A Hero Call In Action

Learn mroe about the hero call, including what one is, and how to do it profitably

Have you ever called a river bet with a marginal or weak hand and discovered you were correct? You, my friend, made a hero call.

A hero call is a risky call often made with marginal hands. These calls are difficult to make, almost heroic, which is why the poker community labeled them as such. Hero calls almost always take place on the river and follow an opponent betting into you or raising your bet.

Making a correct hero call makes you look like one of the game’s elite. Get one wrong, however, and you are left with egg on your face.

A Perfect Example of a Hero Call

The Upswing Poker training site, which is Doug Polk’s baby, posted a perfect example of a hero call in action. A $2/$5 online poker cash game is where the hand played out and involved one of the site’s coaches.

The player opened to $12.00 from the button with Kd-Qs and the big blind three-bet to $51.75. Our player called, and the flop fell 8c-5s-Ad. The big blind bet $27.99, and our player called. The 3h turn saw both players check, leading to the 4s river. The big blind bet $61.77 into the $158.98 pot, and our player made a hero call with king-high.

Why did the player call with king-high after being three-bet preflop and the board containing an ace? His opponent’s bet size was a contributing factor.

Pot Odds Player a Crucial Role in Your Decision

Facing smaller bets means you can call will a wider portion of your range. In this example, our player needs to call $61.77 to potentially win $282.52 (the current pot, plus the $61.77 bet, plus his own $61.77 bet). This equates to only needing to win 21.9% of the time to call profitably.

Our player’s opponent bet small on the flop, checked the turn, and small again on the river. Doing so left him in a spot where our player only had to be correct one-fifth of the time with his call to win the hand.

Putting Villain on a Range of Hands

Now it is time to put our opponent on a range of possible hands. Do not forget villain three-bet pre-flop but did so from the big blind against a button raise. A three-bet in this scenario is not limited to premium hands.

Villain always bets hands such as aces, ace-five, ace-eight, pocket eights, and ace-jack and higher on the 8c-5s-Ad flop. He should bet these strong hands on the turn to build the pot, but he checked. We discount some stronger hands in his range, but keep some in it if he’s getting tricky. His river bet is one of two things: for value or as a bluff.

The Upswing Poker team performed some calculations and arrived at a range of:

  • 25% of the possible AA, 88, A8s, A5s, AJ+
  • A2s, ATs, A9s, A7s, A6s, A4s, A3s, for value
  • JTs, J9s, T9s for bluffs

Our player has 29.25% equity against villain’s estimate range, which is more than enough to call profitably in the long run.

The fact our player has Kd-Qs makes it more likely his opponent is bluffing. Why? Because it makes it much more difficult for him to hold any combination of ace-king or ace-queen.

Compare this to our player holding something like T8s or 98s, which makes it harder for villain to have bluffs in his range – we determined he likely bluffs either JTs, J9s, and T9s.

Making a hero call is a risky move, but also a rewarding one if gotten correct. Your opponents are less likely to bluff you knowing big calls are in your arsenal, making them easier to combat.

Do not get into the habit of hero calling at every opportunity. The pot odds and everything else needs to make sense. Call away if everything points towards it being profitable.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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