When to Double Barrel in Poker

written by: John

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The best way to think of a double barrel in poker is to think of it much like a 2nd attempt at a continuation bet when your first continuation bet or "barrel" failed on the flop. Double barrels are a higher risk play since you are attempting another bluff even after your opponent has shown interest in his or her hand by calling your flop bet. They can be quite costly if used at the wrong times or against the wrong players so being able to distinguish from the right or wrong situations is critical in order for this play to have a high success rate. 

Correct Double Barrels Start with Good Continuation Bets

Correct double barrels are going to start with solid continuation bets. Preferred boards to c-bet on will be boards that are rather dry because they are much more unlikely to connect with your opponent's calling range. For example, an A-8-3 flop is much better for continuation betting than an A-K-9 flop. On an A-K-9 flop, you're not going to get any folds with a c-bet if your opponent has any sort of piece of it or draw. There are exceptions to this of course, but the drier the board the better.

Good Double Barrel Cards

Despite your best efforts to properly c-bet, you will have your c-bets called by players either whom have a hand or have decided to float you with overs. Or they just realize that the dry flop you're c-betting is going to hit your raising range about as often as it's going to hit their calling range - not often at all.

This is where the double barrel will come in. Good double barrels will be cards that help your perceived range. For example, say you made a continuation bet on a Q-7-3 board. A good double barrel card will be any card higher than a queen because those cards are more likely to hit your range. So, if an ace or king peeled on the turn, this would be a good time to double barrel because any hand that would've called the flop such as medium strength pocket pairs or weak queens would have a hard time continuing to the river.

As a rule of thumb, any turn that peels a higher card than the high card on the flop is generally a good card to double barrel as it likely improves a large majority of your range. Other cards that are just slightly lower than the highest flop card are "ok" as well, as they can still improve your perceived range, but the efficiency of the double barrel may not be as high. For example, on a Q-7-3 flop, a J on the turn might be ok to double barrel, but you your opponents still might come along one more street with medium pairs and/or possible draws.

Bad Double Barrel Cards

Bad double barrel cards are going to be the opposite of good double barrel cards. Bad double barreling cards are going to be cards that are lower than the highest card on the flop.

For example, say you had the same flop of Q-7-3. A bad card to be double barreling on would be any card smaller than a Q. So, if a 2 peeled on the turn, you would not want to fire another bet. The reason for this is simple - a smaller card on the turn generally doesn't improve your range any, if at all, and makes hands like medium pairs still likely to be good in which case they will continue to the river. The best way to think of it is that most small cards don't change the situation much and they don't help your story of having the best hand. So, it's a waste of time and resources to try to bluff in these spots.

Turn cards that pair the board are also bad to double barrel. They really don't improve your perceived range at all and just make it more likely that hands that your opponent may hold are ahead which will make your opponents more likely to call.

Opponent Tendencies

As always in poker, your opponent's tendencies are going to be a huge factor in your decisions. This will be especially true when it comes to double barreling.

Consider this; would you bluff a calling station? No, you wouldn't (or shouldn't). This is because they don't fold often enough to make bluffing worthwhile. So, the same principal will apply to double barreling. There is no reason to double barrel someone incapable of finding a fold. Tight players, on the other hand, will be the best to double barrel because they are capable of making a fold if they feel they're beaten. Some tight players will even go out of their way to find a reason to fold. These kinds of players will be your prime double barreling targets.

There are other types of tendencies or traits to consider as well. For example, does your opponent like to float the flop often? If they do, then double barreling them might be better than trying to double barrel the guy that generally folds to your flop c-bets. This is because the guy who normally folds to a flop c-bet but decides this time to call is likely to be much stronger than the guy who always sees a turn. Another thing to think about is if your opponent has ever folded to a double barrel assuming you have history with him. If not, are you willing to triple barrel on the river? If not, then a double barrel is not going to be very cost effective.

In short, knowing what players you are up against and their tendencies will help you to make better decisions as to when or if you will double barrel.

Double Barrel Summary

Although double barreling can be a tricky play to pull off, if timed correctly and used against the correct opponent(s), it can certainly be a profitable one. As the statement holds true in virtually everything, including poker, practice will make perfect.