Poker Strategy: Optimally Playing The Image of The Table Maniac
May 19, 2015 1 Comment
No-limit Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular form of poker played around the world. Many professional poker players play no-limit hold’em exclusively, and for a good reason. On the surface, no-limit hold’em appears to be a very simple form of poker that almost anyone can understand with a quick tutorial.
As a result of this small learning curve, many inexperienced players will try their luck at a no-limit table. These inexperienced players are the lifeblood ($) of the poker community, and the reason that poker can be a profitable game in the long-run for the more experienced players who can effectively employ an optimal strategy for winning in the long-run.
What is The Optimal Strategy for Winning at a Poker Table?
Optimal poker strategy varies in each and every poker table you sit down at. There are situational factors in every poker game that force us to play a certain way if we wish to experience profit in the long-run.
In essence, we want to focus on playing optimally against certain opponents, and adjusting when these opponents develop an idea of our tendencies at the table. Generally, we want to play tighter against loose opponents, and loose against tighter opponents.
When we become more familiar and comfortable with the game, we can fight aggression with our own timely aggression when we see fit. When we have mastered a general strategy, we can open up our game and build a table image that net us the most profit in the long-run.
The Importance of Perceived Table Image
Table image is probably the most important factor to consider when involved in a hand. How your opponents perceive you determines exactly how we will approach certain hands and situations to maximize our potential for profit.
If our opponents think we bluff a lot, we can place large bets with big hands and expect to get paid off a good percentage of the time. If our opponents perceive us as tight, we can get away with well-timed bluffs.
At this stage in my poker career, in a cash game that I am adequately bankrolled for (See Bankroll Management), I want to build the image of the table manic to maximize my potential for profit in the long-run.
Playing The Image of The Maniac
The table “maniac” is the player who is constantly betting and raising regardless of the strength of their hand. These maniacs will always be involved in the action, and can create some interesting dynamics for opponents who decide to get involved in hands with them.
Some maniacs are major fish (losing players) who crave action and will make fatal mistakes in situations where they should not even be involved in. These fish do not take into account meta-game factors, and generally ignore any and all factors that should be taken into account before taking action.
They will ultimately make a mistake that could potentially be avoided if they were aware of how specific opponents react to their actions. These maniac fish are the ATM’s of the poker world, and if you are sitting with one at your table, be patient and let them donate you chips as you see fit.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of maniacs are some of the most profitable poker players in the world. These players have fine tuned their strategy through countless hours of study and practice at the tables, and are fit to play every single hand optimally against every possible type of opponent and situation. These players are the most profitable because they are virtually impossible to read, and are always one step ahead of you.
The Leveling War
This mental step process is known as “leveling” in the poker community. At the highest levels of the game, optimal strategy completely revolves around your ability, or inability, to “level” your opponents.
Assume that strong opponents are always one level ahead of you, and by the time you make the necessary adjustments to play against them, they have already adjusted themselves. They know when you are switching gears, but you will have no idea when they have adjusted.
A perfect example of a leveling war can be found in the video below. In this hand, top pros Tom “Durrrr” Dwan and Phil Ivey decide to play a pot against each other, and the result is a massive pot ($676,900) that neither player wants to give up on:
What makes this hand so interesting is the amount of history that both Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan have with each other. They are both regulars in the highest stakes poker games available, and they are both extremely profitable in the long-run.
In order for Dwan to follow through with this bluff, he must believe that Ivey will fold his hand even with his perceived image of a “maniac.” Dwan is known for making huge bluffs in big pots, and also known for winning big pots when he has the goods due to the fact that few players believe he ever has a hand. With the effective stacks in this hand extremely deep (300BB+), Dwan is able to bluff the river with a bet that he wants Ivey to interpret as strength, even though he is extremely weak with a missed draw.
Tom knows that Phil is up a lot of $ in this session, and knows that Ivey probably doesn’t want to end up dumping his profits off towards the end of the night. Dwan’s only way of winning this huge pot is to follow through with his bluff, and make it look like a strong hand he wants to get paid off on. Phil does not go away easy, and even contemplates calling when he hits a pair on the river, but misses all of his nut draws. Dwan was able to out-level Ivey in this hand, and this is why Dwan is considered one of the biggest maniacs, and subsequently, one of the biggest winners at the game of no-limit hold’em.
The Variance of a Maniac Playing Style
One of the biggest factors to consider when employing a maniac playing style is the amount of variance you will encounter during your sessions. To minimize the net effect of variance on your results, I would recommend not playing in a game where you have less than 50 buy-ins. Some of the most aggressive poker players employ the most conservative bankroll measures to minimize their risk in the long-run. If the chips “feel like money” at the table, you simply will not be playing your best due to the fact that you will not be willing to risk chips in situations where the optimal play is to take the necessary risk. In theory, you will not be maximizing your potential for profit if you are playing with scared money.
As the table maniac, you will be required to bet big in marginal situations that will ultimately result in you getting unlucky and losing in the short-term more often than tighter players. It is not uncommon to lose 5 buy-ins very quickly during an online session even when you are getting your money in ahead. The luck aspect of the game rewards the weaker players even when they play sub-optimally. This dynamic creates the action that drives the poker industry. Anyone can sit down and win against anyone, at any time, on any day of the week.
In the long-run, an optimal high variance style of maniac play will result in the most potential for profit. This potential for profit becomes realized profit as you continue to approach the long-run, barring you play consistently solid throughout each session. You ultimately will get paid off more on your big hands, pick up a lot of smaller pots with well timed bluffing aggression, and generally be involved in more hands than your other opponents creating the effect of you dictating the action.
Controlling The Action at The Table
We want to be the table leader.
We want to dictate the pace of the action, and ultimately control the game to maximize our opportunities for profit. We can only reach this level ability by studying hands and figuring out reasons why certain opponents act the way they due when faced with our aggression. We must target the weaker players at the table, and try not to get involved much with opponents we see as equal or better skill level.
For a solid winning player, the more hands they get involved in, the more profit they will generate in the long-run. Volume=Profit.
The long-run results will manifest quicker when we get to play a lot of hands, in a short period of time.
It is up to you to develop your own unique strategy and make the necessary adjustments required to become a profitable player in the long-run. One of the best ways to start is to watch how some of the big winners in the game play certain hands against certain opponents. Below is another example of how Tom Dwan is able to read his opponents effectively, and ultimately win the pot with his continued aggression. Recognizing why Tom is able to make these plays is of utmost importance. Dwan is able to exploit his table image and put maximum pressure on his opponents when he senses they wont want to get involved with him.