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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

Playing Against Calling Stations

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If you're a poker player who has played for any length of time, you've probably run into more than your fair share of calling stations. Many players have problems playing against these types of players and actually look to avoid them at all costs. This is a mistake, because more so than any other type of player, a calling station makes mistakes, and a poker players’ best source of income is our opponents’ mistakes.

If you can figure out what mistakes a player is making, and develop a plan to take advantage of those mistakes, you will be able to gain an edge over that player and take money from them on a consistent basis.

What kind of mistakes does the typical calling station make? Obviously the easy answer is that they call far too much. They call when they should raise and they call when they should fold. They chase hands they have little to no chance of winning. You know the type – they have A-2 and the flop comes 9-7-2. They call bets with their pair of 2's hoping they either hit another 2, an ace, or on the miraculous chance that their 2's are actually good.

An even bigger mistake that a calling station makes is that they will often just call when they do have the best hand. About the only time you will see a calling station raising is when they are positive they have the best hand. This makes playing against them easy. When you win, you win the maximum. When you lose, you lose the minimum. These types of players are our true money makers. We should embrace confrontation with them, not run from it.

So how do we beat the calling station?
The answer to that is easy. When you have anything that has good showdown value (top pair or better), bet until you can't bet any more. Make sure though that you don't make the classic mistake of bluffing a calling station. Have you heard the saying, “you can't bluff a calling station?” There's a reason that saying exists.

When do we know when to bet against a calling station though? This can be a little tricky. It's easy to bet with a hand like top pair, but what about a hand like 2nd or 3rd pair? In these situations you need to determine what range of hands this player has been calling with in the past. Have they been calling with ace high or bottom pair or have they been limiting themselves to 2nd pair or better? If it's the latter, then you're better off checking behind. If it's the former, however, you'd be losing money by not betting. Sure there will be times they have a better hand, but over the long run you'll end up way ahead by betting in that situation.

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