We've all heard about it, most of us have made it, but what exactly is a "hero call?" I've got a couple of ideas, so I thought I'd put them down on electrons and see what you folks think. Basically, a hero call consists of making a tough decision, typically after going into the tank and deciding to take a stand, trust a read, or pick off a huge bluff.
There are multipe types of calls that all fall into the same style as the hero call. There's the "I've got a read this hand and I'm gonna go for it" call. There's the "I've played with this opponent a bunch and based on experience I'm pretty sure I'm good here" call. And then there's the "I'm too stupid to lay down top pair" call. All of these can be considered a "hero" call, a "crying" call, or whatever adjective you want to apply. Typically we call something a hero call after the fact if it works out perfectly, and a crying call if it works out poorly, but they're really the same thing.
The most startling, and most "heroic" of these calls is when you've got a read. It could be as simple as your opponent announcing his bet amount instead of just flinging chips out. It could be something funny in the betting line your opponent has taken. It could just be how he's sitting in his chair. But we all want to trust our reads. We don't want to talk ourselves out of a read, and making the hero call with a read is one of the most satisfying things I do at a poker table. It's rare that I get a good enough read on one hand to make a big call, but I can frequently pick up enough to get myself out of harm's way in a hand.
The experience-based hero call is the one I'm most familiar with. After you've played a lot with the same people, you get a good idea of how they play, and those experience-based reads give you a lot of room to make big calls with inferior hands that you might not be able to make against unfamiliar players. For example, Nate the Elder has a betting pattern. It's not 100% accurate, but it's good about 80% of the time. A limp into the pot, then a lead out for $3-4 means that Nate has hit, at best, middle pair. Two weeks ago I called Nate down on every street with second pair, top kicker, and it was good. I get a chance about once each week to make that call on Nate, and only very rarely is second pair no good there. I've played enough hands with Nate to know that making those long calls are ultimately profitable there, because I can make a big call based on experience.
BadBlood made a similar move a few weeks ago at my house, with less stellar results. He made a big call on the river with pocket eights on a Queen-high board, and I had fired on every street with second pair, Tens. Blood has played enough hands with me to know that I'm perfectly capable of three-barelling with air once I've taken the lead in a hand, or betting a strong draw on every street then bluffing the river when I miss. He thought for a long time before making the hero call, and that time around, it wasn't good. The experience-based hero call will be good probably 80% of the time against weak players, and about 50% of the time against decent players, because a decent player will change up their style. Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink talks a lot about thin-slicing, which is how we subconsciously process information and make decisions based on past experience. I don't want to play much poker against Malcolm Gladwell.
The worst kind of hero call is often attributed to "a read," when it's really just a players inability to lay down an overpair or top pair, top kicker in the face of a strong betting line that indicates their hand is no good. Understanding your table is key to knowing which players are going to make those calls against you, so you don't give them the opportunity to make that hero call. Nate the Elder is one of those. There's no point bluffing Nate, because he's incapable of laying down pocket threes on a straightened, flushy board with three painted cards out there. So against Nate, I just sit back and pick my spots. He's gonna win some big pots over the course of a night, but he usually goes home broke, so I don't mind giving up some pots to him.
So figure out what you're really doing when you're making a tough call, and really evaluate whether or not you're making a call based on a read, based on experience, or just based on your status as a TPTK donkey, as the BWOP calls 'em.