Calling Station Thought Process

What’s the thought process behind calling stations? Do they think everyone is always bluffing so they want to be the Sheriff of the table and overcall as a result?

There is actually logic to being a calling station in some situations, on Replay in particular, though it is almost never successful in the long-term.

The specific play you are referring to, calling on too many rivers is not logical. The most common reason is that people are only thinking about their own hand strength and not really considering their range or the bettor’s range or hand. It’s level 1 thinking in terms of meta-game. “I have two-pair, so I have to call” or “I have AA so I have to call”. Especially on a free-chip site people may not care or may not possess the knowledge to consider the complexity of the game, and the same is also often true in other low-stakes poker settings. Other players view more active players as maniacs or bullies and will try to play sheriff as you suggest.

The reality is that in low-stakes games bets on the river are usually extremely strong, especially in multi-way pots, so it is much more profitable to overfold than to overcall, obviously being flexible for each individual situation. The number of times I advocate overfolding in this forum is going to have people bombing rivers against me, but let 'em try it because I will assess frequencies and hero you…

More broadly, the preflop and flop calling stations on Replay actually make some degree of sense. Someone on this forum used the term “fish schooling”. Each successive limper/caller gives everyone better pot odds (despite worse total equity), and if they limp all kinds of hands then they don’t feel committed to continuing if they miss. If you open to 4x UTG with AA, the first caller with T6s is making a huge mistake by calling, but once four other players call the original call has much better pot odds. Plus, they can easily fold that trash when they miss, while you face a daunting task with AA of getting value without getting stacked out of position in a multi-way pot.

Because the play is so passive, with few raises and almost no 3-bets, they can see flops with relative safety and just hope to smash them. That doesn’t change the fact that their pre-flop calls are generally -EV, especially since they lack initiative and a plan for winning the pot when they miss. These players are also not typically comfortable with post-flop play, so going to flops with marginal hands is probably costing them additional EV postflop as well.

I know one particular player who wins a lot of chips by going to the flop with almost any two cards because he knows how to get paid when he hits and how to minimize losses the rest of the time. Many players here also overvalue AA/KK and will never fold them, which gives additional implied odds when calling a preflop raise. If you hit trips with your 76s you stand to win 200 bbs, while you only lose 3 bbs if you give up on the flop.


So basically he’s playing a type of small ball (he doesn’t get pot committed unless he has a great hand)?

Yes, and I give him a lot of credit because he is making his life a lot harder by having a huge range of starting hands and facing multiple opponents who can be holding any two cards. It takes a great deal of skill to know where you stand against 3 opponents when you have 75o and flop two pair on a 579 board.

My preferred strategy is the complete opposite, closer to traditional ABC poker where you want to play heads-up pots if possible, play hands that I know how to play, and raise large enough to have a sense of what your opponent might reasonably continue with. Trash hands like 84o or 29o are almost always very vulnerable, even when they flop huge and are really hard to play postflop. People say JJ or AQ are tough to play, most of us don’t even consider what we’d do with those trash hands.

Edit: This makes me think about the importance of having a plan when you decide to play any hand. It seems like too often people think, I have decent cards or I’m getting a good price or let’s just see a flop, without really thinking about what they are going to do. Are they going to have to bluff with their draws? Bet out of position with a weak pair? Call with a bad kicker? This is probably the biggest leak in most people’s game.

It could be more +EV (or less -EV) to 3-bet and look to get a fold than default calling to see lots of flops and just figuring things out on the fly. That’s why people choose a range of hands (or should be why). You can play hands that are strong enough to flop well and get value and some hands that flop draws so that you can semi-bluff, but if there are hands where you don’t really know what to do (typically hands like K8, Q9, A6), it can be better just to fold them or maybe 3-bet. Of course, against high level players you need to balance frequencies and ranges, but for the most part it can be pretty formulaic, at least in cash games.

So is it positive EV to limp a lot of speculative hands on this site if you’re a beast post-flop (like the guy you’re talking about) and assuming you’re at a table full of passive calling stations who will pay you off when you hit?

If you’re a beast post-flop, then yes it is +EV, but I cannot answer whether it is the MOST +EV line because hands can be played so many different ways. My speculative answer is that the most +EV style is to play relative ABC poker with a lot of polarizing bets.

I have had a lot of conversations with the top players on Replay (idiotplayer who is the all time #1, unranked who was #2 until they deleted their account, gamergirl who is now #2, nobluf #10, bbkids #12, blackwidow #13, and love2eattacos #18). These are the “best” players on Replay in my opinion for how they are able to get value when they have it and apply pressure to get folds when they don’t. And they all play similar (but different enough) styles where they open a lot of hands, don’t play passively, and choose good spots to make polarizing bets.

Idiotplayer and unranked in particular were able to play a wider range of hands while being balanced because they seemed to impeccably judge when they could get more value, when they had sufficient showdown value, and when they could bluff. They were able to easily dismantle most of the old top players (except Birba). Prior to their arrival, the most chips anyone had was 4-5b, and they both shot up to 7-10+b once they got going.

Imagine you are playing heads up cash 200bbs deep. You’re BB, they open to 2.25x, and they have told you that they open 85% of hands heads up. You look down at AhQs and 3-bet to 7x. They call, and the board comes 4s5sQd. You bet half pot (7 bbs), and they check-raise to 25bbs. Gross spot, but you are near the top of your range. You might 3-bet with 44/55, but who knows. Either way, you have to call because they can have a ton of straight draw or flush draw combos as well as 45/44/55.

So now the pot is 64bb with ~168bb left behind and you have TPTK. Turn is an offsuit 8, which means their combos of 76s are now the nuts, but otherwise hasn’t changed much. They bet 40bb, obviously setting up a river shove. You are hating life but you kinda have to call. The river is the A of spades, giving you two pair, and with less than a pot sized bet effective, they go all in. Do you call?

That is a pretty normal hand against idiotplayer/unranked/gamergirl. If you call, they could turn over hands that you beat like 65s/54s/64s/78s/68s, but they can also have a similar number of combos of nuttish hands like straights/flushes/sets that they would have played the exact same way. It’s a nightmare. And you imagine trying to figure them out on all kinds of different board types and spots where your hand strength is even more marginal. But I seem to have gone on a tangent…

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I’d also say there are different varieties of calling stations. There’s the fit or fold calling station - they’ll call a raise pre-flop (just because they want to see a flop) but if they miss the flop they’ll fold and if they only catch a small piece of the board, they’ll fold if you put enough pressure on them. Then there’s the kamikaze calling station that will still call huge bets even if they totally miss the flop (these are quite common at the lower stakes).

How thin would you bet for value against a kamikaze station?

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It’s tough to generalize because it depends on the exact player, your history, and the game situation. In a deep stack cash game, against a player who calls too much I generally bet two streets for value (1/2 to 3/4 pot) with strong top pair (8/9/T/J/Q/K/A) decent kicker (9/T/J kicker), bet one street and check-call with medium pairs (6/7/8) or pocket pairs lower than top pair (like 66/77/88) or top pair weak kicker (eg., K4s or Q6s), and bet three streets for value with top pair top kicker or better. But it really depends on the position and the player. It is often better to check to induce a bluff against a lot of players, especially out of position, but be wary of wet boards when they can easily improve to beat you.

Some “kamikaze” stations can be bet thin for value because they will call with anything, and these are probably more common at the low stakes. But there are also nit stations who will fold a lot but have a certain hand strength that they will never fold. Like, some players will call off 200 big blinds with top pair, so in these cases you don’t want to bet for thin value, but wait for the right monster to crack their whole stack.

I love busting those guys when I flop a set :money_mouth_face:

What’s funny about it, and makes poker fun in general, is the meta-game. Against one opponent, I might know they only bet when they have a monster, so I might fold top pair of kings with an ace kicker like it’s nothing. And against a different opponent, I would consider calling off 200 big blinds with top pair of kings nine kicker. There are so many factors and permutations to evaluate!

And looking at it from the other perspective, it’s like some players have the logic backwards. They might only open with AA/KK and think “my opponents are foolish for calling me, I am getting value because my hand is so strong!” But the opponents are thinking, “I know they only have AA/KK, so even if I miss 9 out of 10 flops, I will get paid off 20x on the one I hit”.

Whereas a player who also opens a normal range of hands including 54s/A3s/KT/33/J8s can raise comfortably thinking “If I miss, I can win some with c-bets or just give up and fight for the next pot” and his opponents should be thinking “maybe I shouldn’t call because he is going to apply pressure and not pay me off if I hit.” But instead they often go “Oh I finally have a hand, time to crack this bully!” and they bet huge, and I can easily fold, just to pop back up and win the next pot.


From the other side, you say “oh, I finally have a hand, time to crack this bully”, and act weak and let him bet and take himself down, lol. If you project a certain image, this can work great.


That could work, but trying to trap is pretty dangerous, especially if your opponent has any balance and won’t always pay you off.

Depends on how many people are in the pot and the opponent (and the board and what you’ve got). If they’ll bet three streets everytime you check and I’m isolated with them and flop a set or better I’d let them bet into me then get it all in on the river when they’re pot committed.

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What’s the thought process for calling such huge bets with 7 - 2 suited (especially with the board already paired up)??

I don’t think there’s much of a thought process to it: Not real money.

He stayed in cheap pre-flop, and then after hitting two clubs on the flop he committed to go for the flush (and not even a good flush with holding 7-2), come hell or high water.

Happens all the time when the money isn’t real.


"I’m suited. Won’t it be sick if I can win this hand with 7-2? If I can win and show those cards they won’t know how to deal with me beating them with bad cards, and I’ll gain some advantage…

Ooh a flush is coming, I can feel it! I’m going to be so lucky! They’ll never see this coming!..

Try to push me off a draw, will you? Ha! I think not! I’m too strong here, I have to see this through."


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

The thought process goes like this…

Man, I love YouTube! What was the world like before cat videos? Hahaha, did you see that stupid cat try to make that jump?

What was that sound? Oh, it’s my time to act, better hit call so I can get back to watching skateboarders land crotch first on metal poles. I’m suited, so let’s just click “call any” while I go grab another brewski.

Hahaha, this is great! I wonder if I can find any new prank videos?