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Making It Work
I speak in very broad terms here, but as with most things in poker, it really comes down to the player. Different players, all of whom could easily be labeled calling stations, call in different situations for different reasons. Some can be bluffed in one way, some in another, and the most stubborn not at all. But there are a few principles to keep in mind when attempting to bluff a calling station:
1. Maximum pressure is important. It is not a coincidence that my example comes from tournament play. There are a great many players who are much too loose in general but much too tight when it comes to the last of their chips in a poker tournament. These players can be bluffed very profitable provided you are willing to put them to the test for everything they have and provided that ҥverything they haveҠis enough that they will feel they still have a shot at winning if they fold. This works particularly well in the early stages of major live tournaments where stacks are deep and players have traveled great distances and paid great sums of money to enter.
2. DonӴ bluff a short stack. This is the corollary to rule one; you canӴ put maximum pressure on a player with very few chips. Players who get short in tournament play are often ready to double up or go home and are not in the mood to fold anything that could be a winner. Similarly, players who buy in short at cash games do so precisely because they do not want to face the difficult decisions that come with deep stack poker. They donӴ have enough chips to make a situation tough, so donӴ try putting them to one.
3. Use caution in fixed limit games. You canӴ apply maximum pressure when your opponent is getting 6:1 on a call. However, there are comparable situations where a playerӳ willingness to play weak hands creates situations where he can profitably be bluffed. In Razz, for instance, a player who will call 3rd street with a face card showing or will peel when he bricks on 4th can often be bluffed on later streets simply because it will be very obvious to you that he cannot possibly have a hand stronger than, for instance, K-J-x-x-x. As long as your board looks reasonably strong, this player is asking you to keep firing at him even if youӲe actually double paired.
4. Itӳ okay to get caught. But donӴ try it again. Calling stations look for excuses to call. Once theyӶe seen you bluff, even if it wasnӴ against them, donӴ expect them to lay anything down. In their minds, you are a bluffer. Now it really is time to tighten up, value bet more hands, and never bluff.