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In my no-limit Texas hold'em home games, players are allotted approximately $2500 worth of chips. The starting blinds are $5/$10, and are increased everytime the button has moved around the whole table. The increment scheme is first go from $5/$10 to $25/$50 and then the blinds keep getting doubled in subsequent rounds. There are usually about 7-10 players in the table.

The players are people who will call bets/raises all the way to the end if the board matches something in their hands, or if they have a draw or even a high card such as an Ace, regardless of pot odds. For instance, they are willing to keep calling pot-sized bets just to wait for their inside straight draws. Because many people are involved in the pot, there's a high chance at least one of them would make the straight to beat me.

I have tried different strategies:

  • Selective pre-flop: Only enter the pot with premium hands pre-flop. A raise usually does not take out many players because as I mentioned above, they almost always call. A raise pre-flop actually does opposite of what I usually want post-flop since if I would then need an extremely large bet to chase them away. Even then, they may not go away if they have a draw or a high card.
  • Limp in frequently: It comes down to a dice roll. Unless I hit a monster, I cannot really tell where I stand against so many people (generally around 4). It is also difficult for me to call a bet, knowing almost everyone remaining will also participate. With the blinds going up so quickly, this strategy has proved to be really costly.
  • Bluff weak boards: I tried to bluff flops with three widely separated cards such as J♥7♠3♣. It sometimes works if none those remaining people do not have either an Ace or the top/middle pair, otherwise they will call and see what comes out on the turn and river.

Further, I often see myself play either too many hands (such as Ace-Low, King-Middle or middle connectors hoping to hit a flush, a straight or a top pair in a weak board) and miss or play too few hands and the increasing blinds gobble me up. What sorts of hands should I look to play in this kind of games? With so many people involved, would playing low cards be more profitable than high ones, seeing that if my high card hits then likely do theirs?

So, what would be the optimal pre/post-flop strategies to deal with games having blinds increased very quickly, and players almost always call all the way to the end?

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    If they always call, then (1) rarely bluff, and (2) value bet everything. Limping in a lot probably isn't a good idea. Just play tight and don't fold weakly. – Lee Daniel Crocker May 29 '15 at 0:45
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  1. Focus on playing hands that have polarized showdown value. High flush draws and pocket pairs (preflop) are good examples. Basically, against passive callers, the difficulty is that you don't gain information about what they have during the hand, so you have to play only hands where you can be sure you're either leading or losing with high certainty, and then get huge +EV out of those (due to the inherent statistical irrationality of calling in most situations). Dominating draws are particularly sweet, because passive callers will lose more when they actually make it.

  2. Don't limp, you want FEWER players in each hand you're playing when you're aggressive and everybody else is passive. The situation you're describing where multiple players are (irrationally) calling and chasing a draw, with one of them usually making it in the end, is called implicit collusion, and very often is -EV for the lead bettor. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_theorem . You need to isolate one or two players and make them pay post-flop, especially the worst offenders. This is where preflop position matters. You can often isolate a passive caller with an out-of-position three-bet.

  3. Raise big on the turn if you're leading but don't think you can call a big raise on the river (e.g. top-top). Against amateurs, you can get more folds on the turn than on the flop (and certainly compared to the river), because amateurs usually think they're paying to see two more cards when they call a bet on the flop (outs x4%) when in fact they're paying for one. You also usually have a better idea of what they're drawing to compared to the flop.

  4. Don't bluff weak boards. The problem as you say is that they can call with two over-cards, and if you're OOP you've turned a pot you might have had a chance of winning to something where you'll basically always have to fold because you assume they called with a strong hand (i.e. you paid for bad information). Against people who only play their hands and don't do re-raises, just bluff very strong boards (e.g. K Q Q) when your hand has basically no outs.

  • Thanks for your answer. Besides high flush draws and pocket pairs, which come very rarely, what other hands should I pick out to play with pre-flop? I have a very hard time with hand selection pre-flop, as two or three mis-chosen pre-flop hands could cost me almost my whole stack. I have also updated my original question accordingly. – IcySnow May 26 '15 at 15:03
  • At full ring, you lose an average of 1BB between each hand you play even if you only play pocket pairs, AK, and Ace-high flush draws. With correct play against passive callers, you can easily average >5BB per hand by just playing those hands. – Yang May 26 '15 at 22:19
  • If blinds get too big in the end (you or your opponent's stack is <20BB), then reduce the number of drawing hands you play and play more high cards. But in general, you should focus on big draws when you play against passive players. – Yang May 26 '15 at 22:27
  • what other hands should I pick out to play with pre-flop? Since your home games immitates the action found on tournaments, i suggest playing only pairs, high flushes and any suited connectors on early stages (small blinds), then keep adding hands as blinds are getting bigger in relation to your stack (that is: stack / blinds). Generally, the bigger this ratio, the more potential the hands need to have (eg. not getting all-in with AKo when this ratio is big, however a 55 have tremendous equity when it hits) – user1165 May 27 '15 at 1:14
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As I am not allowed to comment below 50 reputation I have to post an answer.

I mostly agree with the points of Yang. I would consider playing a Tight Agrgressive (TAG) style of Play as the best optpion here. The general guideline of poker is to maximize your wins and minimize your losses. Meaning to extract the most possible value if you're ahead with smth. like TPTK Top Pair Top Kicker or above (Trips, Set, Flush, TwoPair, etc..).

Along with a general clue of Showdown/Handvalue this will make you a winning player at this so called "level". If you have Top Pair Top Kicker I would try to extract some value on the flop with a so called Continuation Bet. You should re-evaluate your own hands strength on every street: Flop, Turn, River. If you pick up a monster somewhere like hitting your two pair on the river or hitting trips consider playing for your opponents whole stack. With a 3/4 Pot sized Bet on every betting round you can extract very much. If your hand just stays as a top/mid pair you can check the Turn or even the River for pot control to lose the least if you're not sure where you're at.

Passive calling stations are almost always fishs. They do not care about anything but their cards. They do not know about position. They do not know about pot odds or odds in general. They don't have any clue about the fundamentals of poker. They only care about what they are holding and will call you down with almost anything as soon as they have connected anyhow with the board.

I have a flushdraw? So I call. I have a straightdraw? So I call. I have a pair? I sure should call! I have an Ace? Let me peel one.

Just use this kind of mindset to your own advantage. If they are willing to pay the wrong price like 3/4 Pot, Pot or even 1 1/2 Pot for the draw, make them pay! In the long rung all this money will be yours.

Never ever limp entering the pot. Raise it up to 2-3xBB + 1BB for every limper. If there are more than 3-4 limpers just add another BB. This increases the chance of isolating the weak player. You want to be up against the minimum of opponents to get a better chance of evaluating the strength of your own hand as the board develops.

Play mostly in position Position gives you the advantage of you acting after your opponent. Acting as the last and fire a shot if ahead is usually better then just shooting at the pot without any information and still other people left to act behind you. As your position gets better postflop you can try to loosen up your starting handrange a bit. Position also gives you the tool of pot control. If you're not havin a good hand you can fold or check behind your opponent. If you have a monster you can start spilling in your chips or raise or even reraise your opponent.

Never bluff a fish! They tend to call more often than to fold. They also tend to have the usual scare cards like Aces or a King or Queen. In addition never bluff a uncoordinated board like in your example. Bluffs only can work if you have a "thinking" opponent who evaluates both, you're line of play and the board itself. The story for a bluff has to be right so he can say "okay.. the way he played this.. it feels like an Ace for me". Amateurs don't have this kind of thinking. They just think "well, does he have it or not. Alright nevermind, I'll just call."

Poker mostly is a game of people, but this only applies when your opponents are thinking and planning out a hand. Your competition seems to be the gambling part of the poker comunity, playing for fun and luck.

Being the better player, you should consider this as a factor for your playstyle. The usual approach is to play good hands in good Position. Extract the most if you're ahead and if not, just go home. Speculative play involves more luck than skill. You can't rely on luck. Rely on your skill and get the best winning % chances when entering a hand.

Those are only some topics of the fundamentals of poker. They aren't completed in any sense here. Just a little starter.

Hope this helps.

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Against these types of players you want to make a strong pair and bet big on all streets for value. If you get raised, just fold unless you have a stronger hand than medium two pair. You don't even need to continuation bet as a bluff against these players. Firing double or triple barrel bluffs is totally unnecessary and is just fancy play syndrome at this type of game.

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Two and a half additional points:

1) You do not mention what the buy-in is for those $2,500 in chips, but the style of play you cite indicates the players assign low value to those chips. So, to help change the "calling station" behavior, you should increase the buy-in or reduce the number of chips received.

2) Winning against such players is not about the hands you play, it is about how you bet. Play your hands (and mix it up) as you always would, but overbet the pot and make them pay for their statistical faux pas.

2.5) Recommend not always dismissing players who stay with you against the odds as clueless. Some players know exactly what they are doing, but they want to play more hands because they are having fun or the stakes are crazy small for them and they feel like messing around. Some value the thrill of an implied-odds win much more than humdrum pot-odds plays and wins. See if you can figure out their true motivation but, meanwhile, overbet and make them pay.

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Good players don't call :) so if you play against fishies, you have to be very selective. Play only premuim hands and always raise them (even if everyone calls, you still have very good chances to win with a premium hand, so they are just inversting in a pot that will be yours in most cases). If you don't get good hands, play position and play it strong. Do not limp hoping to hit something - this happens very seldom. Be patient to fold AK, AQ, AJ if you didn't hit the board (fishies always hit something, the latest - on river, and will beat your AK with 72). And as someone already said before - never ever bluff a fish, they call with any hand. Always.

My experience: I noticed that fishies always overestimate the draws, even a gutshot. So if you play a strong hand, have hit a pair already and try to C-bet the fish out of hand, if there is a draw on the board, and he just calls you till the river - never check a river, if a draw didn't come and call his bet on river (if not too much). They are waiting for draws way too often and try to steal the pot at the end, if the river didn't make a flush/straight. But that's my observation.

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This is a very profitable table to be at but you can't do very much bluffing. Just play your normal range of hands preflop. But if you are getting tons of calls then you should just give up more postflop. I would not even bother making a flop CBet against multiple opponents like this if I missed completely.

On the other hand you can also value bet lighter against players like this. You can get much more value than normal with hands like top pair and middle pair for example.

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