This article is particularly close to my heart; for several months I found maniacs infuriatingly difficult to beat, or at least to beat for as much as money as I “should have” been beating them for. Once I sat down and analyzed the maniacs’ play and where I was getting into trouble, my results against them improved dramatically. Here I share some of the key concepts with you which I use to out-manoeuvre these troublesome tricksters.

Defining the maniac pre-flop

A maniac is a player who relentlessly raises and 3bets pre-flop with a very wide range, usually to pot and with little regard for stack sizes. The key pre-flop variation between maniacs (since they play such huge ranges) is their approach to 4betting: some maniacs 4bet whenever they feel like it, but others simply call a huge range and choose only to 4bet AAxx. Pay close attention to a maniac’s 4betting range since it can be correct to 3bet/fold KKxx against the latter.

For the purposes of this article, we shall define the maniac’s opening range from any position as: {(*$tp,*$op,234-QKA,245-JKA,235-JQA,246-TQA,Axx,Kxx)$nt$nr,AA,KK} for 69% of all hands. This fits with my empirical data from my database on most maniacs from most positions. Some go as wide as 100% from first in OTB of from the SB but our range is a strong approximation. For those unfamiliar with ProPokertools syntax, the range described contains, “Any non-trips, non-rainbow hand with at least one of (a pair, three semi-connected cards or a K/A high suit) and all AA/KK.”

Adjusting our ranges pre-flop: when to call wider and when not to

The biggest leak I had pre-flop was calling the maniac with a wide range from a non-button position when I could reasonably anticipate a multi-way pot. There are a huge number of hands with an equity and a playability edge against the maniac’s pre-flop range. Unfortunately, when you can expect a multi-way pot most of these revert to being garbage. You will still be forced to fold your mediocre hand on many flops having called a PSB pre-flop. Beware of over-estimating your implied odds pre-flop. If the maniac really cannot fold any flush post-flop then call with your bad Ax suited hands but you will lose money if the maniac plays fit/fold once the pot goes multi-way. In this situation, your first thought should be “Do I want to play this hand in a multi-way pot?” rather than “Do I want to play this hand against the maniac”. You have a little more leeway on the button, especially with nits in the blinds. Nits in the blinds give you a good chance of playing the maniac HU IP and even when the pot goes three-way they won’t cause you any trouble with your marginal hands. You will also be able to hit and showdown you weak flushes and straights with a higher frequency. Conversely, with strong, aggressive player left to act, calling with many marginal hands is foolish. They should (and more importantly will) adjust to the maniac by squeezing with a wide range. It is very easy to get caught up in calling the maniac’s open with position then calling the squeeze and call with a marginal hand because of {pot odds, position, maniac has wide range}. If you hold hands such as {JT74ss, TT95ds, AT93ss} in these spots you are going to be spewing money against the squeezer.

However, when a maniac opens and you have the chance to call HU you should really open up your range in the BB. Unless your left-hand opponent is tight, you will need to keep your calling range solid in the SB whilst opening up your 3betting range (see below). If you are multi-tabling take care not to auto-fold your BB against his UTG/MP open with many now-playable hands. He has no regard for his position so neither should you. Do take care not to have your ego trip you up BBvSB however: these players will frequently open 100% but that does not mean you need to defend 100%. The maniac will be putting in many bets post-flop so discard the bottom 15-20% of hands and you will reduce your own spew.

Adjusting our ranges pre-flop: 3betting

Now for the fun part; the maniac’s ridiculously wide range allows you to 3bet with the abandon that you secretly long for. It is also essential since it allows you to isolate his weak range with hands which play poorly in multi-way pots. You are going to use his wide range against him by bloating the pot and forcing him to either fold too much post-flop or stack off too light. His only adjustment to this strategy is to tighten his pre-flop range and he isn’t going to do that. A word of caution: if you are playing correctly against this opponent stacks will fly in and you will frequently have only a marginal equity edge. You should not go toe-to-toe with maniacs under-rolled since you face a very real risk of ruin.

1 With our strategy in mind, let us discuss some of the hands we add to our 3betting range and why:

Double-suited high pairs with one supporting card: ([9-A]JJ,[T-A]QQ)$ds)

These hands have a 62.5% equity edge against the maniac pre-flop (For reference AA has 65.5%) and flop either a set or a flush draw 33% of the time! The side card helps us stack off with overpair+gut shot or better type hands another 6% of the time.

Any four cards 8 or higher with an A or K high suit: [A-8][A-8][A-8][A-8]$sss$np:(Axx,Kxx)

This group of hands only has a 55% equity edge pre-flop but combines this with playability. Expect to flop or turn a better two pair than your opponent with a high frequency when stacks go in.

Any double-suited hand containing four cards 7 or higher. [7-A][7-A][7-A][7-A]$ds

This surprisingly large category of hands (1.75% of all starting hands) has a 59% edge over your opponent’s pre-flop range. Expect to get stacks in with pair + FD against your opponent’s trash often.

Any 3 broadway cards with an A or L high suit: $R$R$R$nt!(AA,KK):(Axx,Kxx)

This is not for the faint-hearted and it is important to understand how your opponent’s very wide range range intersects with different board textures before adding another 6% of hands to your 3-betting range. You will face many decisions with top/middle pair +gutter against a shove-happy opponent. Although you are only pushing a 55% edge against your opponent pre-flop, you maximise your opportunity to extract value from him with hands which often fare poorly multi-way. You flop at least top pair 53% of the time and your opponent will only flop 60%+ equity against you 1/4 of the time (against this portion of your range, he fares even worse against your overall range).

The concept introduced above bears repetition; your opponent’s range is too wide and weak for him to effectively outplay your post-flop when you 3bet him with a wide, value-oriented range. He will either end up stacking off too light or folding too often post-flop. For the close decisions, it is up to you to determine which your specific maniac leans towards.

That concludes our analysis of pre-flop strategy against maniacs. We shall continue with the companion post-flop analysis in the accompanying article.

If you enjoyed this article, do return to for the second part, on post-flop play against maniacs, later this week. May I encourage readers to post in the comments section below, even just to let me know whether I am on the right track. Our readership is growing and I would like to tailor my articles to engage the community. If you haven’t already, subscribe in the sidebar to gain access to exclusive monthly content. Each month I shall post a subscribers-only article which can be reached from the title menu. Thanks for reading!



Show 1 footnote

  1. Whilst maniacs are likely the most profitable opponent-type you will encounter, they are not a good route for low-variance “easy” money. Loose-passive whales who play fit/fold are a far better target for a player taking shots at a higher limit. It is wise to get used to attacking maniacs at a lower limit than you usually play before you employ the 3betting strategy I suggest in your regular game