Firing the Second Barrel

About to make a move in Barcelona

Do you regularly fire continuation bets, only to give up when called?

Then not only are you playing very predictable and exploitable poker, you're also leaving a ton of money on the table.

Continuation bets are great - they take advantage of the initiative you gained by being the pre-flop raiser and they carry that over onto the flop.

Often they win the pot completely uncontested.

But as the continuation bet's popularity has grown over the last few years, even the fish have caught on to it.

Most players now can tell that if you raised before the flop you're going to c-bet the flop whether you hit or not.

The end result is they began calling that flop more often to see how you react on the turn.

Too many TAGs fire the one barrel at the flop and then just give up, conceding the pot whenever they are called.

Playing such predictable poker makes you extremely exploitable.

Your opponents know that if you ever fire two barrels, you have the goods. And if you check the turn, you have nothing.

Such obvious play is never going to be profitable for long, so quit giving up so easily.

Allen Kessler
If a tight player calls the flop, he usually has something.

What Do Players Peel the Flop With?

Obviously what your opponent calls with is going to vary. A tight player is more likely to have something when he calls the flop than a loose one, and so on.

The majority of players now smooth-call flops to see what you do on the turn.

They usually have a weak made hand or a weak draw, and they resign themselves to calling one street to "see what happens."

The bulk of these players' hands is very marginal and can't stand a lot of heat.

Therefore they'll often peel the flop only to fold on the turn when you keep the heat on.

Which Cards Should I Barrel?

Now, I'm not advocating that you just fire every single street with nothing in hopes that your opponent will fold.

You will go broke very quickly and be pissed off at me.

Not all turn cards are equal when deciding to fire the second barrel - you have to look for the right situations.

Some cards are good and some are bad. You have to be able to properly analyze which cards are good barrel cards and which are bad.

Good Cards

Good cards to barrel are hands that improve your perceived range and hurt his range.

Let's take a look at an example:

$1/$2 six-max game online; $200 effective stacks.

It's folded to you on the button with 8 9. You raise to $7 and the BB calls.

The flop comes 4 7 J.

Your opponent checks and you bet $12. Your opponent calls.

Nam Le
What helps your range or hurts his range?

Your opponent's range here looks something like weak straight draws, a pair of sevens, pocket pairs like 66-99, or a jack.

The turn comes A.

This is a good card for your perceived range and it hurts his range. It completes no draws, and if he had a pair smaller than jacks there are now two overcards to worry about.

Even if he had a jack, he now has to worry about the ace.


Your opponent checks, you bet $25 and he folds.

Aces make excellent barrel cards because many players still believe that every pre-flop raise contains an ace.

This hand is very standard. Your opponent calls the flop with his weak made hand but folds to maintained aggression on the turn.

If you had given up when called, you would have had to resign yourself to losing the pot when the next two streets go check, check.

Bad Barrel Cards

Bad barrel cards are cards that entice your opponent to keep on calling.

When you're firing multiple barrels with no hand, you're obviously relying on fold equity.

If your fold equity is small, your chances at winning the pot are also small, since rarely are you going to win at showdown unimproved.

If the cards are unlikely to have helped your range and/or are likely to have helped your opponent's, forgo the extra barrel and save yourself the bet.

Think of your opponent's range when he calls your flop bet and of what you would do in that situation with which hands.

An example:

$1/$2 six-max game online; $200 effective stacks.

You're on the button with 5 7. You raise to $7 and the BB calls.

The flop comes 3 2 T.

You bet $10 and your opponent calls. The T comes on the turn.

Moment Of Truth
If the turn gives your opponent more reasons to call, don't bet it.

Is this a good barrel card?

Absolutely not. Think about what hands your opponent called the flop with.

Likely pocket pairs, tens and flush draws. Are any of those going to fold for a second bet on the turn?

Not on your life.

Not only did the T complete the flush draw, but it also paired the top card, making it less likely for you to have one.

Even the most n00bish of opponents understands this concept and will call your second barrel.

If the turn gives your opponent more reasons to call, don't bet it!

Ranges, Ranges, Ranges

The things to think about most when you're deciding to fire the second barrel or not are:

1. Does this card appear to have helped me?

2. Is this card unlikely to have helped my opponent?

If the answer to both is yes, then fire that second barrel.

You'll be surprised at how often your opponents give up.

Once you learn to stop giving up every time you are called and start keeping the pressure on, you'll not only win more hands but you'll become less predictable as a player.

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