The maniacal/Brunson/aggro approach to ring games



Due to personal reasons for not having much income outside of poker (ie me being a jobless bum), I've had to take some money from my bankroll and have played at stakes that are generally smaller than I'm used to ($10 and smaller tourneys, $25NL rings) because of this. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I got a nice script that helps datamine players' stats on full tilt rings, so I've been playing alot of those lately.

To be honest, the money won from playing a solid TAG game at these tables just doesn't do it for me. I want to win and win big when I play. So I started to experiment and test different playing styles apart from the top-10 hand type style. If you've ever read supersystem or it's sequel, you'll know the style I'm about to run through.
Aaaand act-like-I-know-what-I'm-talking-about-rant starts now:

Suggestions before you start:

I think there are several things you should consider before you try this out:

1) You need very good hand reading skills which is made even tougher online where you can't pick up physical tells. You'll be playing alot of hands, and will be throwing your money around whenever you think you can win a pot with aggression. For that to work you'll need to be able to narrow down your opponent's hand range significantly to know whether you're ahead or not.

2) Although you should be playing lots of small pots, you will inevitably find yourself in a hand or two when you are a dog to a bigger hand. Take the safe route and play down a level or two in stakes to make up for any additional swings you might face. Dropping down limits will also help with my next point:

3) Balls! Quite seriously you need alot of balls and courage to play this bully style. If you're playing at your normal stakes, you might get a little scared to get your money in. As mentioned, dropping stakes will help you with this because you'll be putting in smaller amounts and won't have as much trouble throwing your money around. You'll be stealing blinds and betting at any sign of weakness as often as possible. You have to be gutsy enough to stick all your chips in with a big draw; you can't be afraid to bluff at a pot when the board pairs; you have to 3-bet (see thread and example hand) with lesser hands sometimes...the list goes on. If you're weary of putting your money in without the nuts, then maybe this style isn't for you.

4) This isn't essential but I highly recommend having Pokertracker and PAHud aswell as as many hands on your opponents as possible. The more info you have on a player, the easier it is to read them. TAG players are an easy target with this style since they are very easy to pin hand ranges on; they also tend to give pots up much easier than, say, a loose-aggressive player. These simpler TAG players will often stack you off with top pair top kicker or an overpair and are perfect targets for this style. You'll be winning lots of small pots, and you can gamble with 67s or small pairs when these players make a scary utg raise because of all these small pots. You actually want these opponents to have big pairs so that when you do hit your small set, two pair, straight or even flush, you can get stacked very easily.

I prefer using this style with 6-max since people tend to play a little too tight to make up for the blinds hitting them so often, and all that does is help us more.

Start right away to advertise your image:

Anyways I've rambled enough about everything but how to play it...

The first thing you need to do is buy in for the maximum. You will be in tons of pots where fold equity is the name of the game; the bigger your stack the better. You also want to win the maximum when you hit a monster.

As soon as I sit down, I start to gamble. I'll often raise the first few hands with any marginal or better holding (J9, 67, 33) and start betting at flops.
If you've done your research properly and have good book on the players at your table, you should meet little resistance unless one of them wakes up with a big hand.

Table image is very important with this style. As they say, "A first impression is a lasting impression", and you want to advertise yourself as a player with a loose-aggressive style that will get his hands dirty and gamble with lesser hands. Make these players think that when they can slowplay big pairs and similar hands with you. You'll be making tons of continuation bets and although you won't be risking much by making a small c-bet, your opponents will think they can trap you for those c-bets and will therefore try to make some check-raises on you when they hit TPTK or better.

Consider this example involving you and a standard weak TAG player:

You're in the CO seat, and villain is in the BB.

2 players fold, Hero raises to 3BB (w/JTs), 2 players fold, BB calls (w/AA)

So obviously BB wants to 'trap' you postflop with a check-raise or some other trick.

The flop comes 8-6-3 rainbow.

BB checks, Hero bets 3BB, BB raises to 10BB, Hero folds.

So you lost 3BBs postflop with his check-raise. Yes he trapped you for that c-bet, but he made it very clear that he had a hand that beats your jack-high, and you have an easy muck. You'll find yourself in this situation alot of the time, but you'll have plenty of padding to make up for any small losses like this with all the other blinds and small pots you've stolen in earlier hands.

Now consider the same example where you hold 66 instead:

2 players fold, Hero raises to 3BB (w/66), 2 players fold, BB calls (w/AA)

The flop comes 8-6-3 rainbow.

BB checks, Hero bets 3BB, BB raises to 10BB, Hero raises to 35BB...

Now our 'trapper' has actually trapped himelf. He's against a very LAG player (yourself) and for all he knows, we could be making this play with K8 or 99+. After all you've shown some pretty crazy hands in the past, right? So BB shoves back into you, and presto, you have a monster pot for you to rake in.

The thing with this is that you will never have made a play like this with a weak overpair or top pair in reality. All you're doing is making him think you're a maniac by occasionally showing down a strange winning hand (again, see the J9 example). Of course a strong TAG player will be able to let this hand go, but then again he wouldn't have gotten himself in this sticky situation in the first place. A solid player will reraise you preflop to make sure you don't see a cheap flop, and you'll be able to get away from a measely 66. You have to identify the strong TAGs, and avoid their reraises when they're not giving you the right price.

In general, though, most weak TAG players will stack you off here without hesitation.

Switching it up: you've sat down, you've advertised a loose-aggressive gambling image, and everyone is either bowing to your aggression save when they hold a big pair, or they are starting to fight back and aren't giving you as much respect.

If your opponents are caving and are just giving in to your pressure, just keep at it. Keep hammering at those pots, and you'll slowly build your stack up, or if you're lucky and see a cheap flop with a disguised implied odds hand like 64s or 55, then you just might get stacked. You'll occasionally see a player snap from the pressure and come over the top of one of your raises with a marginal AJ for example, and you can only hope that you're holding a monster when he or she does.

Now if your opponents start to widen their calling ranges against you, which alot of players will, then you need to switch gears. They say that you should always be playing a style opposite to that of the players at your table; so if your opponents start to loosen up, then you need to switch gears and start playing a tighter hand range. Eventually your opponents catch on to you playing tighter, and will start to tighten up their calling ranges against you once again, and you'll have to switch gears again. Your table image should be fluctuating throughout a session to compliment your opponents' styles.

And that's that! I kind of ranted again, and I hope this thread made sense.

In summary:

1) Hand reading skills are essential.
2) Drop limits to make up for any swings.
3) You need balls of steel! Don't be afraid to get all your money in if you think you're ahead.
4) Use PT and PAHud to target the weaker TAG players (ie those with low AFs)

-Buy in for the maximum!
-Bully your table; hammer at pots left right and centre whenever you sense weakness. You'd be surprised at how many pots people will give up to you.
-Eventually your opponents will crack, and hopefully you'll have a solid enough hand to stack them with when that time comes.
-Make sure you adjust your play vs. tricky players, and switch gears after your table adjusts to you.

You can also find a nice article entitled "Finding your inner maniac" By Greg Mueller of Full Tilt which I liked, here.

I welcome any criticism or comments of course; writing this at 4AM doesn't help with the quality so just let me know :)
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

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Although you're touching on it, I want to stress the fact that a successful player with this style knows that he shouldn't be playing big pots with mediocre hands. Splashing around before the flop and on the flop is OK, but taking it to the turn and keeping up big bets is going to be expensive.

Good post, Chuck.


Nice post chuck, something I have been attempting a little bit online... (only at tiny tiny limits...)

I'll re-read it tommorow as I'm dead tired atm and am heading to bed.


Brunson doesn't actually play anything like the approach he suggests in Super System. I've watched all the High Stakes poker games videos and didn't see him go all-in on a draw with 76 once. Although I did see him going busto with pocket Aces to Daniel Negreanu's set of Sevens on the flop.

LAGing it up is good fun although I probably couldn't bring myself to do it at the normal stakes I play. There's an even more extreme version of the maniac style which involves massively overbetting the pot / pushing a hell of a lot, as practised notably by Prahlad Friedman. I tried this once at micro limits and basically pushed pretty much every flop when I had half a hand, and kept re-raising all-in pre-flop with hands like AJo. I took it as read that I'd lose a couple of buyins, which I did, then started stacking people when I open-pushed having flopped a strong hand. Basically never value bet - check, fold or push.


Brunson doesn't actually play anything like the approach he suggests in Super System.

Of course his style has changed tremendously; even recently after SS1, I'm sure most players who knew him would adjust their play since they knew pretty much how he would play most hands.

Against the top cash players in the world, of course he's going to play different than what he preaches in his books (which some of the players at the table took contributions in writing aswell). He just doesn't have the hand-reading skills or post-flop skills to beat the Negreanus and the Phil Iveys.

Of course there was a glimmer of ol' Dolly with that AK limp-raise all in for 500K which I just LOVED :D absolutely hilarious...
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