There are a handful of special moves that, when mastered, can make the difference between winning a little and winning a lot.
In this beginner poker strategy series we’re going to introduce you to 10 essential Texas Hold’em moves and show you exactly how to use them to make more money.
Today we cover the triple-barrel bluff, the gunslinger of poker tactics. Blow holes in your opponent’s defenses by firing bluff bullets on every street, forcing them to lay down the best hand.
The What: The bones of a triple-barrel bluff involves making bets on each and every street, usually after taking control of the hand by being the pre-flop aggressor.
The When: While a triple-barrel bluff can be effective against all but the biggest calling stations, it’s a move usually reserved for tougher, thinking opponents. In order to three-barrel bluff effectively you need to be acutely aware of the story you’re telling in the hand, and your opponent’s ability to follow the plot.
The Where: In order to triple-barrel bluff effectively you need enough chips to make increasingly large bets on the flop, turn and river. This means the move only works in deep-stacked situations. Forget about triple-barreling if you’re sitting in an online poker MTT with 20 big blinds.
The Why: A big part of succeeding in poker involves winning pots when your hand is worse than your opponent’s and no move in poker tells a more convincing story than a well-executed three-barrel bluff. Not only can you get players to throw away mediocre hands that beat you, you can trick them into mucking hands that have you absolutely crushed.
Triple Barrel Bluffing Done Right
Firing three barrels as a bluff is something you should incorporate into your game because it will not only win you money when you don’t have a hand, it will also help balance your range and get you paid off when you bet every street with the nuts.
Every successful pro knows when and where to triple-barrel bluff.
But if done willy-nilly, without understanding why you’re three-barreling, it can become a serious leak.
Because we’re assuming these concepts are new to you we’re going to keep it simple and focus on easy ways to decide whether it’s appropriate to keep firing at a pot.
Fire the Flop
Even beginners know that being the aggressor pre-flop is important, but things can get tricky when deciding whether to continuation bet. Because all three-barrel bluffs begin with the continuation bet, it’s crucial to understand what kind of boards you can continuation bet profitably.
Since we’re talking about three barrel bluffs, and not value-betting three streets, we’ll assume you miss the flop.
The most basic way to look at flops is whether they are coordinated or not. A flop like J♣ T♣ 7♣ is a lot easier to connect with than something like K♦ 8♣ 2♠. Look for dry uncoordinated flops to continuation bet.
Also consider that as the preflop aggressor opponents will weight your range towards big cards, while their range may be weighted more towards medium cards and smaller pocket pairs. Look for flops that match your perceived range and miss your opponent’s.
Trigger-Pull the Turn
Deciding whether to continue firing on the turn is crucial, and it’s all about how the board develops.
It's important to understand what turn and river cards are good for barreling.
The whole idea is to fire at cards that improve your perceived range, and hurt your opponent’s. Again, look for high cards, preferably higher than the high-card on the flop. Cards that are bigger than the second highest card on the flop are also great second-barrel cards.
A huge part of your opponent’s flop-calling range is middle pairs and top pairs. Any big cards make those hands more vulnerable.
Cards that pair the board are generally bad boards at which to fire a second barrel.
Long-Rifle the River
After three streets of betting, correctly sizing your third bullet is especially important to your bottom line.
Remember the concepts we went over on the turn and take it one step further. Big cards, preferably overcards to the board, are good for triple-barreling, while cards that complete draws are not.
Another thing to think about is the development of the board on the turn. Often your opponent will be calling with middle or top pair on the flop and pick up some sort of extra draw on the turn that allows him to continue in the hand.
If the turn put a bunch of draws on board, but the river missed them, consider a third barrel.
Three-Barreling in Action
Here’s a chance for you to see the power of the triple-barrel bluff in action.
In a particularly nose-bleedy episode of High Stakes Poker, Tom “durrrr” Dwan cold-three bets from the big blind and fires every street against Phil Ivey.
To Ivey’s credit he comes close to making a truly sick call but in the end even he bows to the power of the triple barrel bluff.
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