• August 2, 2021

Triple Barrel Bluffing

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The game of No Limit Hold’Em has now evolved to a level where players are folding less and less pre-flop, so the merits of having a very loose-aggressive pre-flop style have decreased significantly. A few years ago 3 and 4, 5, (and so on) betting pre-flop were very profitable strategies which worked well in tournament poker.
Nowadays a style more tailored to post-flop poker is more profitable and will further longer term success in all forms of Poker.
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The river is the street where you extract the most value from your opponent and is generally the biggest bet you will be making in any given poker hand. Therefore, it is very important to be correct when assessing whether or not your opponent will call or fold to your bet.
There are numerous factors to consider when assessing whether to attempt to run a big bluff. Check them out in the list below:
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When to fire: Let’s assume you have ended up betting your way to the river and left with just King high. You now have to make an assessment of your opponent’s range and make a decision as to whether their range is strong enough to withstand a river bet. Being the last aggressor in any hand gives you a significant advantage over your opponent as it is much easier to bluff with King high than it is to call a bluff, even when we know our opponent is very weak.
Holding a blocker to the nuts in your hand such as the nut-flush blocker when the river completes the flopped flush draw is a great opportunity to put a lot of pressure on your opponent. When you are holding a nut blocker, it decreases the probability of your opponent having a flush type hand as your turn bet is likely to have folded out a lot of their non-nutted draws.

When to hold back:
A generally bad spot to fire that final bullet is when all the draws that were present on the flop miss and you are left with a high card hand. Your opponent is more likely to call in these spots as the range you have on the river is wider and could contain a lot of missed draws.
There will be times when your opponent has a missed draw on the river and will be folding to almost any bet. In spots where you feel that this may be the case, a small river bet does exactly the same job as a large bet. Therefore, the optimum line in attempting this kind of bluff would be to bet small (1/5 pot). This in turn saves you a decent amount of chips when you are wrong and your opponent has a made hand.
What are you repping? For a bluff to be successful against a good opponent, it has to make sense. You need to be able to credibly represent a range of hands that has your opponent beat. It is better to do this with a consistent bet sizing, which you would have used to value bet if you did have a made hand. I see a common error made by a lot of players of having inconsistent bet sizing when they are bluffing compared to when they have made hands. This in turn polarizes their ranges on rivers and therefore allows for hero calls to be made easier, because their story doesn’t make sense.
What is your table image? You need to be very aware of how your opponents perceive you. If you have previously been caught bluffing or have a reputation for being aggressive, the likelihood your opponent will look you up on the river with weaker holdings increases.
Those of you that have seen me play before will know my style is on the more aggressive side and I’m not afraid to empty the clip. As this is widely known, this means in order for my bluffs to work, I have to apply the maximum pressure to my opponents, making it very difficult for them to call or just bluff a lot less frequently. I prefer option one.
Players with a tight image here have a distinct advantage of being able to use their image to get opponents to laydown weak to medium strength hands on the river. Tight players are generally given too much credit on river bets, therefore it becomes very profitable to bluff a lot more rivers.
Pick your opponents wisely Knowing your customer is very important when it comes to triple barrel bluffing. It is ill-advised to continue with bluffs on rivers vs rich business men and amateur type players in tournaments with big stacks when you feel they have face up weak-medium strength ranges.
They have limited experience and a lot of chips at their disposal which they are happy to use to satisfy their curiosity, even in situations where they feel they are most probably losing.
It is also important to keep a mental note of your opponents temperament. Players who are on tilt, who have taken a bad beat, or just seem to be losing a lot of pots are generally more likely to find an excuse to make what should be a bad call.
What are good and bad rivers to bluff
Good river cards to bluff are cards which strengthen our perceived range. These are cards which significantly change the board texture and include scare cards such as overcards to the board, and cards that complete straight or flush draws which were present on the flop.
River cards which are not so good to bluff are cards which weaken our hand range and strengthen our opponents. These generally include river cards which pair one of the bottom cards on the board. Low cards (bricks) which do not significantly change the board texture are also not as good to bluff on.
What bet sizing is best? There is no set rule for what sizing is best, however it is important to make sure that your bets tell a credible story about the particular range of hands you are trying to represent. It is important to remain consistent with your bet sizing so you don’t give away sizing tells. A good player will pick up quickly on whether there is inconsistency in your bet sizing and in turn will pick off your bluffs.
All these concepts tie in well with one of the more interesting hands I have played early on Day 2 at EPT Deauville. I was one of the chip leaders with 120k @ 600/1200 which was about 2.5 times average. This hand involves a high stakes cash game player who had been very active seated 3 seats to my left and was the overall tournament chip leader with +200k.
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Steve Carr

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