Barreling

The term barreling is usually associated with bluffing but refers to all continuation betting beyond the flop. Continuation betting the turn is called double barreling, and continuation betting the river is known as triple barreling. I use the terms interchangeably whether my hand is for value or as a bluff.

It is my philosophy that barreling can serve many purposes, depending on the strength of your hand:

  • For tier 1 hands, a barrel gets more money in the pot to make for an easier all-in by the river.
  • Tier 2 hands barrel to get continuing value from worse made hands and draws.
  • For tier 3 hands, a barrel can be used as a tool to make better hands fold or set up a cheap showdown.
  • Tier 4 hands can be barreled to take advantage of players who float often but fold to barrels at an exploitable frequency.

In the next chapter, I will cover betting strategies for flopped tier 1, 2, and 3 hands. In this section, I will focus on barreling as a semi-bluff or pure bluff.

Double Barreling

Knowing when to fire a second barrel is a skill that most players find perplexing. Their c-bet is called on the flop and suddenly here they are on the turn with an inflated pot, a weak hand, and no clue what to do. In reality, they should not have c-bet the flop, if they did not already have a plan for the turn.

In my opinion, the turn barrel is the new flop c-bet. Most regulars will understand how frequently you are firing a c-bet and will often try floating you as a means of combating your strategy. Therefore, making a read based on flop texture and the player you are facing should mostly be done on the turn rather than the flop.

Double barreling is something that should be done selectively and decisively whether for value or as a bluff. I generally need at least one of the following three factors going for me before I consider barreling as a bluff:

  1. My hand has improved
    This could mean picking up a gutshot or making bottom pair. Barreling in these situations is done to give you the chance to make a well-disguised river monster or set up a discounted showdown at a price you set.
  2. A scare card falls
    An over card hitting, a flush completing, or the board now being four to a straight are all examples of scare cards. These are excellent situations to attempt a bluff.

3. My opponent’s fold to barrel is exploitably high
If my opponent floats often and folds to barrel more than 60% of the time, then I will barrel my entire air range.

Example #11.6: Barreling when your hand improves

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($4.36)

Hero (CO) ($2.62)

Button ($12.25) SB ($5.88)
BB ($12.18)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 10♦, 6♠
1 fold, Hero bets $0.20, Button calls $0.20,2 folds

Flop: ($0.55) Q♣, 2♠, 9♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.20, Button calls $0.20
The flop is Queen high, so we fire a standard c-bet and get floated.

Turn: ($0.95) 6♦ (2 players)
Hero bets $0.60,1 fold
The turn gives us 2nd pair, so we pick up some equity and showdown value. Barreling here is mandatory to get value from 2x, JT, KT, and T8 and to elicit folds from 77-88 and 9x.
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Example #11.7: Barreling when turning a draw No-Limit Hold’em, $0.20 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($12.10)
HJ ($10.58)
Hero (CO) ($4.86) Button ($6.80)

SB ($7.43) BB ($15.34)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 7♦, 9♦
2 folds, Hero bets $0.40, Button calls $0.40,1 fold,BB calls $0.20

Flop: ($1.30) 4♦, J♣, 5♥ (3 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $0.60, Button calls $0.60,1 fold

We c-bet a very dry board and get floated by the button.

Turn: ($2.50) 6♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $3.86 (All-In),1 fold
We turn open-ended and over bet shove to exert maximum pressure. At least some the time we would expect our flop c-bet to be raised by a strong Jx hand. Therefore, we can more heavily weigh our opponent’s range toward lower pairs and draws which should not be able to call in this situation. Even if we run into some slow played monster, we still generally have 20% equity with our open-ender.
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Example #11.8: Barreling a turn Ace

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($18.04)
HJ ($101.84)
CO ($25.34)
Hero (Button) ($12.16) SB ($32.12)

BB ($50.53)
Preflop: Hero is Button with K♥, 6♦

3 folds, Hero bets $1, SB calls $0.75, 1 fold Flop: ($2.50) 3♠, Q♣, 9♥ (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $1.25, SB calls $1.25

Turn: ($5) A♥ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $3.34, 1 fold
An Ace is the ultimate scare card against most players. With air, you should almost always look to barrel when one comes.
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Example #11.9: Barreling a scare card No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($23.20)

Hero (CO) ($13.60)

Button ($51.33) SB ($83.65) BB ($65.25)

Preflop: Hero is SB with 8♣, 4♣
1 fold, Hero bets $1, Btn calls $0.50, 2 folds

Flop: ($2) 6♠, 3♥, J♠ (2 players) Hero bets $1, Btn calls $1

Turn: ($4) K♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $2.67, Btn raises to $5.34, Hero folds
Not only did an over card come, a potential flush was also completed. Even though we were re- raised in this particular instance, it was still a good opportunity to fire a second barrel and we would see a high rate of long-term success in this type of spot.

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Example #11.10: Barreling air against wide floater

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($4.52)
CO ($7.15)
Hero (Button) ($3.09)
SB ($4.54)
BB ($11.53) 38/5/22 Folds to c-bet 30%, folds to barrel 50%.

Preflop: Hero is Button with 3♣, 2♦
2 folds, Hero bets $0.20, SB calls $0.15, BB calls $0.10

Flop: ($0.60) K♠, 8♠, 5♥ (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $0.30,1 fold, BB calls $0.30
Standard c-bet in position on a king high board. Only the big blind calls.

Turn: ($1.20) 10♥ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $0.60,1 fold
Since most players raise top pair against short stacks, our opponent likely has a flush draw or some kind of 8x, 5x, or pocket pair. Since the big blind floats often but gives up on the turn half the time, this looks like a great spot to barrel off. Betting half pot on this turn leaves us $2.00 to shove into $2.40 on the river.
It is important to always appear committed when you make a bluff on the turn. I like to choose the amount that I think is just enough to feign commitment while at the same time minimizing a loss if forced to fold. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to barrel for about 20% of the beginning effective stack. It is a bit smaller than the ~25% I would bet for value, but not small enough to be transparent.
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When Not To Barrel As A Bluff

Example #11.11: Turn card narrows your range too much

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($27.78)
HJ ($29.45)
CO ($29.85)
Hero (Button) ($12.50) SB ($20.22)

BB ($53.12) 32/10/28 Folds to barrel 35% Preflop: Hero is Button with 6♣, 9♦

3 folds, Hero bets $1,1 fold, BB calls $0.50 Flop: ($2.25) 4♣, 7♥, 2♥, (2 players)

BB checks, Hero bets $1.13, BB calls $1.13

Turn: ($4.51) 4♠ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks
The board pairs and Hero’s hand does not improve. Any hand that called on the flop probably still looks good to the villain. It is unlikely that he can be barreled off of any piece of the board, any pocket pair, or any draw. The situation does not fit any of the criteria necessary to fire a second barrel bluff, so the best play is to check behind and give up unless we get a good river card to value bet or bluff.
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Example #11.12: Not barreling a calling station

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($98.69)
HJ (38.92)
Hero (CO) ($14.77)
Button ($12.10) 64/8/32 Folds to c-bet 40%, folds to barrel 0% over 7 opportunities SB (48.50)
BB ($66.60)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 9♦, 10♦
2 folds,Hero bets $1.00, Button calls $1.00, 2 folds

Flop: ($2.75) 4♣, 3♦, 8♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $2.00, Button calls $2.00
Hero c-bets with overs and back door straights and flush draws.

Turn: ($6.75) 7♥ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $3.50, Hero raises to $11.77 (All-In),1 fold
Hero turns open-ended against a villain that never folds to barrels. Betting here just sets up an awkward river, so Hero checks with the intention of shoving over any bet. Were villain to check the turn, there are a lot of rivers to bluff unimproved.

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Example #11.13: No barrel multi-way due to no fold equity

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($26.92)
CO ($39.65)
Hero (BTN) ($16.50) SB ($28.57) 22/12/25 BB ($10.83) 45/0/18

Preflop: Hero is BTN with 4♣ , 3♣
2 folds, Hero bets $1, SB calls $1, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($3.25) 2♣ , 9♦ , J♥ (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $1.63, SB calls $1.63, BB calls $1.63
Hero makes a marginal continuation bet on a slightly wet board and gets two callers.

Turn: ($8.14) 6♣ (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero checks
Even though the turn improves our hand, we often have little fold equity in a 3-way pot.

River: ($8.14) A♣ (3 players)
SB checks, BB bets $8.20 (All-In), Hero calls $8.20, SB calls $8.20
Hero completes his flush and flats hoping for action from the small blind.

Total pot: $32.74

Re sults:
SB had K♣ , A♦ (one pair, Aces).
BB had A♠ , 2♠ (two pair, Aces and twos).
Herohad4♣,3♣ (flush,Acehigh).
Outcome: Hero won $31.14.
This hand illustrates how you must consider fold equity anytime you are deciding to bluff. Sometimes it is better to take the free card rather than taking the chance of getting blown off your draw.
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Triple Barreling

Once you decide to fire a turn barrel as a bluff, it is almost always best to follow through on the river, especially if you have air and no showdown value. This is especially true in today’s game where players know which cards are ideal for barreling the turn. This makes firing the river with air almost mandatory. In some situations, giving up on the river and triple barreling are both neutral or slightly – EV, but usually the more aggressive play is less -EV. Always choose the lesser of two evils in poker.

There is also a matter of obtaining long-term expected value with your strong river hands. If you always play aggressively when you have a big hand but give up when you are weak, then you will be susceptible to exploitation from tough opponents. Ultimately, while firing three barrels with air may not always be profitable, it will theoretically add to the bottom line of your strong river range.

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