Last Sunday in the $1/2 NL hold 'em cash game, there was a true maniac. I have only seen one other in the four years I've played at the casinos (mostly Tunica).
Some maniacs will raise every hand. They will try and run you out of a hand with large overbets. When you play back at them, however, they will usually slow down. When they are obviously beat, they will fold. They use the other player to tell them where they stand on a given hand. If they don't feel resistance, they keep firing. These players are not true maniacs, however, they are fake maniacs.
The guy I played against Sunday was a true maniac. Nothing slowed him down, nothing! Every hand he raised to $12 preflop -- it didn't matter what his cards were. On the flop he would bet $20 and $40 on the turn. Now that he had built a pot, he would bet $100 or more on the river. If you raised him, he would raise you back or move all in.
This sounds like easy money, but it's scary facing an all-in bet when you have something such as second pair, for example. The pots are big and juicy, but you have to have nerves of steel to play against a True Maniac.
He had around $800 in front of him when I sat down and the guy to my right whispered to me that he had a lot more when he started. His stack would go down, then back up like an accordion. It was amazing to watch. He went broke once and pulled out more money, lots of it. I guess he has a printing press in his basement that cranks out dollar bills -- no not dollar bills, hundred dollar bills.
When you play against somebody like this, you have to understand him. You and I are there to make money. He's there to have fun. He's there for excitement. Winning a $40 pot is not exciting to him. But bluffing you out of a $200 pot is!!
What strategy should you use against a true maniac? Should you tighten up because you know he is going to make it a raised pot? Should you play loose and try to get in a lot of pots against him (because you know you'll get paid off if you hit something good)? Should you buy in shortstacked to limit the loss? Should you buy in with a larger-than-usual stack? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I bought in with a regular $200 stack.
Playing against a maniac is discussed here and here.
I was lucky (position-wise) in that he was two players to my left. This was good, because when I was in a pot and he made a big raise, I got to see how all the other players reacted before I had to decide what to do. When I had the button, the TM was the big blind.
My strategy was to play more pots when I was in position, and pretty much fold if out of position. Also the Tunica casinos have what is called a Mississippi straddle. It is a raise to $4 before you get your cards, but you can do it from any position (except the blinds, of course). If you straddle, the betting action begins on your left. When I had the button, I always straddled. That way, I got to see both what the true maniac did and what all the other players did before it was my turn. The straddle also got more money into the pot when I had position, although that wasn't very important because the TM made sure there would be money in the pot regardless.
After 45 minutes of play, I had doubled up. Then this hand: I held ♣Q ♣10. The TM made it his usual $12 and everyone folded. I called.
The flop was ♥10 ♥8 ♣5. I have top pair and backdoor flush draw and some straight possibilities. TM was first to act and fired out $20. Do you call, raise or fold? Well, folding is out of the question; I called.
The turn was ♥A and he fired $40 at the pot. What would you do now? I called again. You have to understand that he could be playing anything. I forget the river card, but he bet $75 and I called. He turned over ♥K ♣ K! He actually had a hand.
What makes the TM deadly is that he played drek the same way he played a premium hand. You are basically playing two-card chicken. Notice that when the ace came on fourth street, he didn't bother to slow down.
You may wonder why I didn't raise on the flop, but I had been having good luck just passively calling; heck, let him bet it for you. Most of the time I would win a good pot, and I avoided letting him stack me if he actually had something (like pocket kings).
I won my biggest pot holding ♥K ♣7. I was on the button, so I had straddled. The TM made it $12, his usual bet. Two players called to me and I called! No, this is not usually a good bet, but when the candyman comes to town, you can get fat. I'm just sayin'.
The flop was ♣K ♦8 ♠5. The TM led out with a $40 bet, driving out the next two players. Do you call? Of course you call. He's a TM and you have top pair.
Fourth street was ♥10 and the TM fired $60. Do you fold, call or raise? You study your cards and call, of course.
The river was a rag that I don't remember and TM said, "Let's see what you've got," and fired $150 into the pot. You grit your teeth and call. He shamelessly turned over ♥10 ♣9. Second pair which he didn't have until the turn!
This is how it played. I was tired, but just couldn't bring myself to leave. As long as TM was in the game, I had to stay. He eventually went broke a second time and didn't buy back in. I was tired and had tripled up, so I cashed out and went home.
I love my job, but if I could play with him everyday, I'd have to consider quitting. There are lots of goodies to go around when the candyman comes to town.