Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Table Full of Maniacs


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, if you play poker, sooner or later you’re gonna have to deal with them.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.  When I first switched to NL, I tried to avoid them.  I would ask for a table change if the action got too crazy.  But as I got more comfortable playing NL, I realized that maniacs could be very good for my bankroll.  Or bad.

I still sometimes can’t resist the urge to get away from them if they are just too, well, maniacal.  But now I mostly stick with them and see if I can find a way to get them to give me some of the money they seem to care so little about.

This is a session from several months back, up in Vegas.  It was a new game that started just as I arrived.  Usually a new table plays tight at first, but not this one.  I was in seat 1.  Seat 2 was occupied by someone from the Midwest, and his buddy was in seat 9.  Seat 2 was only semi-aggressive but seat 9 was the guy who never saw a starting hand that he didn’t think was worth $12.  He played most hands and almost always raised.  There was another guy who looked like someone I’d played with before, though he wasn’t a regular regular that I recognized for sure.  He was fairly aggressive too.  Then, to top it off, there was a guy from Sweden wearing a baseball cap—backwards!  Do they even play baseball in Sweden?  You all remember how much I love the backwards baseball cap look (see here).  He was your fairly typical Euro aggro.

So, the plan was, wait for a hand and let the maniacs double or triple me up.  The trouble with that is, unless you get dealt the big hand, you have to put a lot of money in the pot preflop to see if you’re gonna get a big hand.  And ideally, you should really lower your starting hand selection since you don’t need as good as hand as you would against a normal table to get paid off.  So, more money at risk.  Thus, it was a bad time to be card dead.

And that’s what I was.  Early in the session, but after I had most of the aggros figured out, I got pocket Jacks.  I was under-the-gun, and reflexively put out a raise.  I raised to $12 which was the normal raise at the table, though more than I would usually raise.  And only one player called.  None of the aggros called.  Just the tightest player at the table.  Damn.  Why didn’t I think that through?  This was the perfect table to unleash the dreaded limp/re-raise.  I might have been able to shove when it got back to me.  Stupid, stupid.

What’s worse, I flopped a set.  It was a rainbow flop, Jack-high, so I checked.  He didn’t bite, he checked behind me.  The turn blanked, and I felt I had to bet then.  I put out $15 and he insta-mucked.  A set of Jacks totally wasted.

And I didn’t really see another big starting hand for the rest of the night.

Just one more hand to mention before I get to the story of the night.  I had 3-2 offsuit in the big blind.  By some miracle, no one raised.  I flopped a gut shot and one of the maniacs bet $2.  Weird.  I took it to mean he maybe had a monster?  I called.  The turn was a blank and no one bet.  I hit the gut shot on the river and bet $10, which got one caller.  The wheel was good and I won a very small pot.

In fact, for the next couple of hours, I didn’t have a hand to write down.  I might have won a few small pots, but mostly I was bleeding chips due to having to call raises with marginal or semi-decent starting hands just to see a flop.  A flop that never hit me.  The way the aggros were all playing, there was no real opportunity to pull off a bluff, and I never had a hand good enough to make a semi-bluff.

I had to add another $100 to my original $200 buy-in.  I was down to about $180 when I was pretty close to calling it a night, very frustrated.

That’s when I was dealt Jack-10 offsuit on the button.  To my astonishment, it was limped to me.  I considered raising, but two of the bigger aggros were behind me and I was afraid one of them would three-bet me off the hand.  If one of them just raised, I could justify a call, but a three-bet would be too much.  Besides, I was so excited at the thought of playing a decent hand maybe cheaply I couldn’t pass it up.  To my surprise, the small blind folded and the big blind didn’t raise. and at least four or five of us saw the flop.

The flop was Ace-9-8.  And it was all diamonds.  My Jack was also a diamond.  I had an open-ender and a draw to the third nut flush. Which of course might not be any good.

Surprisingly, it was checked to me.  I checked as well, at this point hoping maybe if I hit my flush I could at least get a drawing ticket even if I lost the pot.

The turn was the 7 of diamonds.  It was the best card I could have hoped for—or was it the worst card I could have seen?  It gave me the straight.  It gave me the flush.  It gave me a gut shot straight flush draw.  If only I could turn that black 10 in my hand into a diamond.

This time, the newest aggro at the table led out for $10.  On his very first hand at the table, after a couple of limpers, he just shoved his entire $140 stack preflop.  Of course, no one called.  The aggro to my left said, “I like your style.”  Really?  You like that?  Could someone please tell me what hand he would have had to have had in order for that to have been a good play?  Aces?  Yeah, win $7.  Seven-deuce?  Risking a lot to get those seven bucks.

Anyway, he bet out the $10, a couple of players folded, and the last guy to act before me raised to $45.  I start counting chips as I considered how to proceed.  But before I could do anything, I hear the player who led out say, “all in.”  He had me covered.  Now I know if I call I’m in for my whole stack.

It was a tough decision.  Considering what maniacs the players were, I thought there was at least some chance that my hand was the best one.  Plus I had the damn straight flush draw.  Obviously, only one out there, but I could be good without it.  If the two guys left in the hand were both tight, it’s a different story.  But these guys?  No, that Jack high flush might be good.

I called and then the guy shoved as he had announced, and the other guy called—he had a huge stack, the biggest stack at the table.  The less than $200 he needed to call hardly made a dent in his stack.  Well, ok, it seemed unlikely at least one of them didn’t have me beat, except the guy with the huge stack who called knew what a maniac the other player was, so maybe he was calling light.

I went ahead with my plan to call the all-in because I had one card to guarantee me a monster pot and at least a possibility of getting that pot even if that one magic card didn’t come.  Plus, by calling, I would be getting a drawing ticket, and the drawing was less than 15 minutes away.  But honestly, that wasn’t really a consideration. If I was sure I was beat I wouldn’t have put all that money in just to get a ticket.

The river was not the miracle 10 of diamonds.  It was a total blank.  The first guy (who had bet $10, then shoved) showed 8-7 offuit for two pair (I told you he was a maniac—he shoved two pair on a four-diamond board).  But the other guy had the nuts—the King of diamonds (and a black Queen as well).  I was felted.

But I got a ticket.  Problem was, in order to be eligible for the drawing, I had to be active in a game, and the drawing was still a few minutes away.  One of the reasons I called was that I was basically winding down for the night and didn’t plan on rebuying if I lost.  Except that I had to rebuy in order to be eligible for the ticket.  I knew that and just rebought for the $60 minimum.  My new strategy: fold everything without looking, post a few blinds, and hang on until the drawing.

No, no….I didn’t do that.  I did buy in for the minimum and I played tight and didn’t really get anything to play.  One suited Ace and I missed the flop.

My one lousy ticket was not drawn out of the drum, and I was done for the night.

Funny….at the time, I was really upset and felt that I played that hand really badly.  In the morning, I felt better, thinking it was ok because my flush really could have been good there.  The guy with the King of diamonds might have had two pair as well, or a set, or even the 10 of diamonds I was praying for.

And now that I’m writing this up months later, I’m back to thinking it was dumb on my part.

Poker, huh?


  1. Rob,
    I don't like the call even with the 2 players being maniacs. I think in the long run your bottom line will be better off folding winners occasionally compared to calling off your stack with losers. In poker, I like to be the player that is doing the betting and they are calling me as opposed to the opposite.


    1. Thanks for the feedback, cowboy. I suppose you're right.

      But I'm sure I would have folded if I had indeed held, ahem, COWBOYS.

      Speaking of Cowboys, the twitter convo we were having finally made me realized that your name is a reference to the football team. And 12 must be a reference to Roger Staubach, huh? You're old enough to remember him, huh?

      Funny thing is, when he was playing for them I WAS a Cowboys fan. Loved that guy.

    2. Rob,
      I was 5 years old when the Cowboys and Steelers played in the Super Bowl in 1976 My family went to a Super Bowl party and it was the first football game that I experienced. (My parents weren't big football fans). I loved the uniforms of the Cowboys and their cheerleaders were hot.

      I remember buying football cards the next year and hoping to get Roger Staubach cards in each pack. Being 5 years old, I thought his name was Roger Starbuck and I thought the reason for the star on the helmet was for him. LOL

      Fast forward about 25 years and I started playing on-line poker. I needed to create a screen name. oh = ohio cowboy = Dallas Cowboys 12 = Roger Staubach and thus became the name of ohcowboy12go

      Hopefully this years team can get back to the earlier Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson glory days. 8-8 is getting old.


    3. Thanks, Cowboy, great story.

      I actually remember even the early days of the Cowboys. I think they were winless their first year as an expansion club. I was a fan of "Dandy" Don Meredith, their first big-time QB, always liked the guy, dunno why. Of course, he retired early and became the first analyst for Monday Night Football when it started. I was disappointed they never beat the Packers and I remember those two championship games against Bart Starr & Vince Lombardi.

      I also remember when their was a QB controversy after Meredith retired, between Staubach and Craig Morton. Of course I favored Staubach.

  2. It's always tough to play at a table with maniacs when you aren't getting good starting hands. I have a few that play in the home game I play in.

    Last night one of them was there and in total maniac mode. His first hand he raised and took down a pot with 8-4 offsuit. He proceeded to get AA a few times, and some other big hands to mix in with his junk hands.
    I caught him for a full double up tho. I had about $150 behind(it's a $20 min buy-in, with a single dollar blind for the dealer). I limped and called his raise with 6-6. The flop was 4s-5s-8x. I checked, he bet, I called. I felt my pair was good, and my straight draw was an extra bonus. This was just a feeling I had due to playing with him often, he and I often get into hands together because I like to see flops and he loves to raise pre-flop. The turn was a 5x. He bet, I raised, he called. The river was a non spade Q. I pushed all-in for my last $70, less than half the pot. (there were others in pre-flop) He thought for a few moments and actually called me with 2-4 offsuit, claiming he put me on A-K or similar, 2 big cards, or possibly a missed flush draw.

    Overall it was a good night, I finished up about $250. :-)

    It's nice having a regular home game where I am in the top third or so of players, and have a good idea of how most of them play.

    1. Great story, Nick.

      But wait, wait, wait. The punchline of your "good beat" story is that beat the mighty deuce-4 with only a pair of 6's?

      Not possible. I mean, Grump would never believe that deuce-four could lose. He'd call bullshit on you.

    2. I was shocked. I know the power of that hand, I've crushed souls with it myself in previous sessions. However, I think part of the power lies in knowing why it's such a strong hand, and when you know, it can't be used against you. Hence the fact that players like Grump and I may win with it, but rarely(if ever) lose against it.

      Seriously tho, when I saw that he had called me with bottom pair, I was ecstatic and amazed in the same moment. I wouldn't check call, check raise, and then shove with nothing but 2 big cards....although my small pair was basically a bluff catcher, but still, how does he call there with a weaker hand? I'm not sure, but I didn't complain. lol

    3. >>I think part of the power lies in knowing why it's such a strong hand<<

      Hmm, this might explain your mastery of that garbage hand, KK.

    4. For some reason, the majority of its power comes in hands where you''re present at the table, especially when I'm in a hand against you!! lol

  3. This takes us back 2 weeks to the raise or fold never call pre flop in an unraised pot. I said back then, the plan is to only play hands you are happy raising with. You (correctly) weren't happy with raising due to the hand and postion, Therefore I'm with Anon. Straight fold. Wow. Real poker comment from me. Times are a changing.

    1. Fold preflop? No, I actually should have raised preflop, but I don't think it would have made a difference.

      If you meant I should have folded on the turn (despite having the flush), I can't argue with that.

  4. Hey sunshine. So you didn't play this weekend? Bummer. I was waiting on a tweet or something to let me know that I could come on down and play a few hands with you.

    You know what rope is good for, with regards to your opponents, right? Yup. One of two things- if you give them enough, they can hang themselves with it. Or if they can suss out your starting hand range correctly, they can make a macrame wallet and take your money home in it.

    I am not a completely shitty poker player. I am a somewhat shitty player because honestly I have been called many names and insulted in many forms including but not exclusively, and I quote "Oh my GOD, you played THAT?!!! Are you an f' ing idiot?!!! Get back on the damn boat you came over on, you stupid chink!"

    Ahem. It's a quote. Pretty close to verbatim. I didn't put the guy on an ace (which he was playing passively like he had an underpair) and I backed into a backdoor flush that gave him two pair on the river and I think I busted him on the bubble of a tournament. Whatever. Screw it.

    Now back to you and the maniacs: I know the issue and I know how to fix it. It's your table image. True maniacs do not exist. The people raisin' and reraisin' at the table have a modicum of self preservation and they see you and your nittiness coming from a mile away. Good players who seem like maniacs can read your hand range. I'm not even a good player and I did it. Three card flush and an overcard to your pair was going to scare the underpants off of you if I bet so I did.

    So the solution is you need some visible tattoos. And an earring. And a Hell's Angels vest and leather pants. Playing more pots and showing crappy cards will help complete your poker transformation. Look into it, Rob.

    1. LOL.....thanks for the comment.

      But I DID play Saturday and I DID tweet out that I was playing at the Bike. I directed my tweet directly towards you.... @Onechiquita. That's you, isn't it?

      However, I did luck was so bad I even lost $20 at the ATM before I even got there.

      The abuse you took from that guy was reprehensible. I suppose you took satisfaction in busting him on the bubble at least!

      As for the tips, thanks, I'm working on my table image. I dunno about the tats, but I'm seriously thinking of getting a baseball cap and wearing it backwards. :)

    2. I had a wedding to set up and take down Saturday! Nooooo! I meant like Friday or Sunday. Back to Sin City today. Oh well, next time.

    3. Oh, sorry. I never play Fridays when in would be Saturday & Sunday only. Usually Saturday.

  5. I think a face tattoo would be bad ass. Just my 2 cents. Something tribal that completely covers your face.

    1. I will both win the WSOP Main Event and marry the covergirl of next year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue long before that happens, Alysia.

    2. so there is a chance,then. i think a neck tattoo would b smashing,sir. like the LA symbol on the Dodger's baseball cap. REPRESENT CALI. oh A- on the pic

  6. Replies
    1. Could be. Low chance of residents of Titty City drowning.

    2. their lifeguards r in a class by themselves