Playing Against Call-Stations in Poker Tournaments

Filed Under MTT Strategy 2 Comments 

How to Play Against Flat-Callers in Tournaments

Almost everyone who plays live tournaments will have encountered the fish and loose-callers that turn up to these games.  They are extremely profitable to play against, but also require a distinct strategy to actually exploit them.  In order to catogorise a calling station just look for a high VPIP% and low PFR% figure e.g. 20/6.

While loose-callers themselves are very profitable to play against (and they inevitably always lose their money in tournaments); they still possess a danger to your chip stack.  Here I want to explain the correct way to play against new players who call too many times in poker tournaments.

Defending Your Stack Against Flat-Callers

Your stack is your lifeline, and no matter what even if you’re 60% favourite against your opponent, you still want to avoid 50/50 showdowns from moving all-in preflop.  It doesn’t require much intelligence to realise that there will be much better opportunities to steal a weak/calling players chips.

Bluffing: there’s a fundamental problem when you’re trying to bluff or scare new players off pots.  They will call you!  That’s right, if you are sure you are ahead, but don’t hold the best hand, you should be checking your opponent down to the river.  If you try instead to raise/3 barrel bluff them, you will eventually get caught out.  For example if we hold AQ and get called by our call station newbie, we cannot put him on a range.  If the flops comes 4-5-8 for example, there is a big chance we could be behind, and raising on the turn and river could just be money down the drain if we are not able to make our opponent fold.

The trick to extracting value from new players and flat callers is to slow play.  By slow play, I mean check-raise our monsters such as AA and KK (so long as only our flat-caller is involved in the pot).  These hands are where we should drain our opponent’s chips in tournaments.  Betting on sure things removes any risks. 

In situational hands against call stations in tournaments (for example drawing hands), we should be check/calling the flop and turn for the minimum amount possible.  While against a weaker opponent we might decide to semi-bluff here, the fold equity and positive EV doesn’t exist against a caller.

Isolate the Call-Station Player and Yourself in As Many Pots as Possible

There is no question about it, we want the new players chips.  They would be extremely attractive in a tournament, and besides this we don’t want any of our experienced opponents to get to them first.  So what must we do?  The answer is to isolate the weak player and get into as many heads up pots as possible with him.

By making as many raises as possible pre-flop, we can fold most of the better players and yet still get involved with the caller. 

Extracting Value and the Delayed Value Shove

Low-ball/TAG type strategy is perfect against callers when you have a premium hand.  Each bet you make should be designed to extract value from your opponent.  On the flop, a ½ to ¾ pot bet is appropriate.  If you’ve managed to hit a monster (full house or trips for example), a delayed value shove can be a good play if you think you’re opponents drawing.  This involves letting your opponent hit the turn and river at low cost and giving him the chance to “catch up” or hit something.  You wait for this to happen before moving all-in.

2 Responses to “Playing Against Call-Stations in Poker Tournaments”

  1. NotAPokerGenius says:

    “The trick to extracting value from new players and flat callers is to slow play.”

    – Are you actually serious? Are you trying to educate new players or set them up? If you are playing a calling station you do NOT want to play your big hands passively as this will give them free cards to hit better hands and miss out on precious value.

  2. Hood says:

    Sorry but I have to agree that a lower variance style is more optimal vs. Calling stations. I also agree to playing your monsters slower to get maximum value. If you fear draws and have to post flop confidence to know when your best. Then by all means play your monsters fast. While winning a smaller pot vs. a player you can probably stack by taking a more passive line instead.