action he would do that with AA or KK because there wasn't really an anticipated raise coming. So i felt as though it was QQ or JJ and I put it all in which wasn't too much more. Well, I was wrong, he had KK. I rivered an A to bad beat him. I primiarly put it in without any fold equity because what happened after that was what I was gunning for. The table loosened up and action flowed. The KK guy left with his last $400 because he wasn't too happy but everyone else started playing more hands for raises preflop. So all of a sudden we developed a poker game. The players were bad so this was a perfect table for me. I made a few good hands and got up to about $1000 when the first maniac of the night sat down.
I forgot to mention that i had met Rick for dinner prior to the HP session and we then went in separate cars to the casino. I beat him there and got my name on the list before him. Rick decided to play $200 while he waited and I decided to walk around and peruse the $400 game(s) and the $500 unrestricted game and get a feel for them (which we both had our names on the list for) instead of getting right into the $200 game. Well, Rick had a guy on his $200 game which I had played with before who had gone all in on his first hand and got no calls. The next hand he raised to $50 and check/folded the flop when called. All on a $3-$5 game. After Rick came to my table and got a nasty beat (J9 losing to AQ when all in on a 9 9 3 A board with a river A) and left, this maniac came and sat down to my immediate right. So he came in on the BB and I limped UTG with 88. I was actually still in a bit of rush state so I almost raised with it but i decided against it at the last minute. 4 other players limped including the SB and then when it got to captain manaic in the BB he goes all in for $400. Now this was an obvious attempt to establish himself as the table captain. He had done this at the $200 game and also the last time I had played with him at the $400 game. So I was almost positive I had him beat at this point in time and I was not worried about anyone behind me as they played their hands straightforwardly. The problem is, I would have to put in $400 to win $860 and even a straight out bluff like K9 would have me racing 50%. So I prudently folded and decided he would indeed give it away later. But I was in tune with his psychological state. He does this in order to create action but also to peg himself as a maniac and then try to tighten up a bit later and get paid off. This is what he did at the $400 game the last time I played with him. So its not entirely such a bad idea. I do the same thing to a much lesser degree to create action on non-actiony tables (read above with AK vs KK). But the point is he wanted to wrest the table captaincy away from me. All ego aside, this is an important idea in NLHE. When there is a loose, aggressive player on a table with tight weak players it is such an advantage because they abdicate to him and allow him to walk on them unless they have a monster. They do this by either call/folding too much or lashing out with weak hands. Both are characteristic chances to take all of their money. I want to be the recipient of all this dead action and I don't want him edging in on it. Which explains the situation on the next hand.
Since he was BB last hand, he is SB now and I am BB now. Everyone folded to the SB and before he looked or I looked at my cards I asked if he wanted to chop. He said no and raised to $30. I looked down to see JJ and immediately went all in. He thought for a long time and finally called and won when his KQ off paired a King on the flop. No biggie. I had no problems. But I started to bully him after that. The next hand I called his $40 cutoff raise with Kh8h on the button. We were heads up and the flop came down Q 5 3 with two spades. He made a weak CB and I called with the intention of taking it away as I thought at best he had an underpair to the Q. The turn came an off suit 5 and I made a 2/3 pot size bet after his check and did my usual table talk to feign weakness when, in fact, I was weak :). He folded and i was able to show my Kh8h. Two hands later, he was the only limper ahead of me when I got AhAd. I raised to $50 and he was the only caller. He checked in the dark and I immediately bet $60 in the dark ala Negreanu from High Stakes Poker as seen here.
The flop came down Q4Q and he folded. We didnt dance together for another 30 minutes or so but we continued our rousing table talk where he would make a play at supremacy and it would all come tumbling down after my clever retorts. As Craig routinely points out, my best poker attribute is my adept use of the needle. Sidenote: before I talk about the big hand vs this guy. The needle is not supposed to be used against anybody. In fact, generally it is a -EV play. I like to keep the flow and mood of the game quite smooth for the weak player so that they are enjoying themselves and having fun while slowly dieing a financial death. But when someone comes in and disrupts the flow of the game ( and the consistent flow of money to me) with massive all in overbets preflop and the like, then it not only disrupts the flow of the game but it negates the skill advantage I believe I have, and it can upset alot of the tigher, weaker players. Enter the Needle. If I can break this guy off both chip wise and psychologically, not only will the flow of the game return but I stand to be seen as somewhat of a hero by the table (which happened after this hand!).
So back to poker. I was in the SB and one of the tightest guys at the table made a raise to $25 in 2nd position. Four people called in front of me including our villain on the button. There were $135 in the pot so far and i had $5 in already, so i had to call $20 to win $135. My 45off wasnt too spectacular and neither was my position but my almost 7:1 pot odds made up for it. I called and so did the BB. So we took the $175 7 way pot off and it came down As 5c 9h. I checked, BB checked, Original Raiser checked kind of huffy, two more checked to an older lady in the cutoff who bet $45 into the $175 pot. Our villain made a casual call on the button saying something like "let's just see what's going on". I noted his behavior as he did this call. I had to call $45 to win $265 so about 6:1 with my bottom pair and backdoor wheel draw. I made the call and the BB folded as well as the original raiser who folded his KK face up in a flustered state. The other two in the pot folded as well. The turn came the 4h for a As 5c 9h 4h board. I now have bottom two pair in a $310 pot. I hadn't checked yet when the cutoff lady started putting chips in the pot. I informed her it was my turn and after a few seconds let her bet. She bet a measly $75 and the villain on the button then went all in for $465 or so. It was a pot overbet but not too out of line. Based on the casualness of his flop call i didnt feel like he had an A so he didnt have A4. 94 I had ruled out and anything strong on the flop was already out of the question (such as 55 or 99). Which left me with only a few possibly hands. Some gutshots one which got there (23), a weak 9, a pair with a flush draw, or a draw that picked up a flush draw. There was a small chance he had Ahxh but I really didnt think so. The cutoff lady only had $240 or so behind so I didnt have to worry about her. I ended up calling after some table talk to find out if he had a draw. He essentially told me with his body language he had a draw and after I called and and the lady mucked he said he had a draw. I then told the dealer no heart and said "Shit" when the 5h came on the river before I realized i had a full house. He, indeed, had the 6h7h for a gutshot on the flop with a picked up flush draw that turned into open ended. So not a bad move on his part with a 15 outer. That busted him and he left the table after which the status quo returned and I was able to win anoter $200 or so in the next 40 minutes just from making some moderate hands and stealing some pots. Once the table broke and I had to go to the must move table i had about $1700.
The second table had a higher calibre of player on it but also a good amount of action with more money behind. Everything was fine and good for the first hour and a half or so, I didn't play too many hands. I raised with AsQs and got two callers and hit a board of Qh Js 3s. Bet and got called and got a Jd on the turn. Checked and the only other player in the pot made a weakish $100 bet into the $350 + pot. I called figuring he was on either a flush draw (which I would be ecstatic if he hit), a straight draw (which was drawing to only 6 outs because of the present flush draw), or a weak Q. Given this range he can only hit a non-spade K or 8 to beat me. So i didn't raise as he would be scared off. The river brought an offsuit 3 for a board of Qh Js 3s 3d Jd. I probably should have value bet a weak Q ( i was first to act ) here but I checked hoping that he will try to represent a J and he checked and my AQ bested his KQ. Outside of that i didn't play many hands in the interim before maniac #2 sat down. This guy had come from the $500 unrestricted game that had just broke. Now he was a different manaic then the previous one as this one was more up beat with a devil may care attitude and penchant for gambling. The previous maniac wanted to bully control through betting. There is a huge difference. This guy saw almost every flop, would open raise UTG with 6s2s for $100, and would call almost any raise preflop if he was going to play the hand. He went through his first buyin pretty quick but made a few hands and got up to 900 quick. Then he got AK back to back in which case he was all in preflop. The first time he won about $100 in blinds and the second time he lost $500 when he got called by AA. Then a few hands later on the button before anyone had looked at their cards he moved all in. Now he was out of turn and blind but he put his chips on the line. A few people limped in and I limped with QsQd because I didn't think this was the type of guy who would clam up at the last second and retract it. And he didn't. He was all in blind for $280. The BB was surprised that he was in blind and called pretty nonchalantly. The 2nd position limper (an incredibly inexperienced player) also called which put him all in for $275. I saw the BB had about $6-700 more and there was already over $900 in dead money so I went all in (at this point I had about $2700). He folded his AdQh face up. So bad that I lost a Q but good that an A was dead. The board came horrible with something like 4h 7h 9h then 5s and 4s. The inexperienced player had KdJd which I thouroughly beat but the maniac had 10d 4c which rivered me. Nothing to do there. I played a bunch more hands, like one where I think I lost not too much ($320) with JJ vs KK against the tightest player on the table on a 8 high board. I made a full house against a flush which garnered me some pocket change. But the maniac was taking all sorts of pots from the table. He never really nailed me too bad after that but I was getting nickeled and dimed for a while. I eventually left when I had a little less than $1800. So I stayed for 7 hours and made a $1365 profit on two great tables. I definetly made a few mistakes that I could have avoided but I think I made some good moves/calls that more than made up for some of the adventurous things.