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Don't Be a Calling Station

03/02/2018 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently told about a poker hand that illustrates a costly mistake that many amateur players make on a regular basis. In a $1/$2 nine-handed cash game with very deep $600 effective stacks, the player in first position limped and Hero limped behind with 6-6.

Hero’s limp is perfectly fine, given the deep stacks. Even if someone yet to act makes a reasonably sized raise, Hero can easily call due to his excellent pot odds. Raising to about $10 may have a bit of merit if it will usually get the pot heads-up, but that will not be the case in most small stakes cash games.

The hijack, cutoff, button, and small blind all limped. The big blind, who is known to be a splashy calling station, raised to $27. The initial limper folded and Hero called.

If stacks were $350 or shorter, Hero should fold due to his severely diminished implied odds due to the gigantic raise size. However, since the stacks are 300 big blinds deep, Hero can justify splashing around, looking to flop a set.

All the other limpers folded. The flop came Ks-Qh-8d. The opponent bet $20 into the $64 pot. Hero called.

It is worth noting that most calling stations tend to play in a passive manner, not an aggressive one. This would lead me to think the opponent’s preflop raising range should be quite strong. Strong preflop raising ranges connect well with flops containing two high cards. If Hero happens to have the best hand, the opponent will often continue bluffing on the turn and river, forcing Hero to fold. Despite the excellent pot odds, Hero should concede the pot.

The turn was the (Ks-Qh-8d)-5d. The opponent bet $80 into the $104 pot and Hero called.

While Hero’s flop call was perhaps justifiable due to the excellent pot odds, he has an easy fold on the turn. He loses to all made hands and the opponent’s bluffs likely have a decent amount of equity. This turn call is lighting money on fire. If you consistently make calls like this, there is almost no way you can be a long-term winning player.

The river was the (Ks-Qh-8d-5d)-Kd. The opponent went all-in for $473 into the $264 pot.

Interestingly enough, I do not think calling in this situation would be too terrible. If the opponent is playing well, he should be pushing with his premium made hands, perhaps A-K and better, as well as many of his bluffs. While it is difficult to say what his bluffs are, they are likely A-J, A-T, and J-T. Hero’s 6-6 is a reasonable bluff catcher because it does not block any of the opponent’s potential bluffs. I would much prefer to call with 6-6 in this spot as opposed to T-T, even though T-T is a bit higher on the hand ranking chart, because having two Tens in your hand makes it harder for your opponent to have A-T and J-T. That said, the opponent is almost certainly not bluffing because most small stakes players simply don’t bluff often enough, especially for all their money.

Hero finally decided to fold. The opponent was a gent and showed A-K.

I hope you enjoyed this hand analysis. If you want to see more hand breakdowns on, let me know on twitter @JonathanLittle. Thanks for reading!