Playing Against Calling Stations
The calling station, or loose-passive player profile, is one of the easiest to exploit. They are defined by their inability to fold and their lack of aggression. When you identify a calling station at the table, there are some easy strategies that you can utilize to maximize your EV.
Essentially, they have a ‘slot player’ mentality. They just want to see the flop and hope to hit a hand. Or, if they have a draw, they’ll call because they want to see their card on the turn or river.
As you know, however, it’s incredibly difficult to actually make a hand in NLHE. The calling station won’t get there most of the time, and we can make them pay for it.
Shifting Your Ranges
The first step to playing against calling stations is shifting your range towards value. There’s no point bluffing someone who never folds, so our strategy will revolve around playing good cards and making big bets when we hit the flop.
Play a merged range instead of a polarized one. We can also widen our 3-betting range because they are more likely to call with a worse hand, and building the pot early will allow us to extract maximum value on later streets.
Though it’s certainly possible for the calling station to draw out on us, we shouldn’t be afraid to bet thin value hands that might not be good enough in other situations. These include hands like low pocket pairs or high pair with a bad kicker.
Isolate the Calling Station
Whenever you have a hand worth playing and the calling station is in the pot pre-flop, your primary objective should be to isolate them. Other people at the table probably want to get in on their juicy action as well, but we don’t want to worry about contending with them after the flop.
To do so, you’ll need to consider both players’ pain thresholds. You want your bet to be large enough to hurt the other person, but not so large that not even the calling station is willing to call. It’s about striking that balance right in the middle.
This is especially crucial with hands like Ax. These hands are easily dominated, but they’re still good enough to value bet the calling station. Make sure your pre-flop raises are large enough to isolate them, and then you’ll be free to put the calling station on blast during the post-flop streets.