Most of the time, your opponents will make decisions based on the strength of their own hands without worrying too much about what you might have. If you think about it, this shouldn’t be surprising. Since that’s basically how I asked you to play through the first three skills.
When your opponents miss the flop and you bet $50, they fold. When your opponents flop bottom pair and you bet $50, they might fold or call. But if they call, when they don’t improve on the turn and you bet $150, they fold. The same logic holds for middle pairs and unimproved pocket pairs—most hands weaker than top pair that also don’t have flush or straight draws to keep your opponents in the hand. They may call a flop bet. But if you keep firing and they don’t improve, they’ll fold.
The same logic also holds for weak draws. When your opponents flop a gutshot and you bet $50, they might fold or they might call. But if they call, when they don’t improve on the turn and you bet $150, they fold.
Most opponents, most of the time, will attempt to put a value on their own hands and then compare that value to the betting action. As long as the betting action stays smaller than the value they assign to their hand, they’ll stick around. When the cost of playing the hand moves significantly beyond their valuation, they’ll likely fold. (I don’t mean that people think, “This is a seventy-three dollar hand. No more, and no less.” The thinking is fuzzier and more intuitive than that.)
The trick to effective barreling is determining when your opponents are most likely to feel their hands didn’t make the cut. The more likely your opponents have hands they don’t view as worth a lot, the more you should want to bet.
It’s a little tricky to figure out when these situations occur, especially if you aren’t very experienced. The rest of this skill, along with the next two, are devoted to trying to answering this question.
In a word, what are the signs an opponent is likely to fold to a bet?