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Situational Poker: Deconstructing a Hero Call

Situational Poker: Deconstructing a Hero Call


  • Table dynamics, a player read, bet sizing, and range narrowing lead Carlos Welch to a big river call.

  • You have pocket aces, but the board gets increasingly scary with every postflop street. Fold or stay?

I recently played an online tournament in which I’d had a few battles against a player who had position on me. This dynamic led me to believe that he would be gunning for me if he got an opportunity in a future hand. By anticipating this move, I was able to take advantage of the situation and make a thin hero call.

The Hand

The blinds were 1,500/3,000 with a 300 ante. I had about 61 BBs and after being dealt {A-Clubs}{A-Spades} I opened with a 2x raise from early position (UTG+1), and Villain who had about 43 BBs called on my immediate left. It folded around to the big blind who called as well.

The flop came {9-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{3-Spades}. The big blind checked, and with a little more than 7 BB in the pot I continuation bet for 3.5 BB. Villain called and big blind folded.

I think a solid range for a player to have in this spot would include pocket pairs (from {3-}{3-} all of the way to {Q-}{Q-}) and medium-suited connectors to big-suited one-yappers — hands like {10-}{9-}-suited, {9-}{8-}-suited, {J-Hearts}{10-Hearts}, and {K-Hearts}{J-Hearts} — as well as {A-Hearts}{Q-}+.

Being a tight player, my range was likely perceived as being pretty strong here. I’d expect to get raised with the sets and flush draws sometimes, so I discounted them a bit. More importantly, because I believed this player was gunning for me, I also left room in his range for a few ambitious combos like {A-}{9-}-suited, {J-}{9-}-suited, and {9-}{7-}-suited.

The turn brought the {8-Hearts}. This was a double-edged sword in that yes, the card filled a possible flush, but it also would allow me to continue getting value from his one-heart combos like some overpairs and {A-Hearts}{Q-}+. I decided this was a good card to barrel because villain has many more one-heart combos than two-heart combos in his preflop range.

With a little under 15 BBs now in the middle, I bet 7.5 BB and Villain just called again, enabling me to narrow his range a bit more. I figured some players would raise here with a flush, and for sure I would have heard from a set by now.

The river brought the {10-Hearts}, making the board {9-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}{10-Hearts}. At first glance, this seems like one of the worst cards in the deck for me. The one-card flush draws got there as well as some straights and {10-}{10-}. On the bright side, the {10-Hearts} had been a key card in some of the combos from Villain’s turn range that would beat us like {10-}{10-}, {Q-Hearts}{10-Hearts}, and {J-Hearts}{10-Hearts}. With the board running out this scary, I did not think I could get called my much worse, so I decided to check and reevaluate if Villain bet.

Indeed he did. The pot on the river was 29.5 BB and he shoved his last 30.5 BB into it. This was a slight overbet that caused me to go into the tank.

When I had checked this river, it looked like I was giving up or trying to induce a bluff with a very strong hand. Either way, it wouldn’t make sense for Villain to make a bet this large with a value hand. If I had nothing, I would just fold. If I had the nuts, I’d call and bust him. Seeing as how my hand looked pretty weak at that point, I would expect a much smaller bet from a hand that wanted to get called. In fact, I likely would have sigh-folded to a one-third pot bet. But this bet looked like Villain didn’t want me to call.

It’s true that I beat nothing on this river. But fortunately it looked like that was exactly what Villain had, so I decided to call. Villain showed {K-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} and left to enjoy the rest of his day.

The Lesson

The key to this hand was understanding the table dynamics and thinking through the information that Villain revealed in his bet sizing. The next time you are in a similar spot on a scary river, take your time and think it through before making an “obvious” fold.

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Situational Poker: Deconstructing a Hero Call 101

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