Tournament Poker Strategy with Alex Fitzgerald: How to Catch a Madman

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It can be so annoying playing against a madman. It feels like you never raise They always make three bets on you. It feels like you can’t call a bet on the flop because you’re facing turn and river barrels every time.

What do you do in this situation?

When playing with cash you can try to get off the table. Many rooms in North America will have enough weak competition to enjoy. You don’t have to focus on beating this overly aggressive player.

In tournament scenarios, however, you’re often left with no choice but to face the madman.

What most people do is keep opening up and complaining too much. This is not a strategy. The madman sees this every day. The madman is ready for this.

Other people like to open less. Playing tighter is another strategy you can use, especially when your table is about to break. However, if you need to play a longer session with the maniac, this basic strategy won’t do the trick.

Let’s discuss a few different plays you can use against maniacs to lure them into a bigger mistake.

Let’s say the maniac is on your left and three-bets every time you open. How do you adapt?

The first adjustment you need to make is to face facts. You won’t be able to open 10-7 suited or anything speculative now. He’s too good to let you do that. He will punish you. Start opening hands that would love to be reraised. If the maniac really wants you that much, you don’t need much of a hand.

Once I played a World Poker Tour Event in Prague. Guy four to my left wanted to three-bet me every time I opened.

My strategy got boring. I would only open from my 40 big blind stack with hands I wanted to three-bet all-in with. Since these players 3-bet so often, it didn’t take a lot of hands to shove them. A-10 offsuit, 7-7, and similar hands are usually risky 4-bets, but in this case they came through easily.

Although I didn’t get many hands, I narrowly made the final table in this event. Those trifectas became gifts for me.

Let’s say you have a slightly deeper stack and can’t just four-bet over a three-bet. How are you?

This is where it gets riskier, but it can also become a lot more profitable. You will still open a range that wants to get a three-bet. These can be high quality matching connectors, large cards and pairs. This time, if you get reraised, you’ll just be out of position. Even if you have aces or kings, don’t four-bet. He’s relying on you to do this so he can know how to get off the bluff. Don’t tip your hand. Play the premium hands slowly.

This is where the art of No-Limit Hold’em takes place. You must know that you are dealing with a real madman. Many players frequently re-raise pre-flop but fail post-flop. You have to think through the whole day. Was this player the guy who fired on multiple streets? Did you do that often? Are you really an aggressive player?

What this maniac is likely picking up on is that people play their hands quickly on coordinated boards. If there’s a flush draw or straight draw out there, most players will raise or check-raise with their sets or two pair. This means if you call the flop you are limited to a pair. The maniac realizes this and keeps firing at every scare card after an opponent just called instead of raising on the coordinated flop. The maniac then tries to represent every draw that comes in.

You’ll turn the script around for them if they do that. You will start with a good hidden pair or one that you have flopped. You won’t play it fast and make things easier for the madman. You’ll look excited like you don’t want him to bluff. They will defiantly call on a coordinated board.

Your opponent will know that you probably would have raised with your two pair or sets on the flop or four-bet with your biggest pairs pre-flop. The madman will then pull through and try to trick you from your weaker pairs. It is your duty at this point to call down.

It goes without saying, but this is a high variance game. This is real back-of-the-playbook stuff. You will either have a huge stack after playing this game or the maniac has backed off on something. You must accept both options if you want to open your game. Because of this, you should always gamble responsibly with a leisure budget.

Try this game out in a lower stakes game first. Rebuy if it doesn’t work.

Another play you can make against the maniac happens when you are in position. You can set the same trap by simply calling with your bigger pairs from the big blind instead of re-raising. If the flop comes coordinated, you can just flap your continuation bet with your sets, two pair, and over pair.

Your insane opponent will have assumed that you reraised preflop with your best overpairs. They also assume that if there is a draw, you would raise with your best hands on the flop. Again, they assume your range is limited to junk pairs. They will keep firing against that range, trying to represent every draw. Outrun them and reap the high variance rewards.

One final play you can make against a madman is to call from the big blind with a big ace. If the board comes ace-high with no draw, go ahead and check-raise your big top pair.

This puts the madman in a terrible situation. Most players in your position would have reraised with the best aces preflop, so assume they’re not in your range. Even when people call with big aces preflop, they normally wouldn’t check-raise a single pair on the flop. Your range looks like a pissed off bluff that doesn’t amount to anything, or a set that for some reason doesn’t play slow.

Unfortunately for the maniac, he sees a lot of frustrated aggression once he puts pressure on everyone. If he has any pair, he will be forced to call depending on how polarized your range looks.

Alexander FitgeraldAgain, all of these games are high variance. Make sure you’re dealing with a real madman who can pull it off before using any of these strategies. In fact, there are far fewer true maniacs than most people realize. Just because someone keeps reraising doesn’t mean they’re going to stick around after the flop. ♠

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and Bestselling Author who currently resides in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT And EPT last tablist, and has WCOOP And SCOOP wins on the internet. His most recent win was a $250,000 Guaranteed at America’s Cardroom. He currently enjoys blasting bums in Ignition tournaments while listening to death metal. Free training packages made available to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at Tournament Poker Strategy with Alex Fitzgerald: How to Catch a Madman

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