Sickest Hero Calls

3 years ago
Top 3 Sickest Hero Calls
08:39
04 Jun

In poker we often give great credit to players who successfully run big bluffs at the table. We never give enough credit to the big ‘hero’ calls. Hero calls are just as impressive as running the bluff, if not more. On top of that if the cash game or poker tournament is broadcast online or on TV they are perhaps more impressive. In that scenario the player risks looking extremely foolish on TV calling down with a terrible hand.

Making hero calls is not simply being a calling station. Elite players run through the hand in their hand, weighing up what their opponents may hold. It is no easy task and when they make up their mind they put their money where the mouth is.

I for one believe they need more credit, so I am going to highlight some of my favorite hero calls in poker.


#1 Jason Mercier calls down Eric Koskas

A hand deep in the EPT4 San Remo tournament between Floridian pro Jason Mercier and Eric Koskas unfolded. At first glance it looks like both players have no idea what is going on based on their starting hands.

However it Jason quickly shows he knows exactly what he is doing, making an unbelievable call and scooping a huge pot in the process.

Take a look at the hand and we will delve deeper afterwards.

The first thing you notice is Jason open raising with 95 offsuit. This may seem crazy, but Jason knows that he can outplay his opponents more often than not and stealing the blinds at this stage in the tournament is certainly worth the risk.

Koskas’ call is a strange one. If he doesn’t believe Jason he should probably raise and the hand would have likely ended. However he opts to call in position to try and outplay Mercier. He starts with a strange check in the dark.. Jason flops a pair and is happy to check back, probably in the hopes of getting to showdown as cheaply as possible or to induce bluffs from Koskas.

If it was the latter then Jason certainly got his wish. Koskas fires on the turn relatively quickly. Mercier has picked up a straight draw to go with his pair and elects to call. The river pairs the board and Koskas immediately moves all in.

OK, so the river card is one of the worst cards to bluff at, which in the levelling war of poker perhaps makes it a good card. With the advantage of seeing the cards you may well think the bluff is obvious, but in the moment, with no hole cards and a lot of cash on the line this is certainly not an easy call for Jason. Koskas has put immense pressure on him by moving all in and it sends Mercier into the tank.

Jason plays through the hand in his head, looks like he wants to make the call. He composes himself thinks for a few seconds more and makes an absolutely sensational call showcasing his amazing poker talent.


#2 Sexton Stuns The Mouth

This hand actually features three legends of the game. Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow, nicknamed such because of his talking at the table, often getting under the skin of his opponents giving him an extra edge at the poker table. Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu is involved but gets out of the way quickly, despite not winning the hand he really enjoys the eventual outcome. Mike Sexton is the final and most important player in the hand, making a remarkable call down vs the mouth on a very dangerous board.

OK, onto the hand..

The first thing we notice is that the Mouth decides to limp in on the button with his suited King. In today's game this would be frowned upon and the majority would come in with a raise, but it was more prevalent back then. Whether or not it is right or wrong is open for debate.

Daniel elects to complete from the small blind with 78 offsuit, hoping to hit something big and Sexton gets to see a flop with his rags - 73 offsuit.

Sexton outflops both of his opponents by pairing his 3, which is the only card that could help him in the hand. The flop checks through and The Mouth starts firing on the turn when he picks up a heart draw. Daniel folds and Sexton calls pretty quickly. The river goes the same way Sexton checks and calls Matusow’s bet relatively quickly.

One the cards are flipped up Daniel goes crazy, needling The Mouth who looks pained by Sexton’s holding. I was very surprised to see the call when you see how dangerous the board is.

Having said that The Mouth does himself no favours in this hand. He limped in preflop, he checks the flop, so how many strong hands can he actually have?

Take nothing away from Sexton though, he made his read and went with it. A very impressive call down and Daniel’s reaction makes this hand just that much more entertaining to watch.


#3 Kenny Tran vs. Roy Winston

This hand is a true David vs Goliath moment , ameteur against pro, deep in the WSOP main event. Despite everything that has happened in the poker world, amateurs sitting down and mixing it up with professionals is still the most appealing aspect to me.

The two players in this hand could not be any more different from one and other. The amateur Roy Winston, deep in the main event, what a rush that must be. On the other side of the felt we have the seasoned veteran Kenny Tran, probably licking his lips at the prospect of having an inexperienced player to tangle with this deep in the main event.

You have to give Roy one thing though, he has got some balls and is not afraid to put it on the line with nothing. Take a look..

The self proclaimed genius made in his opinion ‘the best call in poker’ but is he right?

I’ll go as far as saying he is a very smart poker player and that is certainly one of the best calls I have seen in poker giving the circumstances and here’s why.

First thing of note is that this is the WSOP main event and fairly deep in the tournament. This is not just a nightly at your local casino this is the WSOP MAIN EVENT! It comes around once per year, it is littlered with celbrity and ameteur players, the better professionals have a huge edge, so it makes no sense over complicating things.

Another thing, Kenny is in the hand against said ameteur player. More often than not ameteur players at the main event play pretty tight and bet their hands when they have them. The do sometimes have a tendency to overplay weaker top pair type hands occasionally because they lose track of what is going on in the hand. When they do this they are certainly not bluffing though, they are simply showing their inexperience and thinking one and two pair hands (with top pair) are much stronger than they actually are in big pots. In fact, amateurs rarely bluff especially deep in the main event and the fact it was way back when just makes it less likely he is bluffing.

That begs the question - how on earth did Kenny figure this out?

The key street in the hand is the river. Kenny calls preflop with A8 and has top pair on the flop, so he cannot fold his hand there. The turn is tricky, the fourth heart comes, which is not what Tran wants to see. In the same token, Winston is not happy unless he has a flush now. If he had a big pocket pair or a flopped set he would be nervous about Kenny holding a heart for a flush.

When he bets the turn that kind of polarises his hand a little, Winston now either has a weak hand or a flush. Kenny Tran has been around the block, he know flushes are hard to make and elects to make the call.

Now when the river pairs the board things get really interesting. Winston bets out relatively quickly and verbally announces his bet, which is not something people who are bluffing often do, which shows strength. But, lets look at things a little closer now. The river has paired the board, so a full house is now possible. Would the ameteur really lead out into that board with just a flush? Maybe, but he certainly wouldn’t be doing it with anything worse.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not trying to take away anything from Tran here, but I think the speed in which Winston bets is a big indicator here, Tran picks up on it and his great instincts help him to scoop a huge pot. I would like to think I would have made the same call, without proclaiming to be a genius, but in the moment, deep in the WSOP main, many people would not be able to make that call, most likely myself included.


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Sam is a freelance sports writer from the North East of England and Co-Host of weekly sports podcast, the IAWSportsCastHe is a lover of all sports and regularly tries and fails to beat the bookies.Read more

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