The poker maniac
A good player is one that is not married to one strategy. This evolution must change over longer periods of time and within sessions as well. If you can do it, you will be a winning player.
Recently, I was playing $5-$10 no limit hold'em. An older gentleman I had never played with before was playing very aggressively. He was obviously a good player, he was the dominant force in the game, and he was busting people left and right. It was just a matter of time before we would mix it up.
Later in the session, after the maniac had raised an early-position limper, I called from the small blind with A-Q offsuit, flopped a queen, and check-raised the maniac on the flop. He correctly read me as a player capable of moving on him on the flop in that type of situation, and re-raised me.
I truly thought I was good in this spot and when he folded his pocket 10’s on the turn I saw I was correct. I appreciated his aggressive play though. When you play as he does and your hand improves later on, you get paid off.
He played a hand the exact same way later on, with pocket 8’s this time, and he spiked an 8 on the turn. When he did, he made a ton of money. He had a tendency to bet and raise in hopes of getting a free card. Once I identified this, I kept re-raising him to take away this play and make him fold or pay a hefty drawing price.
Here's an example of how I evolved during the session. The maniac opened the pot with a raise from the cutoff position. The button and small blind folded, and I looked down to see Aces in the big blind. Rather than raising, I just called playing my hand as weaker than it was. As you can tell, I wanted him to bet into me and give away his chips.
The flop came down K 8 5. I checked to my opponent, knowing he would bet. He bet and I check-raised him big. He called and when the turn card was a 2, I bet, and he called me again. The river brought another 2 and I pushed all in. The maniac quickly called. I turned my hand over and he tossed his cards into the muck, saying he had K-Q.
This game turned out to be the right poker game for me, and this is often the case if there is a very predictable player at the table, such as a maniac.
You must adapt your plays to your opponents style, ability, and emotions. Learning plays is one thing, and to become a good player, you must acquire good strategy knowledge, but knowing when to utilize different plays effectively against the varying types of opposition you face at the poker table is essential to solid play.
This comes with playing a lot and being extra attentive. It is not that hard to pay attention now, is it?