Secrets of poker Poker

When the game turns crazy

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Inexperienced poker players sometimes get scared when the game turns crazy. Mark my words, a crazy game is exactly what you want. Just modify your game to minimize potential train wrecks.

I have often listened to poker players tell me they would prefer to play against good players instead of bad. If someone tells you this you will instantly know they have no idea about poker. Isn’t the reason we play poker to win money? You always want to play against loose, aggressive, bad players. They are the easiest to take money off, and it’s much easier relieving a wild player of his purse than someone who keeps his chips tightly guarded.

So why is it that some players fear a crazy game? The reason is variance. When play becomes wild and loose, players tend to play every hand, there is a lot of bluffing, and the pot grows. With big pots contested by lots of players, the risks are higher. Just remember the rewards should far outweigh these risks. You just need a bankroll big enough to take a few hits if things go wrong.

There are some changes you will need to make if you run into a game that is going crazy. The first thing to remember is to play fewer hands. On the surface this seems to be the wrong strategy, as you can’t win hands when you are not in the pot. But trust me, tighten up, be selective, and be patient! This is going to be frustrating when you can’t get dealt a hand, you can’t hit any flops and you’re watching maniacs call off their stacks. It is, however, far less frustrating than making your way to the cash machine to get another buy-in.

It is true that some poker experts say the best response to a loose crazy game is to loosen up yourself, but not quite as much as the maniacs. This advice may well be true for champion players, but most people reading this article will not fall into that category. Taking the loose approach means you will be playing many more hands, and tussling much more often, with players whose hole cards will often be a complete mystery to you! It can get you into all sorts of trouble.

When there are more players seeing flops, you are generally going to need better hands to win. Top pairs and over pairs can be vulnerable in these situations. Prior to the flop you can be more aggressive in an attempt to reduce the number of players seeing the flop. You might, for example, find yourself three betting in places where normally you wouldn’t.

If the game is crazy you will find value, so there isn’t the same emphasis on hiding huge hands. Post flop with a big hand (but not a monster) you might want to use your skill to keep the pot small if you are convinced you won’t be able to push drawing players out of the hand. If there is no fold equity in betting, what’s the point of it? Since the maniacs won’t fold you are going to have to fade their outs anyway, and you’re just building a bigger pot for them to chase.

The good thing is you won’t need to show any incredible tricks or poker skills in a crazy game. In fact, I would urge you to be as conservative as you can. If you try to get fancy you will only find yourself in trouble. The big hands should look after themselves and, as I said before, all you have to do is be patient, and wait to be rewarded.

The last thing to remember is that you are going to lose some big pots in this type of game. In fact you will have the odd night where it appears all the money is flying to the maniacs. Just deal with this. In the long run the variance in crazy games will be your friend, not your enemy.