In a wide spectrum of different players, those who belong under the heading of “calling stations” are probably the best opponents you can have at the poker table.
It’s not just the fact that these players will part with their money way too easily, but they’ll rarely give you any problems as long as you have the right strategy against them.
So this article will provide you with direct and very useful tips on how to exploit the hell out of calling stations and make a lot of money against them. There’s no reason to be shy about taking their chips – it’s the whole reason you play poker!
Calling Stations – Identifying & Profiling These Players
One of the first things you’ll want to figure out when you sit down in a game is to identify calling stations since you’ll be making a bulk of your profit from them if you play your cards right.
In online games, poker software will do the bulk part of the job, and you can quickly identify calling stations based on their stats:
- High VPIP
- Low Fold to 3bet
- Extremely high WTSD stat
While the first two numbers can vary as some calling stations are quite tight before the flop, all of these players will have a high percentage of hands that they take to a showdown.
It’s what they’re all about – taking a hand and sticking with it all the way no matter what. They just hate folding, and they have no other weapons in their arsenal, so they just keep calling all the way.
Identifying calling stations in live games shouldn’t be much harder, either.
While you don’t have access to stats, you should already be able to figure out who the sticky players are after a couple of orbits. Even if you do not play any poker hands yourself, you can observe the action and see which players always want to see the flop and then tend to stick around.
Understand the Way a Calling Station Thinks
Before talking about specific strategies and adjustments you can make when playing against the calling station, you first need to understand how these players think about the game. That knowledge will help you build a very effective game-plan.
A calling station usually doesn’t see beyond their hand. For the most part, their thought process is:
- I have two pair
- Two pair is a good hand
- I can’t fold such a good hand
- Call, call, call
This thinking in absolutes is very dangerous because these players will disregard all potential dangers and changes in the board structure.
If they believe their hand was good on the flop, for example, they’ll usually just stick to it all the way through the river even if all sorts of straight and flush draws came in.
The other common subtype of a calling station is the player who refuses to fold because they don’t want to get bluffed. Unlike the first group, these guys know their hand is weak, but they still keep calling in hopes of picking off an unlikely bluff.
While the motivation for both these groups is different, the end result is the same. They’ll get to a showdown with hands that are way too weak for the amount of chips/money they put in.
Adjusting Your Strategy vs. Calling Stations
Once you’ve identified who the calling stations are in your game, you’ll want to start targeting them as much as possible. These are the best players you can have at your table since they will rarely put you to a tough decision as they have only two modes:
- Call (quite frequently)
- Fold (unlikely but it happens)
I know a guy who’s been a regular in my private game who’s such a station that he will even tell you – I know you have me, but I just have to call, I can’t help it. Sometimes I’d almost feel bad about value betting on the river (he’s a nice guy in general but can’t play poker).
So, the best way to take advantage of these players is to go for value against them.
If they open and you have a big hand, for example, feel free to size up your 3bet. They’ll pretty much call with their entire range no matter how big you make it, so you don’t have to worry too much about your sizing. Making it 15 big blinds over their 3x raise is usually completely fine against these players.
Don’t try to be tricky.
You need to mix your play when you are up against tough competition, and following simple Texas Holdem tips will not always cut it in that case. However, you don’t need to do that against calling stations.
In fact, getting tricky against these players will just cost you money. If you have a big hand, keep on betting on every street. Don’t try to check for deception – you’re just missing a street of value by doing that.
Use big bets and over-bets.
A good player won’t call your pot-sized bets with a third pair since they are aware you’re going for value more often than not with that sizing. Calling stations don’t care, though.
If they think their hand is good, the bet size doesn’t matter.
So, if you have the winner, why would you want to bet half the pot if they’ll call a pot-sized or an even bigger bet?
This way of thinking does take some getting used to as it’s not your standard ABC poker. But bot live and online poker is all about being able to adapt to the current situation.
Your main goal is always to get as much value as humanly possible from a particular hand, and if that requires taking some liberties with bet sizing, you need to go for it.
Isolating Calling Stations
To get the most value from these players, you want to be heads-up with them. Having another player in the pot can mess up your plans and significantly decrease EV.
So, you want to target the player you’ve identified as a calling station and force everyone else out of the hand.
You can widen your ranges when in a position to achieve this. If the calling station enters the pot alongside a few others and you’re on the button, you should be looking so squeeze with a solid range of hands.
This doesn’t mean you need to go too crazy, but hands that have good potential or ones with solid blockers, qualify for a raise.
For example, you may not always want to squeeze a hand like KJ on the button, but if there is a calling station you want to target, you should definitely do it, especially if they’re someone who likes to see a lot of flops.
You’re likely to be well ahead of their range, and you have the position, so you’ll be able to hammer out some value if you get the favorable flop. Just make sure your raise is big enough to force everyone else out. You already know the station isn’t going anywhere.
But keep in mind that if there are a couple of other solid players at the table, you’ll need to tone it down a bit and pick your spots more carefully. Otherwise, they will quickly start playing back and you and try to take their piece of the pie. This is where you can take advantage of solved ranges and grab this poker cheat sheet.
Avoid These Mistakes against Calling Stations
Playing against calling stations can be hugely profitable, but only if you do it right. The first part of this article covers some strategy suggestions as to things that you should be doing. But there are also some things you definitely should not be doing against this type of player.
First and foremost – forget about bluffing.
I’ve seen it many times that players, for some bizarre reasons, keep on trying to bluff a supreme calling station. They keep on betting and mucking their cards despite the fact the other guy is constantly turning over a second or a third pair.
Why would you want to bluff someone who just can’t be bluffed? Even if you get them to fold every now and then, it won’t be nearly enough to make these plays profitable.
If you don’t have the best hand, just let them have it or see some free cards and try to improve. If you catch your gin card, you can still extract some value with a big bet on the river.
Don’t berate them when they get lucky.
Calling station will keep calling with their lowly pair of deuces on the flop and the turn, only to catch the third deuce on the river so of the time. This is annoying, of course, but you need to take these things in strides.
The last thing you want is to berate these players and make them feel uncomfortable. Do you really want them to stop calling your massive bets with hands as weak as the weakest of all pairs? Chuck it to bad luck and keep on grinding. You’ll get all of their money eventually.
Don’t call their raises.
Calling stations have gotten their name for a reason – they don’t do raising and all that fancy stuff. So if you bet and get raised by one of these players, your cards should be hitting the muck faster than you can spell fold.
If you don’t have the absolute nuts, there is almost never a reason to call a big raise from these players.
They have it, pretty much whenever they choose to play aggressively, so don’t overthink it. Don’t be making these calls hoping that it is the one time they may have dreamt up a bluff. It’s not, and even if it were – they’re entitled to get away with it once every three months.
Don’t annoy them when you win.
The final piece of advice is that you never want to upset calling stations. They’re already in the state of mind that you want them to be in.
You don’t need to tilt these players any further or annoy them because it might result in them starting to fold out of spite or even leaving the game.
In a live poker setting, you want to make others feel as comfortable as possible. For calling stations, this means being understanding of their “bad luck.”
Don’t make fun of them for calling with no hand, nod in agreement, and tell them it was unlucky. They believe it, and you agreeing will make you a good guy in their eyes even though you’re the one dragging the pot.
Of course, this is a bit of a meta-game, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. But keeping these players on your good side can be quite beneficial, even to the point where they’ll actually tell you when they have a big hand and let you get away cheaply.
Summary: Punch Your Tickets & Start Printing
Although some players are annoyed by calling stations as they don’t allow them to play “real” poker, you really shouldn’t be. These are your sure source of income in any game, and you should consider yourself lucky to have them.
Those who complain about players never folding are missing the bigger picture.
As long as you take the advice from this article to heart and make necessary adjustments to your play, you’ll have no problems whatsoever dealing with calling stations. You’ll make way more money playing against them than against any other type of player.
Maniacs spew chips around, but they also win massive pots sometimes when they have the nuts or pull an insane bluff. Tight players just refuse to give you any action, so you have to come up with all sorts of ideas to squeeze some chips out of them.
Calling stations just keep calling, and calling, and calling…
So, forget about bluffing them, play your big hands aggressively, and adjust your bet sizing. Be prepared to fold if they start playing back at you, but other than that, get ready to pull in some really big pots without even breaking a sweat.
But if you want to take it one step further, you can always check one of the poker training sites at your disposal and learn to punish other types of players as well.