The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker maniacs are arguably the most frustrating player type you can encounter at the felt. 

Their incessant aggression can be infuriating, and their erratic playstyle can make it virtually impossible to predict their next move.

What’s worse, they seem to get rewarded for their crazy plays by constantly sucking out on you, hitting their miracle draws and so on.

So how do you deal with such madness, if at all?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to beat these wild, crazy players.

By the end of the article, you’re guaranteed to actually look forward to seeing these players on your table.

1. Get Involved in More Pots With Crazy Poker Players

When encountering a crazy player, a lot of players make the mistake of tightening up too much. 

They try to lay low and get involved only when they have a strong hand they can potentially trap them with.

Trapping very aggressive players with a strong hand can be an effective strategy, but it comes with a big disadvantage. 

And that is the fact that very strong hands like AA or KK don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em. 

So by the time you actually get a monster hand, your target could already blow through all of their chips. 

Other players at the table will also be gunning for them as well, so it’s a matter of who can get their chips first.

If you want to be the first one to take all their chips, you have to have more opportunities to do so. 

This means getting involved with them in more pots, i.e. loosening up your ranges.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should get involved with just about any random hand that’s dealt to you. 

But if your hand has some sort of playability post flop, you should be willing to roll the dice, because the potential upside (i.e. stacking your opponent) is so huge.

You should look to play more speculative hands, i.e. hands that aren’t strong enough in and of themselves, but have the potential to make strong combinations post flop.

Hands like suited connectors (ex: 98) or small pocket pairs (ex: 44) fit the bill. Speculative hands need good implied odds to be played profitably.

For example, here are the hands I suggest playing as a default. But you should loosen up more versus crazy players due to the huge implied odds.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

Implied odds by the way refers to the amount of money you can potentially earn on future streets.

When playing against crazy poker players, you have great implied odds, because they tend to play so abysmally and spew chips left and right.

Another factor to consider is playing in position. 

Playing in position means being the last to act in a betting round, and it is a huge advantage to have, especially against crazy aggressive players.

There are a couple of reasons why this is the case:

a) you have an informational advantage.

By being the last to act, you know what your opponents did, while they have no idea what you will do.

b) playing in position allows you to control the pot size.

By being the last to act, you get a final say at the pot size. When an aggressive player bets, you can call to keep the pot size smaller, or raise to inflate the pot size further.

c) you can bluff catch more effectively.

Due to the informational advantage, you can spot bluffs more easily. This is especially important against aggressive players, as they will likely have a lot of bluffs in their range.

The opposite is true for playing out of position. Playing out of position against aggressive players is a nightmare, because they will constantly try to push you out of pots. This makes playing back against them more difficult, so you should try to avoid it if possible.

Playing out of position makes it harder to realize your hand equity, because you often won’t be able to get to showdown.

Conversely, by playing in position, you’ll be able to get to showdown more frequently, so it will be easier to realize your equity.

This is discussed in more detail in my poker cheat sheet.

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid playing out of position altogether. If you do play out of position, have a gameplan ready early on in the hand.

When the flop comes, decide right away whether or not to continue the hand or not. It doesn’t make sense to call on the flop if you’re planning to fold on most turns.

Assume you’re going to encounter more bets on later streets, and your opponent is not going to let you realize your equity cheaply. 

When that’s the case, sometimes it’s better to just fold right away, and wait for a better spot.

By the way, check out Nathan's video on how to know if your opponent is bluffing you.

2. Call Down Crazy Poker Players With a Wide Range

One of the most effective ways to beat crazy poker players is to call them down wider. 

Since they will often have an insane number of bluffs in their range, the most effective strategy against them is obviously to bluff catch more.

As the name suggests, bluff catching means calling down with a wider range when you suspect your opponent may be bluffing.

In no-limit hold’em, it’s actually very hard to get a strong hand. The stronger the hand combination, the less likely you are to get it. 

Most hands miss most flops (2 out of 3 times, to be exact). 

So when an aggressive poker player is blasting off big bets on multiple streets, it’s more likely than not that they’re doing it with complete air.

In practice, this means that you don’t need an especially strong hand to beat them. 

You only need a hand that’s strong enough to be ahead of all the nonsense they could be bluffing with.

The wider your opponent’s range, the more bluffs they're likely to have in that range.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

For example, someone with a VPIP of 50% will have far more bluffs in their range than a player with a VPIP of 25%.

VPIP stands for “voluntarily put money in pot”, and it represents a percentage of starting hands a player chooses to play. As a general rule, the bigger the VPIP, the weaker the player. 

If you’re playing poker online, you can check a player’s VPIP, as well as other useful stats if you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4.

So if you see a player that’s playing an insane number of hands and is playing them very aggressively, congratulations, you’ve found yourself a maniac.

While they can be frustrating to play against at times, this type of player is also the most profitable to play against over the long run.

Since they play an insane number of hands and their aggression is usually ill-advised, this type of player will lose chips far faster and in larger quantities than any other player type.

For more info on how to beat maniacs, as well as other player types, check out Crushing the Microstakes.

Of course, these players will get lucky from time to time, and go on an unlikely winning streak. 

But it’s important to remember these streaks don’t last very long, and they will end up losing a lot of money over the long run.

But in order to withstand their short term luck, it’s important to keep your cool, as well as to practice proper bankroll management so you can actually take advantage of their bad play. More on that below.

Back to the topic of calling them down with a wider range.

You don’t need to wait around for the stone-cold nuts to trap these player and take their whole stack. You just need a hand that’s well ahead of all of their nonsense they could be bluffing with.

In other words, you need hands with decent showdown value.

Hands with showdown value are the ones that aren’t strong enough to value bet with, but can often win the pot at showdown.

For example, hands like top pair, weak kicker, second pair, two pair hands on a wet, coordinated board and so on.


You have T9 and the board by the river is J9663

You get the point. 

If you were to lead out and bet/raise these hands yourself, you would have a hard time getting action from weaker hands against crazy players. They would probably just fold once they realize you have them beat.

But if you keep calling them down, they’ll often continue barreling with their nonsense hands like Ace-high, third pair, busted draws and so on.

Important note: if you do decide to follow this tactic, you should commit to it early on in the hand (i.e. on the flop).

It doesn’t make sense to call on the flop if you intend to fold on the turn.

Remember this mantra: fold early, call late.

Put another way: commit or quit.

Crazy aggressive players will often continue barreling on multiple streets. So if you intend to call them down, you should be willing to commit to this tactic to the end. 

Otherwise you’re playing into their game and letting them push you out of pots, while you’re giving chunks of your stack for free.

This isn’t an absolute rule, of course, but it’s an important rule of thumb to keep in mind.

One of the ways to figure out whether or not you should commit the rest of your stack into the pot is by looking at the Stack-to-Pot ratio (or SPR for short).

As the name suggests, stack-to-pot ratio (or SPR for short) is a ratio of the effective stack size (the smaller stack size of the two players involved in a pot) and the size of the pot itself. 

For example, if the pot is $20 and you have $100 left in your stack, the SPR is 5.

It tells you how committed you are to the pot, or in other words, how inclined you should be to play for the rest of your stack.

SPR is a flop metric, so you don’t calculate it on every street. You only calculate it once on the flop, and it carries over to the turn and river.

As a general rule, if the SPR is very small, (3 or less) you are automatically committed to the flop with a top pair hand or better.

Against very aggressive and crazy poker players, you can loosen the requirement for being pot committed.

For example, you can play for the rest of your stack with only a second pair, or with a top pair hand with a bigger SPR (4 or 5, for example).

These are all just rules of thumb, of course. Whether or not to play for the rest of your stack will depend on a lot of factors, SPR only being one of them.

Still, it’s a useful metric to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to continue playing the hand.

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3. Thin Value Bet Against Crazy Poker Players

When talking about crazy poker players, it’s assumed that what makes them crazy is their aggression level. However, that’s not the only thing that can characterise them as such. 

They could also be crazy because they play an insane number of starting hands (often the case), or because they call down way too much (also often).

It’s important to recognize what is it that makes a certain player fall out of norm so you can adjust your play accordingly. 

If the player is playing way too many hands and calls down way to liberally, the best adjustment to make is to expand your value betting range.

In other words, you should thin value bet way more liberally.

You are value betting when your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

You are thin value betting when your hand is ahead of your opponent’s calling range, but only by a thin margin.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

In other words, you are thin value bettting when you are expected to win slightly over 50% of the time.

A lot of players make the mistake of value betting only when they are relatively certain they have the best hand. But against crazy poker players, this often means leaving money at the table.

If they will call you down with all sort of nonsense like third or fourth pair, Ace-high hands and so on, you don’t have to wait around for a monster hand to try and take away their chips. 

All you need is a hand that is ahead of all the nonsense they can call you down with. 

This means you need to take your opponents entire range into account when making decisions.

You should also be on the lookout at what kind of hands they show up with at showdown. If they routinely show up with nonsense hands, you should take advantage of that and expand your value betting range significantly.

If you’re playing poker online, you can use a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4 to check out how often you opponents see the showdown.

The corresponding stat you should look for is WTSD (Went to Showdown). The bigger the number, the more liberally you can value bet against that player. 

Most winning poker players won’t have a WTSD over 27%. 

Anything above that may indicate that the player is calling down too much. 

Anything above 30% indicates that a player is likely a major calling station, so they’re an ideal candidate for thin value betting.

It’s worth noting that the WTSD stat requires quite a big sample size to be reliable. You would need at least 500 hands to get at least some semblance of an accurate read.

But you often don’t need such a big sample size to figure out if someone is calling too much. Simply look at the number of instances they went to showdown when they had the option.

For example if a player went to showdown 6 out of 10 times, they are more than likely to be a major calling station, so you should thin value bet them as much as possible.

Protip: you can hover over any stat on your PokerTracker 4 HUD (heads-up display) and it will show you the sample size number it has available. 

This is useful because different stats need a different sample size to be reliable.

For example, you need a much smaller sample size to accurately assess a player’s VPIP than to assess their c-betting frequency.

Check out Nathan’s article on the most useful HUD stats for more information. Also, check out the best poker software the pros use to give themselves an edge.

Example Hand vs Crazy Player #1

Effective stack size: 100 BB 

You are dealt QJ on the BU (button). You open-raise to 3x. 

A loose and passive whale calls from the SB (small blind).

Pot: 7 BB

Flop: JT2

Villain checks. You bet 5 BB. Villain calls.

Pot: 17 BB

Turn: 5

Villain checks. You bet 13 BB. Villain calls.

Pot: 43 BB

River: A

Villain checks.

You: ???

You should bet 22 BB.

This is a great spot for a thin value bet.

A lot of players get apprehensive about firing the third shell on the river, fearing their opponent might have catched an Ace.

This may happen from time to time, but again, that's only a small part of your opponent's overall range.

You need to take your opponent's entire range into account. Against this player type, you will often get action by a lot of hands you're comfortably ahead of.

Once again, you don't need to wait around for the stone cold nuts to make money. Sometimes you need to pull the trigger in less than ideal, marginal situations to get truly great results.

If you want to learn more about thin value betting, as well as other advanced poker strategies, enroll in Blackrain79 Elite Poker University.

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4. Have a Healthy Bankroll

Even if you follow these tips to a tee, you’re still going to lose in a spectacular fashion from time to time. 

Playing against wild, crazy players will be insanely profitable over the long run, but over the course of a single session, anything can happen.

Poker is a game of razor thin margins. Even if you are way more skilled than your opponents, they will still almost always have some sort of equity in the hand. 

This is what makes poker exciting in the first place: everyone who understands the basic rules of the game can theoretically win even against superior competition.

Of course, this can be incredibly frustrating when you’re the one on the receiving end of bad luck. 

Playing against crazy players involves a high degree of variance. 

In other words, even though the math is on your side, your results can be incredibly swingy due to the short term luck element involved.

That’s why it’s important to have a healthy bankroll to witshstand these short term fluctuations without going broke. 

This is especially the case when playing against crazy players. If you have enough buyins for the stakes you’re playing, you’ll be able to get involved in more high-risk, high-reward spots.

This is the secret to beating crazy players: to confidently get involved in more pots with them, knowing that math is on your side.

But you can’t do that if you’re constantly worrying about losing a couple of buyins.

If you’re not completely comfortable with losing a couple of buyins at any given moment, you’re not sufficiently bankrolled for the stakes you’re playing.

The point of a healthy bankroll is to give you a peace of mind to focus on playing your best without having to worry about short term results.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players

Crazy poker players don’t follow proper bankroll management rules. And even if they did, it wouldn’t mean much, because the way they play will constantly lose them money over the long run.

This has to do with the concept in statistics known as the Gambler’s ruin.

It posits that a gambler with a finite amount of money will inevitably go bankrupt if they keep playing a game with negative expected value.

So how do you apply this concept to beat crazy players?

It’s simple. First, take comfort in the fact that these players inevitably lose money over the long run, even though they occasionally get rewarded for their misguided plays.

Secondly, have a big, fat bankroll so you can take advantage of these misguided plays yourself.

Crazy poker players will sometimes jump stakes to try to “get even.” When you spot this, you may consider jumping stakes with them and get a seat on their left. 

But you can only do this if you can afford to take a shot at a higher stake without risking a significant part of your bankroll.

For more information on how to manage your poker game like a pro, check out the Microstakes Playbook.

5. Stack Off Lighter Against Crazy Poker Players

When playing against crazy players, you often don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the monster hand. By the time you get one, some other player may already stack them. 

So if you spot a crazy poker player, you need to act quickly, and often in less than ideal circumstances.

This means getting involved in more marginal spots than you’d usually be comfortable with.

One of these spots is stacking off preflop with a wider range.

Sometimes these crazy players will open-raise and/or 3-bet just about any hand that’s dealt to them, or even outright shove all-in from time to time (or all the time if they’re tilting).

(A 3-bet preflop is a re-raise against another players's open-raise).

When that happens, sometimes you need to just roll the dice and call their all-in with less than premium hands.

For example, if they are on an insane monkey tilt and are shoving all-in with every hand, you can call them down with Ace-high or King-high hands, as these hands are a favourite to win against the random trash they’re shoving all in with.

This is where the previous point of having a healthy bankroll comes into play. Even though you’ll often be a favourite to win against their hands, sometimes they’ll get lucky against you.

That’s why it’s important to have enough “ammunition” so you can withstand their rampage and come out on top.

The bigger your bankroll, the more you can afford to take chances, and let the math take care of the rest.

Example Hand vs Crazy Player #2

You are dealt A8 in the BB (big blind). 

A loose and aggressive maniac open-shoves 43 BB UTG (under the gun).

You: ???

You should call.

You’ve noticed that the player is on an insane tilt and is open-shoving every hand that’s dealt to them. You don’t need to wait around for pocket Aces or pocket Kings to stack them.

Your hand is more than likely ahead in this type of scenario. Against a random hand, Ace-Eight suited has 62% equity. 

You may argue that it’s not an overwhelming advantage, and fair enough. You’re still expected to lose a bit more than 1 out of 3 times.

But as mentioned, poker is a game of razor-thin margins, and even terrible players have a large chunk of equity in most situations. 

This is what keeps them coming back to play over and over again, despite losing money over the long run.

If you keep putting your money in the middle with a mathematical advantage, even if that advantage is as small as 1%, you’re eventually going to come out on top, and they’re going to end up broke without fail.

Check out Nathan's recent video on the 5 obvious signs of recreational poker players.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players - Summary

You don’t need to study a ton of advanced poker strategy to defeat crazy players. All you need to know is how to use their ill-timed aggression against them.

To sum up, here are 5 easy ways to deal with crazy poker players.

1. Get involved in more pots with them.

A lot of players make the mistake of tightening up too much against very aggressive players. 
What you want to do instead is to get involved in more pots with them (preferably in position), so you can take advantage of their mistakes post flop.

No matter how frustrating they may be at times, these players lose the most amount of money over the long run, and it’s not even close.

So instead of getting defensive, get more involved with them and take their money before anybody else.

2. Call them down with a wider range.

You don’t need to wait around for a monster hand to trap these players. Since they will usually have an insane number of bluffs in their range, call them down wider and be amazed with what sort of junk they’ll show up with.

The best hands to bluff catch with are the ones with showdown value, i.e. hands that aren’t strong enough to value bet with, but can often win at showdown.

3. Thin value bet them.

As a general rule, the more starting hands someone plays, the worse player they are. If you see someone playing an insane number of hands, they are more than likely to be a calling station.

Against these players, you can expand your value betting range significantly (i.e. thin value bet them).

4. Have a healthy bankroll.

Even terrible poker players have a ton of equity in most situations, meaning they’re still going to win from time to time. 

In order to be prepared for that, you need to have a big, fat bankroll, so you can afford to take more chances and get involved in more spots with them, without risking a big chunk of your overall bankroll in the process.

5. Stack them off lightly.

As mentioned, you often don’t have the luxury of waiting around for a monster hand all day. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best.

This is why the previous point of having a big bankroll is so crucial.

Playing against crazy players is often a war of attrition, and the player with more “ammunition” is the one that will eventually come out on top.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

The Simple Trick to Beat Crazy Poker Players