Deciding Whether to Hero Call When an Opponent is Polarized

Danny Tang
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  • He was either super strong or was jamming with air. Danny Tang breaks down a "hero call" hand.

  • An exercise in range-narrowing in this tournament hand analysis from Danny Tang.

Sometimes in a no-limit hold'em hand the sequence of decisions and the texture of the board leads a player to narrow an opponent's range to such an extent that a big river bet can only mean two things — extreme strength or complete air.

Danny Tang found himself in such a spot in a hand versus James Chen not too long ago at a tournament in the Red Dragon series in Macau.

Tang was tangling with a tough opponent in Chen, who last week added to his many tournament cashes with a final table finish in the HK$400,000 Super High Roller at PSC Macau won by Steve O'Dwyer. Chen finished seventh in that event, then made another deep high roller run by taking ninth in the HK$103,000 High Roller won by Sosia Jang.

Deciding Whether to Hero Call When an Opponent is Polarized 101
James Chen

The Tang-Chen hand began with third player opening from the button, then Chen three-bet from the small blind, a reraise about three times the opening raise. Tang looked down at {A-}{K-Hearts} in the big blind, and noting the especially deep stacks chose to cold four-bet.

The original raiser folded, and after thinking for a while Chen called. From the blinds, then, the pair saw a flop fall {Q-}{J-}{2-} — a rainbow flop (all different suits) that included one heart.

Chen checked and Tang decided to make a continuation bet — a decision he second-guesses in the video below. Chen then check-raised 2.5x Tang's bet.

"Nothing with value check-raises me," explains Tang, noting how Chen's play tends to remove hands like {A-}{Q-}, {J-}{J-}, {Q-}{Q-} and {A-}{A-} from his range. Tang decided to call.

The turn brought the {Q-Hearts}, pairing the board and further narrowing Chen's value range. Chen bet again, and Tang called once more.

The river was the {3-Hearts}, putting a third heart on the board, and this time Chen jammed all in. Tang talks through his thought process below as he weighed whether or not to make a hero call with his ace-king high. For Tang, Chen was polarized, either having made a backdoor flush (or perhaps having pocket jacks) or having nothing at all.

Tang eventually came up with the call. Take a look to find out what happened:

Tang managed to have a successful PokerStars Championship Macau series, cashing five times including making two final tables. Catch up on all of the results from the major events from PSC Macau below:

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