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What he looks like

Calling stations come in all forms, but most tend to be middle aged male and female recreational players.  They are there to kill time and have fun, so most will be very pleasant people.  They love making small talk, and can usually be seen at the casino several nights a week chatting with the other regulars.  Most calling stations enjoy the game independent of the money, so they tend to stick to low stakes games and buy in for 50-80 big blinds.

How he plays

The defining characteristic of calling stations is their passiveness.  They treat poker as a game of bingo, so their whole objective is to see a cheap flop and hope to make a big hand.  Thus, they play very straightforward.  Preflop, they will limp with an extremely wide range, usually including any ace, any suited face card, and most offsuit one and two gappers.  In addition, they have no concept of position and will play these hands the same way regardless of whether they’re under the gun or on the button.  They only raise the strongest hands preflop, although some calling stations will make very small “potbuilder” raises with speculative hands if they feel lucky.  Postflop, calling stations continue being passive.  They will check/call with any piece of the flop hoping to improve on later streets.  With stronger hands like middle pair or top pair, they will frequently call all three streets, putting the bettor on AK that missed.  They will only take the betting lead with the strongest hands, and will almost never bluff or semibluff.

How to play against him

Calling stations are some of the easiest opponents to play against due to how transparent their play is.  Due to their passive, sticky tendencies, playing against them is all about extracting value.  Preflop, they limp with lots of garbage hands, so isolate them in position with a wide range.  Postflop, don’t be afraid to make continuation bets as usual, but usually it won’t be correct to fire multiple barrels against a calling station.  If you do connect with the flop however, just aggressively value bet.  Calling stations are the perfect opponents to bet/fold against since they’ll call down with all of their weaker hands, only raise their strongest hands, and won’t typically try to bluff you off the best hand.  Against a calling station, don’t be afraid to go for some thinner value than usual, such as betting top pair middle kicker three streets, or betting middle pair for a couple streets.  You will value-own yourselves sometimes when they call down with a better hand, but more often than not, you’ll be surprised at what kind of trash they put their money in with.

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ALL IN Magazine Contributor Zhijian Xing