Crazy Hero Fold vs Joe McKeehen (WSOP Main Event Winner)

Crazy Hero Fold vs Joe McKeehen (WSOP Main Event Winner)

For the second time in the same session I was faced with a tough decision vs. 2015 Main Event Chip Leader Joe Mckeehen.

He had been playing an incredibly solid game and never made it easy for his opponents to win a pot.

Check out this crazy predicament I found myself in here!

At the risk of being labeled nitty, I decided to make a hero fold. A combination of instinct, history and hand reading led me to conclude my hand was no good, despite only needing to have the best hand 30% of the time.

Let’s examine a bit further each of the 3 decision-making factors.

1. Hand Reading:
For a mathematical break down see the chart below. I gave Mckeehen no bluffs (because in this specific spot I simply didn’t think he was bluffing), and a wide range of value betting hands.

Still, I didn’t have enough equity to justify calling. One must also keep in mind I was being liberal with the range I gave Joe (thus attempting to give credence to a call), and still couldn’t find enough equity to call.

Moreover his near pot sized bet on the turn, and his incredibly strong line of leading three times on an extremely dry board led me to give him credit for a premium made hand.

2. History:
I had no reason to think that Mckeehen would pull a big, unexpected bluff on me here. He had been playing extremely solid at this point thus far, so much so that simply fact that he raised under the gun was enough to conclude he was strong.

Facing a big decision on the river it’s common logic to reason ‘this is one of the best hands I can have here, so I call’ but what’s far more practical is understanding how your opponent views you. Ask yourself: ‘is he’s likely to bluff me in this spot?’

I determined the answer was no, so I folded.

3. Instinct:
One gets a feel for the intention of their opponent when they are taking an action. I’m not always correct, but my intuition was that Mckeehen wanted me to call him, which led me to skew his range further toward strong value betting hands, and eliminate bluffs completely.

What would you have done in my spot? What factors do you consider when making a big decision?

Let me know in a comment below!

See you next week.

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  • Steve


    First what a great fold against joe nov niner. How or why did you believe he had an ace, any hand without an ace you have dominated. Under the gun raise i would have thought strength but the flop would have reinforced my belief he did not have an ace. His bet after the flop i would have taken as a continuation bet and i would have gone over the top. I know I would have been felted. So it’s out of position, a strong player and a feeling? Kind of sounds like a democratic party policy.

    • Alec

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      I knew he had an ace because I didn’t think he’d bet into me 3x without a super strong hand. That made his hand range be condensed to aces, most of which beat me!

      It’s definitely prudent to play cautious vs. a good player with a marginal hand like this. Good thought.

  • David Singh

    In your experience/games you play in-do you think you have opponents that are balanced enough to adjust to your strong lay down and take the same exact line as a bluff (i.e. 3 barrel bluffing to rep the ace or better) in the same or next cash game session they play with you?

    • Alec

      Hi David,

      Great question. Yes, good players will both bluff and value bet with an equal frequency to keep you guessing. The benefit of live poker is to gauge their intention in this current moment and make your decision accordingly.

      I was able to do that vs. Joe here, and it worked!

  • PDJack

    Hi Alex. Would be interested to understand why you’ve not included AKo and AQo in the opponent’s UTG range on this one, unless I’m missing something?

    • Alec

      Hi PDJack,

      I did include AQ/AK in his range, which is a big reason I folded. I believe I mentioned that in the video as well!


      • Paul Dunne

        Sorry Alec, you did indeed in the video, meant in the poker cruncher where it looks like 99, 66 A6s+ and AJo only. Like I say, no expert, but think it adds more weight to your argument about being behind in this spot a lot of the time

      • Tee

        Actually your range as posted does not include AKo/AQo (you entered A6s+ which picked up AQs/AKs but not the offsuits). Redoing the math including AQo/AKo, your opponent is a larger favorite at 83%.

        I’m also not sure why you include A6s-A9s and not, for example, A5s-A3s which are arguably better preflop deep stack hands. Or for that matter, why you are including any of the low kicker non-boat aces in his river strong bet range.

        A more realistic range vs described opponent seems to me to be { ATs,AJ+,99 } which is of course also terrible for AJ at the river.

        Regardless, the overall hand analysis and river hero fold make sense.

        However, against described opponent I would avoid the entire problem by folding preflop with so little dead money in the pot relative to the raise. You are almost always a significant underdog to the raiser and your implied odds with your hand structure (even if the blinds come in) are generally poor.

  • Edward

    Hi Alec,

    Interesting hand and a great fold on the river. Would be interested to know what you would’ve done with AQ in this spot ? It seems almost impossible to fold that IMO. Of course you might have played the hand different, 3 bet in position pre maybe ? BTW, I liked your T-shirt you were wearing in the video, where do you get it from ? lol

    • Alec

      Hey Edward,

      AQ I’d probably call yes, although a quick analysis afterwards shows I’d have enough equity if my opponent could have AJ or AQ.

      Thanks for the compliment, I think I got it in Thailand or Italy. I’m around so much I forget :/

  • Popol

    Hi Alec. Great lay down, website and wonderful videos. Probably the best on the web right now.

    Any chance you could have turned your hand into a bluff (representing a full house with 66, for instance). I have never played at that level, and I know I could never pull such a bluff against trip As with my poker buddies, but he’s a top player and knows that you know that he would never bluff at this spot because…good players never bluff the river, right. If your re-popping on the river, he has to conclude that he is beat, just like you concluded (rightly so) that you were.

    Is this too “ambitious” as you often say. Imagine you really did have 66. You would have reared and he would have called. Do you think he would have called absolutely any amount of money because its the mathematically correct thing to do, or is there in your mind any possibility that he could have made such a lay down?


    • Alec

      Hey Popol,

      Great question, and I believe it may have worked in this particular spot some of the time, but it’s important to note that my opponent could have a FH often, and he’s never folding that!

      You should run the equity to determine what % of the time he’s value betting and what % he has a full house, then determine how often he needs to fold.

      I use a very similar example that I break down in full detail, as well as walk you through my entire process in my book I recently published ‘The Four Steps to Beating Anyone at Poker’. It gives you the blueprint I’ve used for years to make decisions which can be applied to any situation you face.

      If you really want to improve and master this stuff I highly recommend it.


  • Rodsta

    This reminds me of your 50% bet on the river when Joe made the flush. In that scenario you bet the same as you would with a bluff or the nuts leaving him no information as to the genuine strength of your hand and no option but to simply call with his flush. In this scenario you seem to have far more information through his bet sizing. This allows you to clearly place his hand at AK as I really do not think he plays AQo this way. As such a painful but very nice fold. Could I make this fold? I would have to be in the same situation however where I play the other player just has AxXx and bluffs too often for me to make this fold profitably and so have to call. Your videos are great and much appreciated.

    • Alec

      Good insight Rodsta, thanks for the kind words.

  • Jonathan

    I agree that you gve him a pretty generous range in that mathematical breakdown. My first instinct after your description of this player (playing solid and not getting out of line very often) is that AJo facing an UTG open should maybe be a fold preflop. His UTG range should have us crushed and dominated very often which diminishes any implied odds we may have…if any. You flopped trips and you were still trying to keep the pot from getting too large, which makes me feel like the preflop call may have been too optimistic. Just my opinion, huge fan and love your content. Looking to take your 4 step poker course. How do I go about doing that? Thanks

    • Alec

      Agree with your fold pre theory, but I had some people in the blinds I could win a lot of money from so I think calling is best.

      I apologize for the late reply as well. If you’re still interested in the course you can learn more here:

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Sharman

    I think your thought process was brilliant and spot on. You make it very clear, that paying attention to all that is happening in hands is very important and a key factor in decision making, i.e. a players tendencies, history of see how the hands played out, also when someone is running good and not showing many bluffs or any that you have seen, you folding in that particular spot was just plain and simple smart.

    • Alec

      Thanks Sharman! Sorry for the late reply, no idea how I missed all these.
      Hope all is well.


  • Øyvind Larsen

    Do you you ever fire 3 streets in a spot like this with KQ or mabye QJ (holding K-Q-J to remove the chance that your opponent has AK-AQ-AJ.)
    If your opponent knows you are a solid winning player, and your opponent also is a thinking/ winning player, could it be a good spot to go for a 3 barrel bluff? Also, on a board like AA6 rainbow, it’s hard to have many bluffs that wants to bet both flop, turn and river.

    • Alec

      No, because nobody folds Ax on boards like this 🙂

  • CC

    Sick fold (I know cliche but true nonetheless) ESP vs the world champ! My question is how do you figure out the math where you needed to be right 30% of the time. I’m fairly new and don’t understand which parts of poker are dependent on math. Any help is appreciated, thanks! Keep up the informational vids!

    • Alec

      Hey CC,

      I used a poker equity calculator called PokerStove which you can DL for free. There’s a tutorial which comes with it.

      If you want me to walk you through the entire process, along with hand examples and a blueprint I’ve used for years to crush the games you can grab a copy of my book ‘The Four Steps to Beating Anyone at Poker’ right here:

      It was written for players like yourself.


  • Wes

    Hi Alec

    Interested in the pre-flop BTN call. I would usually just fold in this spot because of the high chance of being dominated by a better ace – and it saves me from making a mistake later in the hand where I pay-off a river bet or saves me from having to make a hero fold!

    • Alec

      Definitely agree for most of the time. I thought he’d play straight forward post flop and I could get away, and primarily I wanted to trap the blinds and play vs. them calling too wide while in position.

  • Sean

    Would have been sick if you could have realised on the turn it was AK and folded the turn. Good hand

    • Alec

      Thanks Sean. Sick indeed!

  • Martin

    Hi Alec ,

    I am really impressed by you calling the flop. And more specific your thoughts behind the call. Raising there would result in a 4 bet most of the time which would leave you in a tough spot. I wonder which line you would have taken against a player who is a bit less tight though.
    Love to see your HotD vids. Hope you keep going to make them in the future!

    Good luck @ the tables

    • Alec

      Thanks for the kind words Martin. Against other players of course I’d consider calling here!