Hand of the Week: Did Kenny Tran Make the Sickest Call Ever?

Kenny Tran

You probably know how it feels when your hand is getting worse on every street.

If your opponent is also putting the pressure on you, you’ll often end up folding or making crying calls. This week, Kenny Tran shows us that this can also make you a hero.

The following hand happened during the WSOP Main Event in 2007. The money bubble had already burst.

The blinds are 15,000/30,000/4000. Action is folded around to amateur player Roy Winston in the small blind. He raises to 100,000.

In the big blind, Kenny Tran finds

   

He calls, and there are now 232,000 in the pot. The flop falls

     

Winston bets 150,000 and Tran calls. The pot is now 532,000 chips, and the turn brings the

 

Winston bets again. This time he makes it 350,000 and Tran calls again. There are 1,232,000 chips in the pot and the river is the

 

Winston decides to triple-barrel and bets 700,000, which sends Tran deep into thought. “What am I supposed to do?”, he asks, before finally calling.

Winston shows

   

And Tran wins the 2.6 million pot. Enough to make him dance around the table and call himself a genius.

You can relive the hand in the video below.

Analysis

I’m not sure if Tran is really the genius he thinks he is, but his call is spectacular and deserves a closer look.

Even pre-flop, the scenario becomes interesting when Winston raises with his A T from the small blind.

Roy Winston
Roy Winston tried to triple barrel but to no avail.

Tran holds A 8 and could surely re-raise with what is quite a good hand in this spot, but he decides to flat call. This has several advantages.

He’s lowering the variance in a tournament situation where the pay jumps are significant, and he keeps the bad hands in Winston’s range in the pot. Also, Tran is in position.

Tran hits top pair on the flop, but he still can’t feel very good as there are three hearts on the board and he has none.

Still, he can’t fold to Winston’s c-bet on the flop, as his hand is too good for that. Most amateur players would c-bet here, and most of the admittedly large range of Winston’s hands missed this flop.

The turn makes the board really ugly for Tran. The fourth heart hits, and although it’s an undercard, Tran can really only beat pure bluffs now.

Winston might well have an ace or king in his hand, and he would surely have semi-bluffed with these, but we can rule out a lot of other value hands now, while there are still many bluffs in his range.

Tran’s call on the turn looks impressive, but it drives the variance through the roof, because now he knows there will probably be another bet on the river, and this hand is going to be expensive.

Kenny Tran
There's a reason they call him "Sick Call" Kenny Tran.

The 2 on the river is a highly interesting card, because it influences the story Winston is trying to tell. He does bet again but now Tran has to ask himself what Winston is actually trying to represent.

Before the river, he played his hand like a flush, but now the board has paired so a full house is possible and Winston should allocate a full house to Tran’s range.

Yet, without thinking about it much, Winston comes out with another bet.

This kind of play does indeed smell of a bluff but it’s still very difficult for Tran to call. He could still be behind hands like an overpair without hearts and Winston just might have continued with his flush disregarding the paired board.

But Winston’s play is still odd, and the pot odds of 3-1 are pretty tempting, too, but not many people would have been able to make the call.

Conclusion

Kenny Tran’s instincts are spot on. He realizes that his opponent is often bluffing in this situation.

His call with a marginal hand is great but I could have done with less celebration.

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