Challenge of playing in a poker room of calling stations

RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
Hi everybody,

I'm visiting Budapest (Hungary) and playing at the main poker room. My winrate is dropping as I'm facing a very specific environment in the very micro (50/50 ft or ~0.17/0.17$).

Individually, these players are really bad. Unstudied recreational players with a very loose-passive very straightforward play, very sticky (almost calling station). The dream of all grinders! But when the room is full of them, the dynamics changes. Facing 9 villains and 8 of them have this profile changes the meta game.
- They will call almost anything preflop; they don't fold to a 5X, 10X or even 12X opening. In fact, a 12X opening will create a 4-6-player MW pot. 3-bets, even big (20-25X) will find some callers. (In fact, I saw very very few HU on the flop). This kills any flexibility postflop as trying to hit the pain threshold will result into a SPR between 0.5 and at best 3 (usually around 1,5-2).
- They will call for any good hand (to understand: even 2nd pair medium kicker will call a turn raise and 80% river bet on a board with an obvious possible flush). Even overbet will be called. Bluff is near impossible - and don't forget that we are not in HU but in MW, so even harder to hope win through bluff.

So it's good for our value hands as we can stack them. But since our hands will miss most of the flop, we may just continue paying and having to fold to most of the aggression (because they play faced up and almost never bluff). In this environment I got my best session (+655BB) and my worst one (-649BB). I feel I've to adapt my strategy to avoid another -649BB session and make more +655BB ones.

Here are my ideas to adapt my strategy; I clearly prefer the 2nd one:

1- Tighten up!
With no flexibility and Villain's easily calling, we could avoid a loosy TAG strategy and play a very tight TAG one. The idea is to enter only with best hands and take advantage of the value.
Pro: more value hands and more chance to win.
Con: getting bored waiting for the rare great hands. Maybe they won't pay if too few hands are played

2- Make it cheaper!
I remember Jonathan Little saying that we want to enter the flop with as many hands and as cheap as possible. The idea would be to open-raise small or call preflop (to avoid a bloated pot) and make the game happen postflop (more flexibility because cheaper pot / bigger SPR).
Pro: See more flop so more chance to touch our monster. Our image is active and they might keep calling our monster when we hit. Also because we see more hands postflop we learn how to play them.
Con: Will almost always be in MW pot; position will be more important than never. We "have to" play blatantly straightforward postflop (but most of them aren't able to notice it).


I gladly take any advises and feedback on how to beat a whole poker room of sticky loose-passive and about these strategy adaptations ideas.
Thanks!
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Comments

  • EquityEquity Red Chipper Posts: 13
    1. Keep looking for that pain threshold. If people will call open shoves, then tighten that raise range and just ship it.
    2. Speculate with Axs and set mine pocket pairs. Try to see cheap flops with those hands.
  • BenLeewoodBenLeewood Red Chipper Posts: 268 ✭✭
    Tighten your range a bit and limp with your suited connectors. This would be highly exploitable in a "real" game but it sounds like you're in a marshmallow pit. Getting in for .17 cents and folding when you don't flop equity isn't going to hurt you very much.

    And I'm raising on the lower side. Like you said, they won't fold so you can over bet the flop if you hit and you'll still get called. Then your in position to get stacks in by the river anyway. You don't want stacks in without a strong hand so try to put as little in the pot as you can before you realize your equity.
  • cxy123cxy123 Red Chipper Posts: 24
    How deep is the typical player? If 50-70bb or 100-150bb, that will change a lot of the strategy.
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
    @Equity & @BenLeewood : thanks for these tips. I think they kinda go in my 2nd strategy adaptation (going for cheap and charging when hit).
    cxy123 wrote: »
    How deep is the typical player? If 50-70bb or 100-150bb, that will change a lot of the strategy.
    It really depends. Most of them buy-in / rebuy and play with 100-160BB. Some (~1/3) will seat with ~200-300BB, up to 500BB for few of them.
    BUT because you can't buy chips at the table, it's not unusual that some players have 25-80BB after a losing hand. They just don't buy "too many" chips and put them in their pocket, they in fact wait they have no more chips to get up and buy a new stack.
  • YoshYosh Red Chipper Posts: 511 ✭✭✭
    edited March 17
    Imagine that you are playing heads up against a giant purple octopus named Wally who loves to gamble and plays 8 hands at a time. His tentacles don't collude or soft play - because it's wrong. Now devise a strategy to beat him.
  • cxy123cxy123 Red Chipper Posts: 24
    off the top of my head with deeper stacks at the table.....see flops, play aggressive post when warranted. enjoy variance. PP and A2-9ss limp/call. AT+, KT+, QJs, JTs, open those and play aggressive with TP. I would not play a lot of 87s or the like. If people are really to wide and holding on you aren't going to win enough imo when the random over card lands on the river or you lose to a weird 2p hand. Those middle suited hands need some fold equity.
  • Emperor_MolluskEmperor_Mollusk Red Chipper Posts: 81 ✭✭
    Yosh wrote: »
    Imagine that you are playing heads up against a giant purple octopus named Wally who loves to gamble and plays 8 hands at a time. His tentacles don't collude or soft play - because it's wrong. Now devise a strategy to beat him.

    that's a great exam[ple because an octopus could actually do that! they have neurons everywhere and a lot of their parts operate independently!
  • Sean OSean O Red Chipper Posts: 197 ✭✭
    If they're calling with weak hands on obv flush boards as you described, and letting you limp PF, you're playing an implied odds game. I'm not a PLO player but I suspect it plays more like that...play SC's for flushes and pairs for sets. Let Wally's tentacles create pot odds bonanzas for you. When the aggression is to your left, c/r those good draws. These players will be totally bewildered.
  • Sean OSean O Red Chipper Posts: 197 ✭✭
    And I would not play TPTK type stuff aggressively usually. You'll be dodging 2/3 of the deck on turn/river.
  • Sean OSean O Red Chipper Posts: 197 ✭✭
    And with all due respect to the pain threshold practitioners, most of whom are better players than me, I don't get that in this situation either. Not only is Wally giving you a very exploitable strategy, he's playing all his limbs the same way. Why work hard and risk chips to get them to adjust and be less predictable...and maybe closer to correct?
  • cxy123cxy123 Red Chipper Posts: 24
    Sean O wrote: »
    And I would not play TPTK type stuff aggressively usually. You'll be dodging 2/3 of the deck on turn/river.

    Table is calling with draws and 2nd pair. Play broadway and bet when you hit. You will run into 85 making the nuts on the river sometimes but so what. And yeah if there is a 4 flush on the turn and you have 3 callers you have AQ with no suit,,slow down. Table never folds and plays monsters aggressive...Value bet all day until they push back.
  • NinjahNinjah Red Chipper Posts: 896 ✭✭✭✭
    Sean O wrote: »
    And I would not play TPTK type stuff aggressively usually. You'll be dodging 2/3 of the deck on turn/river.

    Against a calling station, TPTK turns into a nutted hand and can often be bet for massive value.
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
    Yep that's the idea @Sean O . I want to cut to cut all the tentacles of @Yosh 's octopus at once with a monster hand :)
    Here are my adaptations (will be tested tomorrow) ; not really an ABC poker, but a draw-heavy one. All comments are welcome of course!

    Strategy adjustments:
    - (Still) Never limp. We want to build a pot preflop: so always open or call
    - No big open-bet. Open small-ish (4X) to see a cheap flop with drawing hand.
    - Action will be given to 3better only if pot odds are 20% (strong drawing hand) or more (30%+). More if OOP to 3-better.
    - Position is king (and play tighter in SB/BB/UTG/EP i.e. avoiding too weak drawing hands).
    - Calling with at least 2 other players in the pot if a strong drawing hand, at least with 3 other players if marginal drawing hand (to have decent pot odds to call).

    Preflop play - Ranges:
    - 27% open-bet/calling range: 22-99, ATB, all SC (23s+), A2s+, most of suited gapers (53s+), some double suited (74s+), K9s (only triple gaper because 2nd nut FD) and, if late position and good pot odds, some unsuited connector (maybe 87o+).
    5mjyj98au09z.png

    - 2,5% 3-bet range: TT+ and some AKs (I know AJ+ and KQs perform way better in HU, but since it's impossible to iso raise, they will be play as strong drawing hand, even AK)


    Postflop play:
    - Looking for 2 pairs, set, FD and straight (draws) and boat.
    - TP will be played if kicker might be good and depending on board texture. (I agree with @Ninjah for that). Pairs under TP, medium and weak pairs will mostly be fold except if backdoor equity or great odds.
    - Very mathematical play (equity v. pot odds). Based on the observed bet sizes pattern, it should allows to easily see flop+turn (+river if improved on turn).
    - It will be very straightforward game.
    - If OOP: donkbet only turn/river (value bet only). No C-R except on big draws / dynamic boards. C-R for value (with set) will be avoided to not scare Villain (C-R is not a used play there).
  • Sean OSean O Red Chipper Posts: 197 ✭✭
    edited March 18
    Ninjah wrote: »

    Against a calling station, TPTK turns into a nutted hand and can often be bet for massive value.

    I don't think this is always true against 6 calling stations, for example, depending on the specific flop. But yes there will be good TPTK situations you can push, I probably overstated my point. But I think there are easier edges we can push. If I get to limp with SC's and stack people when I hit, I'll play that game all day rather than risk all my chips on TP. To that end, I'd throw out even more offsuit paint hands from my starting range, maybe add more suited stuff although you're already pretty wide there. That's going to lead you to more PF limping, and I wouldn't fight that in this situation.
  • Sean OSean O Red Chipper Posts: 197 ✭✭
    Oops I messed up the quote but you guys get the idea.
  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 100 ✭✭
    What a great opportunity; I’d love to be there! As far as a strategy to approach this with, the best thing you’ll ever find on the subjects of wild games and bad players is Part 3 of Playing the Player. It covers everything, and if you are wondering, for example, how big pairs and suitedness figure in that kind of game, then pages 161, 162, and 163 are required reading.
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Red wrote: »
    @joesize : which book?

    It's called Playing The Player by Ed Miller You can get it from his web site (and maybe from this one) Also Amazon has it. As far as wild games, this is the best resource, but it is also good because it is a complete course on handling nits and other player types.
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 1,835 ✭✭✭✭
    @Red
    I came from a game like this the other night when you had no way of knowing what the other players had. There was no pain threshold and guys were calling raises and BIG raises with Q4os, J6s, 97os, 62s and all kinds of garbage that left me scratching my head.

    I chose to polarize my range... AA-99... I raised.
    Everything else, I limped.
    Raising AK, AQ or small pps was a waste of energy, because if I flopped well, I was getting 3 streets of value.... even if I overbet the pot!

    I tossed out the "balance", I tossed out the "isolation raises", I tossed out the "I'm ahead of his range pre", I tossed out the "pain threshold".... (one guys raise 100 pre once in this ⅓ game and got 5 callers!... and I guarantee most of these hands were NOT premiums)

    I most played post - and even semi-bluffed more (almost never made any pure bluffs).
    These guys were playing bingo and were calling with all draws... so it made no sense to "reward" them by building a pot pre.

    I think I remember Soto as saying that if there is no pain threshold, then you should scale you betting back and play post.
  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Yeah, there's nothing like open raising a bunch of limpers and successfully isolating seven villains.
  • bmaddenbmadden Red Chipper Posts: 28 ✭✭
    edited March 19
    I was in a game last night with numerous multi way all ins for amounts as much as 100BB preflop (These guys dont usually buy in for the max). Pure gambling. At one time this really intimidated me but the advice in Playing the Player really works. I ran bad and got felted twice but kept my rebuys to 50BB. I stuck to the range in Eds book and cheerfully joined the party when I had the necessary cards. It only took one pot to recover even after my bad start. Using the range on pages 161 to 163 you almost always have an overlay on your equity in the pot and they dont pay attention to your tightness. I doubled up one more time before the wild ones busted and left. (They dont usually last too long). Thankfully, when I had 300bb in front of me it reverted to the regularly scheduled mix of players I usually see at this place. But even if the game continued that way, It would have been cool with me because with a capped buy in its unlikely over time that there will be anyone left that can stack you and even if they put a big dent in your stack the odds are still on your side to recover. These games are so easy to play but it can get boring if you go card dead so bring your ipod and dont let yourself get sucked into the madness. The coolest part about it if you dont get very unlucky is that you are buying in for 50BB at a time so when you do start winning you are basically stacking them with their own money. As a side note.....when I first sit at an unfamiliar table I keep my initial investment small and then top off if it doesnt look like a crazy game. Unrelated....but just curious....with stakes that low did the rake even make it possible to beat the game?
  • bmaddenbmadden Red Chipper Posts: 28 ✭✭
    joesize wrote: »
    Yeah, there's nothing like open raising a bunch of limpers and successfully isolating seven villains.

    lol
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
    If I get Ed Miller's idea right, we should look to buy-in small, wait for "the" hand in the designated range and go all-in, knowing that we do a +EV move. Right?

    I see this as a big variance game. We should get our stack / bankroll ready for such ups and downs, shouldn't we?

    But when we win once, our stack is suddenly way bigger. Would such move still relevant / possible with a deep stack against these wild players? (I feel not)
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 762 ✭✭✭
    I'm finally back from my session (last message was during a break I took). +29BB after 10hours... meh...

    Here is my feedback
    - The table is NOT like the one described by Ed Miller. They are way more passive: they will call large (large bet size, large range), but rarely 3bet (and if so, only with monster). So the idea of going all-in with a small stack but good equity is not really possible, or only with a really small stack (like 20-25BB).
    - Pro: if we don't push too much, premium combos get paid easily and pretty well. I got good hands / great flops at the beginning and could go up to 540BB. I had then down (see next comment) and ups again with same kind of hands. So you get your value easily.
    - Con: These hands are rare (even if I was seriously card dead) and I spent most of the time getting grinned. In a MW pot there is almost always someone with the TP or at least middle pair - i.e. often above one or both of our cards - and will stick to it even without a good kicker. So if we don't hit the flop we can't do much except folding.
    - The major issue seems to be how to play middle pairs. Entering the flop with 97s, JTo, or even KJs is good when we have good odds preflop. But when have T9s on J94rainbow or KJ on AT5 (or even on T85) with backdoor FD we rely on very thin drawing. And Facing even half pot bet without possibility of bluffing (because we gonna get called 90% of the time) is annoying: do we straightforwardly fold and give auto-profit or do we call when Villain has surely at least middle pair (i.e. calling without having enough equity to pot odds) ?

    Ho and:
    bmadden wrote: »
    These games are so easy to play but it can get boring if you go card dead so bring your ipod and dont let yourself get sucked into the madness.
    I absolutely confirm. I played 10hours and had 6 "real" hand. I was mostly card dead. And without possibility to bluff, this is really boring X_X
  • bmaddenbmadden Red Chipper Posts: 28 ✭✭
    Red wrote: »
    If I get Ed Miller's idea right, we should look to buy-in small, wait for "the" hand in the designated range and go all-in, knowing that we do a +EV move. Right?

    I see this as a big variance game. We should get our stack / bankroll ready for such ups and downs, shouldn't we?

    But when we win once, our stack is suddenly way bigger. Would such move still relevant / possible with a deep stack against these wild players? (I feel not)

    Yes when you win it often is a triple up or more and creates a big stack. However, those who just got felted can only rebuy in for the cap and most of the time they rebuy short so even less danger for you. The stacks that can threaten you gradually diminish as yours trends upward. Does this always happen? Of course not. However, if you are running at least halfway decent and have enough bankroll to continue, you have a steady edge. The whole point is that when you first buy into this type of game your stack WILL be going in early and there WILL be variance. Your goal is to eventually get to the point where YOU are the monster stack and it would take a nasty losing streak to felt you. Of course, I'm not getting involved in a 3 way where a big stack nit that u are familiar with who hasn't played a hand in 2 hours reshoves over a fishy opener unless I have KK+ lol. You still have to act on obvious reads and sometimes tighten up even more than the book says but that's actually pretty rare. The beauty of the whole thing is even if you start out losing 3 buy ins and then build your stack to say 300 bb then lose a few in a row and have to rebuy, its still only another short buy with a good chance of rebuilding. Honestly, this is actually worst case scenario. To be honest, I play about 30 to 40 hours a week of live 1/2 or 2/5 and probably run into this situation about once a month or so at the most on average but its a huge opportunity to cash in big with what I think is small risk if you use this strategy. That being said, if by some miracle you can find a reasonable spot preflop to see a flop cheaply in late position before committing definitely go for it. Also there is the table change option. lol. But my mindset in these games is "Hey, I'm probably only risking at most about 200bb of the bankroll I brought with me for the potential of a huge night and the likelihood of winning at least something. These are the games a lot of us dream about lol. Most of the time the upside is not nearly as high but the risk is actually bigger.
  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Some of what you guys are describing here seems to relate back to short stack strategy. If you want to explore that, there is another book that Miller published about ten years ago, called Getting Started in Hold Em. In that book there is a short stack strategy you will find in the No Limit section that is probably the gold standard for that kind of play. It’s a mechanical system that calls for the tightest of tight play. It lays it out so that, if you have the patience for it, you can start right out with an edge, and he has already figured out the best ways to change up your play when your stack does start to increase. If you want to play it safe and win a little, and aren’t in a hurry to build up your playing skills you might want try it out for a while. At any rate, you’ll know how to tell how well the other short stackers are playing when they’re at your table.
  • volcanovolcano Red Chipper Posts: 295 ✭✭
    edited March 20
    The odds are in your favor, use bankroll management and strong preflop ranges to beat them. Youl have to do more to crush them though.
  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 3,304 ✭✭✭✭
    that's a great example because an octopus could actually do that! they have neurons everywhere and a lot of their parts operate independently!

    Well, Emperor_Mollusk sounds like exactly the sort of person who would know that, so I'll take your word for it.

  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 3,304 ✭✭✭✭
    Ninjah wrote: »
    Against a calling station, TPTK turns into a nutted hand and can often be bet for massive value.

    With the "a" of "a calling station" being the key word there. In multiway pots, you have to be a little more careful since the average hand when 5 or 6 players see the flop is going to be higher than 1 pair. But if you want to ride the variance train, TPTK can be very profitable even multiway as long as they promise to call too much with top pair bad kicker, or middle pair, or even draws for that matter.

  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 3,304 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 21
    Yes, I think some variation of J. Little would be fine, with the exception being that you're not going to make little bets postflop (unless you make quads or something). Also, I think limping would be a good idea. The key is to play hands that do better multiway than your opponents, but make sure you're not raising too big or calling too big raises with very speculative hands. But if you can get away with limping 76s along with several others, and they won't fold to large bets postflop and can't be bluffed, then why on earth would you raise to begin with? It plays into your own hands to have a small investment as long as you have control over the payout (i.e. larger). Really, this type of game allows you to set your own price because you have so many opportunities to get in with various hands. So don't get fancy and balance your range or refuse to limp. This is all about good investment opportunities.

    With the big pairs, consider raising to 2,000 ft. Even if you can't get folds, this is worth it as long as you get this much money in preflop.
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