What are “Hero Calls” in poker? Hero calls are when you call your opponent’s big bet despite not having a good hand. You catch them in their bluff in a big way, which shows the table that you’re not to be messed with. Shoot, people might talk about your hand for weeks, months, or even years. You could even end up on the cover of a poker magazine!
Hero Calls – The Human Mind & Poker
You see where I’m going, right? Hero calls are cool, but they’re also the worst things that can happen to you. Look at this from a human psychology perspective. Other than binking poker tournaments, which means winning poker tournaments, nothing is cooler than calling with ace-high for 70% of your stack and winning. I know this for a fact because I’ve done it.
It took place in Tunica during the WSOP Circuit in April. We were at the final table and my opponent was very LAG, a young kid who ran on Ego. He bet 230k on the river very quickly and held a stern look. He didn’t look directly at me, but he didn’t need to. I knew that his facial expression was unnatural for him.
And when someone places a big bet very quickly it usually means they don’t have a monster. When people are holding monster poker hands, they take time to calculate how many chips they can extract from their opponent. This is in all types of poker games.
I made the call with ace high, he went on tilt soon after, and I ended up placing 2nd in that tournament. I’m not a big fan of 2nd place in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, but I played too tight when heads-up in that tournament. I have written about that experience before. You never want to play tight when heads-up. Plain and simple, but that’s a topic for another time.
Sticking with the poker hero call theme, after coming in 2nd place in that tournament, I played a few ring events that following few days. I had zero cashes in those poker tournaments. I’m sure you can figure out why. It’s because I had fallen in love with hero calls, which is bad poker strategy.
The biggest problem with hero calls is that you remember them just like you remember a great golf shot, but if you shoot 115 for 18 holes, you’re still not a good golfer. You keep coming back because of that one amazing shot, which often leads to the other three players in your group telling you what a great shot you hit.
That’s called positive reinforcement, and whether you admit it or not, if you’re human, you love it! So, you keep coming back.
This is the same concept with hero calls. I began making more hero calls, and losing, because I loved the feeling of being someone with ‘the guts’ to call someone’s big bet on the river with middle pair, bottom pair, or even ace high.
What I wasn’t realizing, and what you are not realizing if you’re making hero calls, is that you’re losing way more than you’re winning. Think about all those bad golf shots you hit to get to that one amazing golf shot. The one amazing golf shot might have made you feel good, but you still had the highest score in the group.
When it comes to poker games, you can make that one great call, but how much money did it cost you to get there? And if you’re playing in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, then how many chips did you bleed to get to that one great poker hero call?
Hero Calls – Heroes Come & Go
I have seen many poker players come and go through the years. Most of them go. Actually, if I think about it, I only see about 5% of the same players I saw 10 years ago.
Some of those players left the game for other reasons, which include a job opportunity, family pressure, playing too many poker hands, and simply not understanding basic poker strategy. A small percentage of them had to quit the game due to making too many hero calls.
I know the following for sure: Whenever I see a poker player making hero calls on a consistent basis, I make a mental note that they won’t be around in three years. That’s because when someone places a big bet on the river, they usually have it.
I did my own study on this. It wasn’t a tremendous sample size, but I found that when someone goes all-in on the river, they are only bluffing approximately 23% of the time. Leaning toward a fold when you’re not sure fits into poker rules for wining.
Hero calls are bad! They are bad because they relate directly to Ego. Once you let Ego in the door, he’s going to take a flamethrower to your living room. DO NOT let Ego in the door! All you have to do is fold and wait for a better spot. Is this going to look cool? No. But that’s the point!
Discipline is the arch-rival of Ego, and Discipline is your best friend. If you don’t care what other people think, it shows that you’re secure in your beliefs about yourself and your own abilities. To others, that discipline will be respected.
If they want to try to exploit you because they think you’re weak for folding too much, let them bring it. They don’t know what you know, and you know you have been setting the trap for this player the entire time.
Now it’s going to get a little tricky. There is a difference between hero calls and good calls.
Hero Calls vs. Good Calls
I’ll be blunt. Hero calls are when you’re trying to show off. When you win, you will be the coolest kid in town. But you’re usually going to lose and you’re going to look like an ass. If you muck your cards when your opponent shows the winning hand, you won’t look like an ass, but you will still feel like an ass. In poker, you don’t want to look or feel like an ass. This could lead to going on tilt and chasing, which can put you in the hole. Then you will be an asshole.
Good calls are very different. With hero calls, you’re hoping more than anything else. With good calls, you’re basing your decision on a lot of information you have gathered throughout a poker hand. The information you gathered in previous poker hands also plays a major role.
I’ll go back a few years where I had a deep run in the WSOP Circuit Re-Entry at Harrah’s Cherokee. I think I finished 14th for more than $7k. I had a bigger cash in the WSOP Circuit Re-Entry at Harrah’s Cherokee last year for more than $20k (7th of 2,373). Don’t remember how many players were in the $7k cash, but I would assume it was above 2,000 runners (runners = number of entries). What I do remember is a hand where I made a good call.
We were down to 18 players, so I was at the second final table (one table before the final table). Unfortunately, I didn’t make the final table in this event, but I did the best I could based on the cards and situations I was dealt.
When I first arrived, I watched the player in Seat 9 steamroll three different opponents in three different hands. I never got to see his cards because he got them to fold every time. On the next hand, he open-raised 3.5x the BB from the button. Everyone had folded to him prior to his action.
This isn’t surprising because the game is almost 100% about poker position at this point in a tournament, assuming it’s a high-level tournament.
I called with 44 from the BB.
He bet half the pot.
He bet almost the size of the pot.
He paused briefly and bet four times the size of the pot.
It was time to analyze the situation.
This is a player that I had just watched steamroll three opponents on three consecutive hands. Now he was playing a fourth consecutive hand. He also open-raised from the button, which led to me giving his poker hand range less respect, especially based on what I had seen. I didn’t put him on an ace because his pre-flop raising action was too swift. His betting motion told me: “This is standard. This is what I do when I’m on the button.”
Therefore, I eliminated the ace as a possibility. Of course, it was still possible he held an ace and my read was off, but if you want to win in poker, then you absolutely must trust your reads. That should go way to the top for our poker rules for winning.
I didn’t think he had a three, but I didn’t care if he did because I had 44. As far as the jack goes, that was a stronger possibility, but he bet the flop too quickly. He didn’t take any time to calculate how many chips he could extract from me.
On the other end of the spectrum, he didn’t pause to contemplate if I could have an ace and if there was any danger presented to him if he had the jack. He was on auto-pilot, which meant he was nowhere near that flop.
The second jack was a great card for me because I had already determined that he didn’t have an ace or a jack and I wasn’t worried about the three. If you’re thinking he could have had a set of threes, no chance. He would have bet slower and/or checked the flop. By not doing either of those things, I knew he didn’t have a set of threes.
The nine on the river was by far the biggest scare card. When that card hit, I thought I let him get there, but it’s not so easy to fire away when you’re at the second final table, first place is paying more than $150,000, and you’re holding a pair of fours on that board.
My opponent made his biggest mistake of the hand by betting so much on the river.
Poker Hand Analysis
Remember, you don’t want to just read your opponent; you want to know how they’re reading you. By flatting the entire way, he knew I had a hand that I liked but didn’t love. I wouldn’t have trapped for that long. He had to have put me on the jack and felt he could get me off that hand with a big bet on the river. I obviously didn’t have the jack, and I had him on two mid-range suited cards that completely whiffed.
If he wanted a call on the river, he would have bet the size of the pot. If he was really ambitious, maybe twice the size of the pot, but that’s still a longshot. When he bet four times the size of the pot, he wasn’t telling me that he had a better hand than me. He was telling me that it didn’t matter what he had and that I wouldn’t have the guts to call a bet that size since we were at the second final table.
If I didn’t have a good read on this player, I would have folded because I like to stick with Discipline opposed to Ego. However, in some situations, such as this one, you’re going to have a lot of information. Since I had a lot of information, this was a good call, not a hero call. He showed 76-suited (air).
It’s imperative that you understand the difference between hero calls and good calls. If you’re not sure, it’s okay. Lean way toward folding. It will save you a ton of chips over the long haul. That alone is one of the best poker tips you have read in this article.
Stop hero calls before they happen. However, if you’re a sick and twisted individual, then you might want to applaud other players with great enthusiasm whenever they make hero calls. This will lead to them continuing to make hero calls, which means they’re going to pay you off. These types of poker tips are what you will find in Poker Notes, but I’m a much nicer guy these days. See you at RunGood Poker Series!
♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals
Poker Hero Calls – FAQs
A: A hero call is when you call an opponent’s large bet with a weak hand and win.
A: Because not many people have the guts to make that call. However, this kind of bravery is not very smart.
A: Never fold AA pre-flop. Almost never fold KK pre-flop. Post-flop, they become just like any other hand. Read the situation. If it’s a very wet flop and someone bets into you, think carefully and lean towards a fold.
A: A Villain is your opponent in a poker hand.