A title calling station is usually used to describe a player who hates folding his cards and rarely takes aggressive action.
If you have been playing poker for a while, especially in live poker games, you have surely come across quite a few calling stations in your lifetime.
While it is clear that these players’ strategy is not ideal, I want to go a bit deeper into it and talk about what your strategy should be when playing against a calling station.
We will explore your options in different scenarios, talk about frequent mistakes players make against calling stations, and develop a strategy that’s guaranteed to work against this player type.
Calling stations are among the best players to have at your table. They put a lot of money into the pots but rarely act aggressively, which is pretty much the perfect mix.
Before you can exploit a calling station's tendencies, however, you have to identify them, and you will do this by looking for certain patterns in the player's behavior.
Typically a calling station is a player who:
In a live setting, on the other hand, you will have to look out for signs of a player playing too passively by paying attention.
Players who limp into pots tend to be calling stations, although that’s not always the case on later streets.
A great sign that a player is a calling station is if you spot them calling a raise, only to face a squeeze behind them, and then call the squeeze as well, without ever contemplating a re-raise.
Finally, this type of player will often only call bets with monster hands that warrant a raise, such as a ten-high flush or a full house that's not the nuts.
You should make mental notes of such players and beware of any aggression you may face from them in the future, as it will usually mean they are holding the nuts.
Calling stations are ideal opponents to play against, but you should also remember that you are playing at a table full of other players of all profiles.
When there are one or more calling stations at your table, your goal should be to play as many pots with them as possible.
A good example of this is when a calling station limps into the pot, and we are sitting on the button with a few extra players also limping in the middle.
We could just limp in and see the flop with all the players, assuming we are holding a medium strength holding, but we really want to be heads-up with the station. For that reason, a raise to 5x or more may be a good option in such a scenario, as it will likely eliminate other competent players and almost certainly keep the calling station in.
You will be looking to isolate a calling station in as many cases as you can without getting too aggressive with hands that you should not be playing in the first place.
While you will have a massive advantage over the player post-flop, you don’t want to go into the hand as a massive underdog to their hand, especially because it will be hard to ever get them to fold.
Instead, you should be looking to get into pots with them with hands that will have them dominated or have a high potential to make a big hand post-flop, which you can get paid for.
Isolating a calling station and staying in a pot with them is only the first part of the puzzle. In order to fully exploit a calling station in poker, you will want to adjust your betting strategy.
When playing against loose passive opponents, you will want to forgo the GTO poker strategy and make completely exploitative plays.
This means that balancing your bet sizes and checking with made hands won’t be an option, and you should simply bet big when you have a made hand.
When playing against a calling station, even a second pair with a medium kicker can be a hand worth two streets of value, while most top pairs will be worth three streets.
As a general rule of thumb, you will want to bet bigger with your monster hands, medium with your medium-strength hands, and small with hands like the bottom pair.
The best thing about these players is that they will almost always only call you when they have a draw or a one-pair hand, while they will only raise when holding the nuts.
You will often get off the hook when you have a top pair with an inferior kicker against a calling station, as they will be unlikely to raise you with just one pair.
Overall speaking, you should keep betting your made hands until you face aggression, which is going to be the case very rarely, considering this opponent almost does not have bluffs in their range.
One huge trap that many inexperienced players fall into when playing against different categories of “bad” poker players is wanting to win every pot.
We have identified our opponent as a calling station, which means they are unlikely to play aggressively and they are unlikely to fold their hand easily.
For that reason, bluffing against a player like this is not a great idea. If we miss the board completely and our hand is unlikely to improve, betting into a calling station is often pointless.
In fact, we will be burning money by betting on a player who rarely folds and is not even going to throw away a hand like the bottom pair to two bets.
Instead, we should check and allow our opponent to check back unless they have a very strong hand, which is likely what they will do.
We still get to make pairs or other hands-on future streets if they don’t bet, and if they do bet, our hand is probably drawing almost dead anyway.
Bluff lines that might make perfect sense against more competent players are not necessary against calling stations and are often very counterproductive.
Since we are getting all the value we want when we have a big hand, there is absolutely no reason to start bluffing our money away and losing our hard-earned profits against this player.
Calling stations are players who typically don’t bluff and don’t value betting their medium-strength hands, especially when already facing aggression.
This is exactly why we should be willing to make some big folds against a calling station as well, as their big bets tend to be extremely strong.
For example, let us imagine the following hand. We raise to 3x with As Ks from UTG, and the calling station calls in UTG+1, the big blind calls as well.
With 10bb in the pot, the flop comes Ac 8c 7s. We bet 8bb looking to get value from the station, the station calls, and the big blind folds.
With 26bb in the pot, the turn comes 2d, a complete brick. We bet 20bb and the calling station calls.
With 66bb in the pot, the river now comes 6d. We bet 25bb, looking to get some more value, and our opponent goes all-in for about 100bb.
Against a regular opponent, we could still consider making the call. T9 is the only hand that got there on the river, while all club draws have missed, meaning they could be turning a busted draw into a bluff, along with some flopped sets.
However, the calling station can still have hands like A6, 86, 76, and even 66 in their range, considering the fact they hate folding to bets.
It is also very unlikely that the station is turning a club draw into a bluff, as they would be more likely to simply fold that hand and play the next hand, looking to make another draw they can chase.
Whenever you play against calling stations, you should be very careful when facing aggression. The AK hand from the previous example is certainly a fold if our opponent is a true calling station.
However, it’s very important to remember that players don’t all fit into boxes, and some players have tendencies of a calling station but also occasionally blast off with a big bluff.
As a poker player, the best strategy you can apply is to try and play against the weakest possible opponents for the largest amounts of money you can afford.
If there is a massive calling station in your game, especially in a live poker game, you would be wise to do everything you can to keep them around.
The first thing you want to do is make sure they are comfortable and that they don't feel like an idiot. In many cases, these players are wealthy and don't really care about the money; they are there to have fun.
For that reason, you should avoid criticizing their game or pointing out that they should have folded their hand against someone else’s bet.
The most important thing is maintaining your composure when you lose big pots against massive calling stations.
With players like these, there will definitely be times when some huge bad beats will be inflicted upon you, and you must make sure to take them with dignity.
Shouting profanities at the worst player at the table is not the way to go, as this could cause the player to decide they don’t want to play anymore or create a negative atmosphere in the room.
Perhaps the most important thing to do when there is a big calling station in your poker game is to stick around and not quit. Even if things are going poorly for you, you should not leave the game as long as that big juicy whale is still at the table.
There is literally no other type of poker player that will bring you as easy profits as a calling station, so do your best to play as many hours as you can against such players.
Also, remember that even a calling station will have some big days when cards will go their way, and they will walk away as the big winner. You should embrace this.
The only way bad poker players keep returning is if they win on occasion, and you must remember that poker is all about the long run.
The next time you spot a big calling station in your game, remember to be kind to them, make huge bets when you have big hands, and be ready to take any variance that comes from playing them.
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