Poker is a game of ups and downs, highs and lows — not only in terms of win rate variance but also emotionally. One of the biggest emotional highs that can be experienced both live and in poker games online, is the adrenaline rush that comes with a successful hero call. This is when you unmask the villain on the river and take down a big pot because you knew they were bluffing, and you had the courage, no, the heroism, to call it. The path of the hero isn’t easy, however. It demands wisdom and skill. Read on to discover how to go about hero calling the right way.
What Is a Hero Call In Poker?
In terms of poker, a “hero call” is when you have a marginal hand but make a big, risky call on the river. Typically, your opponent makes a significant bet or raise — the kind designed to shut down the action because it represents the nuts. You’d normally be expected to fold against this kind of aggression, but something tells you they’re bluffing. So you call their bluff, take down the pot, and walk away with a big haul of chips. Your success is bound to leave you feeling pretty great — like a hero living on the edge.
Hero Calling: What Are the Odds?
Of course, the trouble with hero calls is that your marginal hand often isn’t good enough to call the villain’s bluff — so you get mauled instead. So, how can you tell when it’s worth the risk? Gut instinct can only take you so far. Sometimes, it helps to take a logical approach, such as applying pot odds.
Pot odds are the price of calling a bet relative to the size of the pot. They tell you what percentage of the time you need to win for a call to be worthwhile. Pot odds are in your favor when they’re greater than the odds of making your hand. You can calculate pot odds precisely by using a mathematical formula, but it’s more useful to begin by memorizing a few typical betting scenarios:
- 1/2 Pot Bet: The pot odds for $1 into a $2 pot are +300 pot odds. You need to win 1/4 or 25% of the time.
- 2/3 Pot Bet: The pot odds for $2 into a $3 pot are +250. You need to win 2/7 or 29% of the time.
- 3/4 Pot Bet: The pot odds for $3 into a $4 pot are +233. You need to win 3/10 or 30% of the time.
- Pot-Sized Bet: The pot odds for $4 into a $4 pot are +200. You need to win 1/3 or 33% of the time.
- Double Pot Bet: The pot odds for $8 into a $4 pot are +150. You need to win 2/5 or 40% of the time.
Pot Odds in Practice
Here’s a practical example of how pot odds can help you make a hero call on the river. Say you’re holding 10 of clubs, 10 of spades, and the board shows 2 of clubs, 8 of diamonds, queen of hearts, 7 of diamonds, and 7 of clubs. Your opponent was the preflop raiser. You called that bet, and you also called their bets on the flop and the turn. Now, on the river, they bet $50 into a $100 pot. This is a half-pot bet, giving you pot odds of +300 to call. This means you must win 25% of the time to justify your play. Your hunch is that they’re bluffing, but you don’t know for sure. After all, they could be ahead with aces, kings, jacks, ace-queen, or king-queen. Now, in your experience, this player bluffs about a third of the time here. As a result, the odds against your pair of 10s being the strongest hand are +200. On balance, the pot odds are in your favor, so this is a profitable call.
Pot Odds in Practice
So the pot odds are in your favor, and you’re on the verge of making the call. What else could influence your decision? Before you put on the hero’s cape, take a moment to replay the hand and look for clues that your opponent is bluffing. Was there anything strange about the way they acted on the flop or on the turn? Is their hand representation telling a consistent story?
Also, think about your opponent’s style. Do they have a defensive or aggressive poker strategy? If they’re the tight, aggressive type, chances are they aren’t bluffing when they’re representing the nuts. Against such opponents, you’d be acting like a fool rather than a poker hero. Calling against a loose, aggressive player is different. Chances are that at least some of their huge bets are deliberately set up to get you to fold. Are you going to fold to all of them? Even if your call is beat, you’ll get valuable information that you can feed back into your game after reviewing your poker hands. Eventually, your hero calls will succeed more than they fail.
Hero Calling the Wrong Way
A hidden danger of hero poker calls is the temptation to be seen as a calling hero. Catching a villain with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar feels so good that it can become addictive. On top of that, unmasking an opponent’s bluff can give rise to feelings of overconfidence. Instead of staying cool and working out the pot odds before calling the villain’s bluff, a player can become liable to indulge in hero calls just for the sake of it. This is an extremely unwise approach as it’s likely to lead to disproportionate losses and ruin the fun of the game.
Play Poker Online at BetMGM
You don’t have to be a hero to play online poker at BetMGM, where cash games and poker tournaments are geared to suit every poker player. Simply register to enjoy the kind of poker action you prefer, from casual games to high-stakes competitions with prizes to match. You can always play it your way at BetMGM.