Last night I played at a home poker cash game. I played $0.50/$1 no-limit Texas Hold 'Em, although a limit game was available at another table. The host does a nice job of setting the game up, he's a moderator at the 2+2 poker forums and knows what he's doing. He sends you a 50 page rules document via email, a tad OCD, but I'd rather have over-organization in poker for a fair game instead of bad feelings when rules aren't enforced properly. He has a nice selection of food and drink and always has a decent turnout. I wish I could go more often to his games, but since he has them on Thursday nights, my schedule doesn't always permit it.
Shortly after the game started a new player came up to the table, sat to my right and was what can best be described in poker lingo as a "maniac". He played close to 85% of the hands and would call large pre-flop raises with hands like 8 10 suited. I started licking my chops as he was getting super-lucky early and his Q 7 would hit 2 pair and his J 6 would make a flush. Nothing better than a loose calling station with lots of chips. Unfortunately for me I played poorly and had some bad luck to start off. Maniacs tend to get the pots big and if you get impatient you can lose some big money if you don't wait for stronger hands. There's no "outplaying" a maniac as most times they call you with middle pair or top pair no kicker. You can let them bluff into you a lot, but you're better off getting your money in the pot when you have a strong hand as most times they'll come along for the ride.
Stupid me, I got impatient and tried to isolate myself in hands with the maniac by re-raising preflop and getting heads up. It's not a bad plan but I was doing it with marginal hands like A 9 and that can be dangerous, especially since other solid players woke up with better hands and squeezed me out. It didn't help that I made a huge mistake and called a big maniac bet with just middle pair. (I thought he was drawing with 2 diamonds on the board, he had 2 pair) My poor play created a downward spiral of losing close to 200 bucks. I was down to my last 58 dollars and was steaming on full tilt.
Then the best thing that could have happened, happened. I went on a long, bad run of starting hands. It was a shit storm of endless 9 2's and 8 3's. But, it was what the doctor ordered since I was folding everything pre-flop and the resulting downtime allowed me to calm down and think about what I did wrong. Soon enough I got big slick (AK), and hit my king on the flop in a pot with the maniac. I got my stack up to 80 bucks and completed a small blind in a limped pot (no one raised pre-flop) with 7 4. The turn card was lucky as I hit my straight. My buddy Chris bet out big on the turn, the maniac re-raised and I went all in. Chris begrudgingly folded and I won a big pot as I more than doubled up after the maniac called. (At this point the maniac lost all of his early winnings to other players and was rebuying.)
After a few decent hands and small pots won I found myself a much smaller loser than just a few minutes before. But it was midnight and I was getting tired, so since it was the hand before I was big blind I announced that it was last hand I was playing and at that point I was losing a "paltry" 30 bucks for the night. Considering the circumstances I was more than content with that outcome.
But then I was dealt pocket Jacks.
What a predicament, you're mentally prepared to leave and then you get a hand that could turn ugly fast but it's too good to pass on it.
I thought about folding for about 2 seconds and then raised it up bigger than usual as to let people know, "Hey! I have pocket Jacks or Queens so get out of my way." I know it's dumb to be so obvious, but maybe the maniac will play with me while everyone else folds. Sure enough, that was the outcome. The maniac called and the flop came A 10 J. Bingo! I hit my set and an ace was on the board, so if he has a strong ace I'm getting his money. The maniac bet out over the pot and I noticed he had another 100 or so behind him. Knowing the maniac won't fold an ace, I went all in. If he had KQ, I still had outs and I would just consider myself unlucky. But fortunately he had A 10 and was drawing to an ace which missed. A ten did hit the river and in my tired state I misread the board and thought I lost at first, but my jacks full was a better hand.
So I went home a 120 dollar winner. Not too bad for playing so poorly and impatiently. Maniacs can sure change up your game if you're not careful. Hopefully I will learn from the experience.