A calling station is the worst kind of poker player. They are easy to take advantage of and will call with any hand. This makes it difficult to win against them, as they won’t fold easily no matter how strong their hand may be.
What does ‘calling station’ mean?
In poker, a “calling station” refers to a player who calls frequently, regardless of hand strength. These fold-averse gamers are most common in low-stakes online and live games.
Calling stations can be quite easy to beat but can be frustrating to play against if they catch you with a bad run of cards.
How to beat these calling stations
Ryan Fee tested these insanely profitable adjustments by playing 10,000 hands at $0.25/$0.50.
He took a break every 2,000 hands to analyze the data and make winning adjustments.
Fee lost 2 buy-ins in his first 1,665 hands, at $0.25/$0.50, before realizing that the player pool was full of calling stations.
After making the necessary adjustments, Fee won 6 buy-ins in the 2,824 hands that he played at $0.25/$0.50.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your win rate against calling stations.
1. Avoid bluffing
Simply put, if an opponent makes absurdly large calls, then you should bluff them. This lesson is often learned the hard way by many players, but it can be avoided.
Fee played a hand at $0.25/$0.50 tables to illustrate this point.
Americas Cardroom, $0.25/$0.50 6-Handed. $10.87 Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt K 9 in big blind
Middle Position (MP) raises to $1. Hero calls.
Flop ($2.25): 8 T 7
Hero checks. MP checks.
Turn ($2.25): 5
Hero bets $2. MP calls.
River ($6.25): 2
Hero bets $7.87. MP calls and shows K 7.
This is an overbet bluff spot that Fee can use to his advantage. He holds a blocker to J9, which is the nut straight, and doesn’t block the missed spade flush draw.
These reasons are irrelevant if his opponent still won’t fold third-pair. However, he discovered that his opponent was a calling station and so he could relax on bluffing against this player as a counter-strategy.
This is a larger lesson that you can learn from. Pay attention to your opponents’ play and take note of what hands they show. It is important to gather information to make adjustments against your opponents.
Calling stations sometimes fold so it’s possible to get paid when you’re value betting. You are the easiest to exploit if you never bluff.
2. Razor-thin value should be used as often as possible
You should be willing to place value on spots that are too marginal against most players. Pay attention to thin-value spots that often appear. Take advantage of them!
Here’s an example from Fee’s 10,000-hand game:
Americas Cardroom $0.25 / $0.50 6-Handed. $22.77 Effective Stacks
Hero is in the cutoff with J J
Villain, in MP, raises $1. Hero raises $3. Villain calls.
Flop ($6.75): 2 5 6
Villain checks. Hero bets $2.14. Villain calls.
Turn ($11.03): 6
Villain checks. Hero checks.
River ($11.03): 5
Villain bets $3.49. Hero raises to $17.63. Villain calls and mucks A Q.
This hand shows why you should think twice about making an “easy call” or “easy check” against a calling station.
A conservative player might call Villain’s bet on the river, fearing that better hands will call a raise. Fee believed there was more value in Villain’s range.
- Villain will rarely have a full-house with a 6 or 5 since he called preflop on a 3-bet.
- Villain, with hands as strong and QQ-AA, would have likely been shoved all-in preflop or on the flop.
- Villain’s range consists mainly of hands with some showdown value like Ace-high and 77-TT.
These range considerations are combined with a player pool that is practically allergic to folding and you have a recipe for a razor-thin value raise that will be called worse often.
3. Make your bets bigger
Calling stations have inelastic calling ranges. They will call or fold to any bet, regardless of how large it is.
This tendency can be exploited by using larger sizes for value betting to maximize your winnings. It is also possible to use smaller sizes when bluffing. This is a common sizing tip that savvy players would notice over time. However, weaker players may not be as aware.
This last hand shows how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
Americas Cardroom $0.25 / $0.50 5-Handed. $50 Effective Stacks
Hero is in the big blind with A A
Villain (SB) raises $1.50. Hero raises $4.50. Villain calls.
Flop ($9): 8 T J
Villain checks. Hero checks.
Turn ($9): 6
Villain checks. Hero bets $7. SB calls.
River ($23): 4
Villain checks. Hero bets $38.50. Villain calls and mucks Q T.
After Villain checks on the turn, and then calls Fee’s delayed C-bet, two pair+ hands can be heavily discounted from his range. Due to the board’s connectivity, you can expect Villain will play those hands as leads, or check-raises on the turn.
A A is almost certain to be the best hand on a river, so Fee sizes up to exploit Villain’s tendency to over-call. The fact the opponent calls almost a 2x pot overbet with second-pair despite blocking Fee’s most likely bluffs (AQ and KQ) is a clear indication of how vulnerable calling stations can be.
You will be value-heavy against calling stations, so you can use larger bet sizes when you are in polarized situations. This signals to your opponent that either you have a strong hand or total air. Players may still call down with marginal bet-catchers, despite their poor pot odds.
They are easy to take advantage of and will call with any hand, making it difficult to win against them.