2022 888poker XL Winter Series WSOPC Rozvadov

Hand Review: A Tough Hero Call Late in a WPT

Stephen Song

Covering live poker tournaments for a living affords me the opportunity to see countless thousands of hands played out, many of which offer interesting and potentially valuable insights into how players — both amateurs and professionals — play the game. In this ongoing series, I'll highlight hands I've seen at the tournaments I've covered and see if we can glean anything useful from them.

The Scene

Scrolling through the World Poker Tour updates earlier in the month, I came across an unusual hand from Day 3 of the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Bounty Scramble that appeared worthy of a deeper look.

Just 21 players remained. The "hero" in this hand (we'll say) is Stephen Song (pictured above), a great player with whom I have some history that gives me additional insight when I consider hands he's played.

It was Level 20 (6,000/12,000/12,000) and tables were seven-handed. Given the latter fact and Song's aggressive nature, I'm assuming fairly aggressive dynamics were in play when the hand took place.

The Action

Song opened for 25,000 on the button and Tan Nguyen made it 95,000 from the small blind. Song called, bringing a {k-Spades}{6-Hearts}{2-Diamonds} flop. Nguyen bet 75,000 and Song called. The turn was the {8-Diamonds}. This time Nguyen bet 250,000 and Song called again. The river {7-Hearts} completed the board and Nguyen shoved for about 240,000 effective.

Song used several time extensions before calling all in with {a-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds}, but Nguyen tabled {10-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} for the nuts to bust him.

Concept and Analysis

Unlike many of my reviews, I don't enter this hand with any really strong opinion on whether this hand was played well, poorly, or somewhere in between. I really have no idea whether Song's call-down was good, I just think it's an interesting hand to look at from his point-of-view.

I think Nguyen's approach was sound and I like the way he played the hand. Song raises many hands on the button that are... not so great, so three-betting him is a good move from the small blind, and the board ran out in a way that encouraged Nguyen to fire three barrels.

Back to Song, whose first decision is whether to call or four-bet bluff. I like calling here as it leaves him lots of room to operate with the positional advantage postflop with a hand that flops decently.

His flop peel may seem a bit loose, but as one can see from showdown, it's pretty standard against a small sizing when facing a wide enough range that ace-high may be best, along with holding backdoor equity.

The turn and river are where things get really interesting. Nguyen comes out with a bigger bet of 250,000 on the turn into a pot of a little over 360,000. Song only has about 240,000 left, so he's in a very difficult spot. He probably has solid equity even if he's behind with the nut flush draw, but his opponent is sending the message that all of chips will be at risk on the river and Song is a favorite to miss his draw.

Is shoving an option? I'd be pretty leery of shoving with a stack like this, figuring I might not have any fold equity. I wouldn't expect my opponent to fold a strong one-pair hand, which is what he's at least saying he has with this story. Song is blocking many likely bluffs since he has most of the key drawing cards with diamonds and a seven.

He opts to call, which is certainly defensible, and gets into another rough spot on the river when Nguyen sets him in for less than a third of the pot. Song is getting about 4.6-to-1 on a call, so he only needs Nguyen to be bluffing a little over 20% of the time. That's not very often to break even.

Now if you know Stephen Song's style at all, you know he is not afraid to play some subpar holdings. That, in turn, causes opponents to do the same against him. Song knows this, so that dynamic may also nudge him toward calling.

On the other hand, I do think there are some better bluff catchers with which he makes it to the river. Blocking diamonds isn't ideal, as mentioned. Something like {k-}{10-} or {k-}{9-} without any diamonds in it would seem to be the ideal hand, blocking some three-street value plays like {a-}{k-} and {k-}{k-} as well as backdoor nuts.

Nguyen doesn't have that many value hands, and Song was getting great odds on a call in what was likely an aggressive dynamic. It definitely feels like a hand where you get to the end and wonder how the hell you got in this spot, and I was left thinking about it for a while afterwards with no clear conclusion.

What do you guys think?

  • Hand analysis: An interesting WPT bestbet Jacksonville Bounty Scramble hand ends in a big hero call.

  • Mo Nuwwarah unpacks an intriguing WPT hand and river decision involving Stephen Song and Tan Nguyen.

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Mo Nuwwarah

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