Hand of the Week: Henry Van Tran's Dizzying, High-Wire Hero Call

henrytran
Don't try this at home.

Fair warning this week, dear readers.

You should really bring the children to bed, get comfortable and scroll down cautiously.

In this electrifying hand from the 2012 WSOP Main Event we're accompanying two players who will leave you feeling dizzy.

Flop to River

It's Day 3 of the 2012 WSOP Main Event. Blinds are 2000/4000/500. From the hijack, Henry Van Tran raises to 10,000 with    

It's folded to Benjamin Alcober in the small blind who reraises to 25,000. The big blind folds and Tran, after a little thought, raises it up again -- this time to 43,000.

Alcober calls and there's already 94,500 chips in the pot before the flop. The flop falls      

Alcober takes the lead and bets 32,000; Tran raises to 65,000 and Alcober calls.

There's now 224,500 in the pot and the turn is the  

Both players check and the river is the  

Alcober now bets 165,000 chips. Tran takes about a minute before he makes the call.

Alcober shows     for king high and Tran wins a pot of 554,500 chips.

Watch the hand play out below:


Genius or Madness?

This is truly an extraordinary, spectacular hand. Let’s take a closer look to find out if this was just blind aggression or if there was something else to it.

Keep in mind that both players had large stacks and neither risked their tournament life at any point. This is an important detail as the way these two are playing would not be justifiable with smaller stacks.

Pre-flop Tran raises from the hijack with 3 2. A very loose raise, which is an attempt to steal the blinds or take down the pot on the flop with positional play.

Screen shot 2015 02 27 at 9.44.55 AM
Now what?

In the long run, however, this cannot possibly be a good move as this hand is simply too weak.

When Alcober re-raises from the small blind with a huge stack Tran could fold even though he’s getting 3-1 pot odds. But he decides to go for a more surprising move.

He min-reraises, thus asking his opponent how good his hand really is. The opponent just calls and regarding the action beforehand, this means something.

Had Alcober had a very strong hand he would probably have raised again.

Irresistible Pot Odds, But ...

On the flop things don't get any less complicated. Instead of checking to the raiser Alcober leads out with a small bet.

Tran probably thinks that his opponent wouldn’t play a strong hand this way. But he doesn’t have anything he can call with, so he tries to take down the pot again with a small raise.

His opponent is getting 6-1 pot odds. That must look irresistible, but at the same time it looks like Tran wants to keep his opponent in the pot.

Alcober calls without position and without a hand and the turn brings a second nine on the board. Both players have a nine in their range, but of course you can never be sure.

Both players check and the river is a deuce, which for Alcober doesn’t change anything.

Alcober had decided to try and steal the pot on the river when he called on the flop. Which is why his river bluff bet is rather big, about three quarters of the pot.

From Tran’s point of view, the hand has taken an unexpected turn on the river. While he had played complete air until fifth street, without the slightest showdown value, he’s now beating all the bluffs.

If there hadn’t been a deuce on the river he might have considered raising, but now that’s not an option.

Screen shot 2015 02 27 at 9.47.35 AM
Expressions say it all.

Not Recommendable, But ...

It’s worth looking at this hand from Tran’s perspective.

Which hands would Alcober play like that? With a full house or a nine, yes.

But with good hands like pocket tens, pocket eights or even A-K, which in this hand could easily still be ahead, he would have rather check-called.

As is often the case his hand is highly polarized on the river.

It’s this polarization exactly that makes a call so tempting. Alcober must have either a hand close to the nuts or nothing.

At the end of the day Tran’s call isn’t that terribly difficult, but his play up to the river is not recommendable!

Conclusion

In what surely is one of the most insane hands in WSOP main event history, Van Tran keeps his nerves under control and makes the call.

His opponent Benjamin Alcober should have thought about what he can actually represent on the river.

There are a lot of strong hands in Tran’s range, for example all the high pocket pairs.

Tran would have surely called with any of these.

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