Handling an Extraordinary Spot in a Poker Part 2: Hero Calls & Folds

In Part 1 of this series I talked about a common question for a very uncommon scenario, folding Pocket Aces pre-flop, and now I’m going to talk about a more common situation, making Hero calls and folds. While these situations are far more common that folding Pocket Aces, they are still very rare, and require you to take a non-conformist approach to the game.

Hero Calls and Hero Folds

When I’m talking about making Hero call or a Hero fold I don’t mean folding the second-nut flush or calling with Ace-high, I’m talking about the situations where you feel your opponent has a very specific hand or range; a range so narrow that you have them down to specifically one or two hands. I’m also not talking about situations where a person plays their hand face-up and everyone at the table knows what they have; the situation I’m talking about is making a huge call or a huge fold when 99% of your peers would do the opposite, relying on basic poker principles to guide them through the hand. Here are two examples of a real “Hero Call” and “Hero Fold”:

Folded Quads in the Big One for One Drop

The Big One for One Drop tournament at the 2012 WSOP had plenty of drama well before an early hand became the talk of the tournament –After all, the event had a $1 million buy-in, the best poker players and top business moguls, and the largest prize in poker history. But it was a fold that captured the minds of the poker world early on when Michail Smirnov folded Pocket 8’s face-up to the all-in raise of John Morgan on a board of Js-8c-7s-8s-Ks.

Smirnov later explained his thinking: “For me, it was a very easy fold. If he had two kings before the flop he would have re-raised Dwan, because he’s been active and raising a lot. So, two kings was impossible. Two jacks, in theory, was possible.” Adding, “He was like all-in, no problem. Before he had been playing very carefully and tight.”

We still don’t know if John Morgan had the 9sTs or not.

Stu Ungar’s Ten-High call

An older story that may or may not be true has to do with the late, great, Stu Ungar, and an unbelievable call he allegedly made against Mansour Matloubi. According to the legend, Ungar was leading the action with T9 on a 3-3-7 board; the turn brought a King and both players checked; the River a Queen which prompts an all-in bet from Matloubi which Ungar calls, saying aloud, “you wither have 45 or 56, I call.”

The key to making these types of reads is to be correct 100% of the time, because being wrong even once in 25 times can make these types of non-standard plays incorrect. Your hand-reading has to be beyond doubt in these situations in order make these types of calls and folds profitable, and if you find yourself making these otherworldly reads more than once or twice in your poker career then you are probably doing it too often and losing more money because of your misreads than you win from your correct decisions.


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  • Posted in: Poker, Poker Strategy & Tips
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