Making A Huge Hero Call At The World Series

I love poker so much. It’s a fascinating game with so many different aspects to it, I learn more and more every time I play. On Thursday, I got to play in the WSOP $1,500 NLH Freezeout, an event where each player gets one opportunity to try to win the event. If you are eliminated, you can’t re-enter. Playing in an event where rebuying wasn’t an option, I was faced with one of the toughest hero call spots to date.

Grinding A Short Stack In The WSOP

The day was a long one. I didn’t have a whole lot of hands or chips to work with. I won a few pots early and then went card dead and grinded a 10-20 big blind stack for around five hours. At one point, about an hour before making the money, I had 8 big blinds. My stack was 24k at 1.5/3k/3k big blind ante. I moved all-in two times in a row, uncalled, played a multi-way hand post-flop and won, then ran a bluff where I had a ton of equity with one to come. All of a sudden I 10x’d my stack without a showdown.

Making A Very Tight Fold

An early position player limps for 2k, I raise to 6.5k on the cut-off with KJ and this deep-thinking opponent, Alex, three-bets from the big blind to 20k. He had about 140k and I started with ~75k. I called to see a flop of K♣-9-5♠ and Alex bet 5k into a pot of 43k. I called and the turn brought the A. This is the worst card for me to see. Alex bets 20k and put me into the tank.

Assessing My Opponent’s Range And Strategy

Alex might play TT-QQ like this, where he can range bet small on the flop, get called by worse, bet his bluffs with a range advantage, all while having stronger hands than me, particularly A-K. On this flop (K-9-5 rainbow) it’s pretty dry and there isn’t much I should be scared of. When he bets the flop, I actually have one of the strongest hands I will have in this spot, K-Q being a better hand. I am ready to commit all of my chips on most turn cards and can possibly improve my hand with a T, J, Q, K, or a heart. I considered raising the flop, but decided to “slow-play.” That went against me when the next community card was the ace of spades.

On the turn when Alex bets 20k, it’s a great bet. He can have A-K here, A-Q, or one of his Ax bluff hands, K-K, A-A, 9-9, and those aforementioned hands I am actually beating. He made me consider all my options: calling, raising all-in, and folding. Ultimately I let it go, preserving my (50k) 25 big blind stack before being blinded down to just 8.

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Finding A Hero Call At A Fun Table

During this time the table was having a lot of fun. Jamie Kerstetter was there sitting next to another funny fellow. They were having a duo standup routine while grinding short stacks and sipping Coronas nearing the bubble. Everyone was having an enjoyable time (it seemed), chatting it up, having a couple drinks, even though we were battling it out all day and trying to cash the poker tournament!

Playing Multi-Way With Queen-Jack Offsuit

Once we made the money, I immediately had this hand come up. I raised the cutoff with Q-J offsuit to 12k at 3k/6k. The big blind, Alex, called. The flop fell T-8-3. The big blind checked, I bet 15k into 33k, and Alex check-raised to 45k. We both were playing around 220-230k with me covering by 10k. I called the 30k more raise and we saw a turn card of 5. We both checked. The river fell the 2 and Alex bet 100k into a 123k pot, leaving himself 60k.

Being Put In A Tough Spot By A Competent Opponent

I thought long and hard about this one. Alex was a very good, aggressive player. He was tricky enough (I felt) to check the turn with some value hands, since it was a safe runout, with the hope to try to get more value from me with a check/shove if I happened to bet the turn. When he bet the river it was a tough spot. If he was giving up on the turn, some of those hands might look like 6-9, 7-9, or J-9 (although I hold a jack) and anything that was bluffing but now has showdown value. Bottom pair, a turned pair, some random high card, or a backdoor equity swing for the fence.

I thought about moving all-in over his bet. I hated that I didn’t improve and I knew I had an awful bluff catcher. I felt like it was a possibility he would attack with hands even as weak as 6-9 offsuit here, although that’s giving a lot of hostile credit and may be inaccurate. The suited ones would be better candidates. That led me back to the thought of his value hands.

Alex was spicy enough to have a value hand here, and also good enough to recognize I might not have one. If I had a strong hand to call the flop raise with, I’d mostly bet the turn. This makes my play with Q-J and not betting the turn a little suspect. Alex realized this and put me to the test.

Considering The Bluffs In Their Range

I ended up coming to the conclusion that, in this moment, I felt like my hand had just enough value to justify calling and that the villain should be bluff heavy here. It serves right for them to do so. I also was preserving my tournament life, leaving myself with 11 big blinds if I’m wrong.

Maybe I made a mistake not moving all-in on the river because you can argue I could get better hands to fold. Hands such as ace-high, king-high, a deuce, three, five, etc. But isn’t an eight always calling me, a ten, or any slow played stronger hand? Couldn’t I get hero called here by those small pairs? Do I ever have a value hand when I check back the turn? Is that believable?

I probably tanked for three minutes. Once I apologized for taking so long, I was either calling or folding.

All of these things went through my mind and I ended up hoping for my opponent to roll over 7-9, instead they tabled J-9 offsuit and I won the pot with queen-high. That was a great feeling… to actually be right in that spot and believe my hand was good enough to merit a showdown. I slammed down my Q-J, shot up from my seat, and turned away from the table while letting out a couple screams of excitement coupled with a Tiger Woods fist pump (I’ve never done this before I swear).

Likely My Greatest Hero Call To Date

Alex was a great sport about it. He said poker needs more emotion while smirking from the sting of losing the hand, although he was mostly emotionless the entire time playing. He was still having fun, joking, and smiling despite losing that ridiculous pot. Alex was a very tough player and we played an insane hand. What a hand it was. The table loved the show and we all kept battling into the rest of the night. I ended up making day two and losing a flip to bust in 90th place of almost 1,800 entrants.

I love the World Series of Poker and the game of no-limit Hold’ em. It’s a pleasure to be able to play against other people that love the game as much as I do. Win or lose. It is also great to share stories like this with people who love the game from afar. Thanks for reading.

WSOP bracelet winner Tristan Wade has over 50 classes at PokerCoaching.com. If you want to learn from Tristan, be sure to check them out here!

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