Friday, October 18, 2013

Triple Barrel Bluffing

Triple Barrel Bluffing BlackRain79
I have never written a post about this subject before for one reason. This is the micros, triple barrel bluffing is just throwing away money right? This was true several years ago when the games were a fair bit looser and the regs were mostly bad. This is not so much the case anymore at least once you get to about NL25. There are a few regs who are capable of floating both the flop and turn to try and take it away on the river. But in much bigger numbers are all the weak tight regs who will call you down with hands like a small overpair or TPTK/TPGK. However, they will often give up if you can fire the third shell.

Finding these situations can be tremendously good for your winrate at these stakes. On the flip side, blindly triple barreling every reg because you think he is weak can be just as bad for your winrate. So in this article I am going to go through a bunch of examples where we will look for solid evidence that a triple barrel bluff is likely to work.

Some Quick Notes Before I Get Started

1) When I say "bluff" it doesn't always mean that we have nothing. It just means that we don't expect to have the best hand at showdown very often. In fact, in these situations our actual hand value will have next to zero importance regarding our decisions. What matters most is what we are representing, not what we actually have.

2) Fair warning, this article will be HUD intensive. In all of the examples below I will be making use of the stats from my new HUD setup as outlined in my last post. I talk about what each of the stats and abbreviation mean in detail so you may want to have a look at that before reading this post. All of the opponents will also be based off of actual information from my database at NL25 and NL50 with their names removed for privacy concerns.

3) Proper HUD usage is all about sample size, sample size and sample size. I don't have room in this article to provide an in depth look at what kind of sample size that we need for each stat though. As I talked about before with my new HUD many of the stats (especially the turn, river and 4bet) will fail to provide us with statistically significant information over smaller sample sizes.

This is ok though because I feel that most of my opponents in these games (NL10, NL25 and NL50) will be regs who I have large samples on. I still regularly check the sample size on these stats before basing a decision off of them though as you will see in the examples.

4) Our two main concerns in the spots below will be as follows:
  • what the opponent's HUD stats tell us 
  • what the board texture is and how that applies to what we think he has. 
You always have to remember that bluffing is like telling a story. Stories are only good if they are believable.

Example #1

Opponent's HUD Stats:

We have A♥5♥ in SB
The TAG villain above opened from the BTN.

We know that this player is going to have a really wide range from this position. He steals at 36% as we can see above. We also notice that he folds to 3Bets a good amount of the time at 73% so this is a pretty routine spot to do so.

He calls our 3Bet and we see a flop of:


This is a very dry and nondescript board unlikely to have hit our opponent. Even though he only folds to CBets 45% of the time we choose to make one anyways.

He calls and the turn brings:


This is a really good card for us because it gives us a gutshot and the nut flush draw. We would be betting here again regardless though given our opponent's high fold to turn CBet which is 80% (4/5). 

He calls and the river brings:


So we identified above the two main areas of interest in spots where we might consider firing the third bullet as a bluff. These were our opponent's HUD stats and the board texture as it applies to his range. Starting with the HUD stats we can see that our opponent has folded to a river CBet 100% of the time however the sample size is only 1. You can find this out by hovering your cursor over the stat in Pokertracker 4. While this tells us that he can fold it doesn't really give us that much to go on given that he has only had one opportunity to fold! 

We could have a look at his WTSD% in the full popup (click on the player's name in PT4) though and see what that tells us. At 18% he goes to showdown far less often than most players. That is all we needed to know, fire again.

Let's look at the board texture before moving on also though. The river card is pretty good for us. It hits our perceived range hard. It is important to note what he might have in this spot though as well. As a kind of stationy type reg he probably likes to hang around with a lot of mid pair hands like 88, 99, TT. It also makes sense for him to just call IP preflop with these hands versus our 3Bet as well. He is not going to like that K very much if he has a hand like this. Now we could have the Q or the K.

So I think all things considered we should fire again here on the river against this opponent and in this situation. Please note that there is nothing hasty in my decision here. I have clear evidence as to why I believe that another bet here will be profitable. His fold to river CBet doesn't tell us much but an 18% WTSD is really low meaning he probably will give up a lot here without the nuts. Also the river card hits our perceived range hard. 

Example #2

Full Ring

Opponent's HUD Stats:

We have J♦T♦ on the button.
The TAGfish villain above opened from MP.

We can see that this player fold to 3Bets a ludicrous amount of the time so this is just an automatic 3Bet.

He calls our 3Bet and we see a flop of:


We can see that he doesn't fold to CBets very often but we go ahead and make one after he checks to us anyways.

He calls and the turn brings:


He checks again. Now normally we might lay off here and opt for some pot control especially since his fold to turn CBet is only 33% (1/3) but the K♥ just looks like such a nice card to barrel. He must hate it right? 

He calls and the river brings:


I am done with this hand. Here's why. First off HUD stats. This guy goes to showdown WAY more than 

than the last guy at 27%. He has folded to a river CBet before but the sample once again is only 1. He appears to be a much weaker reg than the last one with very unbalanced stats in every category meaning that he is probably just going to station up with an ace and call us down the whole way. 

And that leads me to the last reason for not triple barrel bluffing here: it doesn't make sense on this board. The 9 on the river is basically a blank and is not going to be very scary no matter what he has. I think we can pretty safely narrow his range down at this point to an AK or AQ type hand. Remember that he folds to 3Bets 91% of the time so he is only calling with basically premium hands. I think he folds 99-QQ on the turn when we barrel. So that only leaves the big aces and KK. I don't think there is any chance we can get any of these hands to fold if we bet again. 

Example #3
Full Ring

Opponent's HUD Stats:

We have A♣J♣ in the CO.
The TAG above opened from MP.

We notice a huge fish in the big blind so we decide to just call. Unfortunately the fish folds though and we see a flop of:


He CBets and we decide to raise. We raise for a couple of reasons. First off as we can see in the full 

popup display this guy's range is reasonably wide from MP at 15%. We expect him to have a lot of hands like mid pocket pairs or big aces that missed the board and he is just making a standard CBet. He CBets at a reasonable 66% as we can see above as well. Also, this seems like a good hand to raise with. We have a gutshot to the nuts, a backdoor to the flush and we certainly could be good if we pair our ace as well. The biggest reason for raising though is his fold to flop raise. As we can see above in the HUD display (FFR), he is folding 75% of the time (3/4). 

He calls and the turn brings:


He checks. We may have considered slowing down here a lot if it wasn't for this turn card. We pick up the nut flush draw and after we raised on the flop and he checks to us here it just seems kind of weak to not follow through with another barrel. 

We bet again and he calls. The rivers brings:


He checks. The HUD stats don't really give us much to go on. He hasn't had an opportunity yet to fold to a river CBet and his WTSD% is a pretty normal 22% for a good player. We don't really expect to be able to represent too much with this river card either. He probably has a K a good amount of the time here and the 8 will not scare him much. If he has QJ we don't need to bluff because we have the best hand. I don't see too many other hands in his range. 

We could brute force fire again to try and run him off AK but it seems like a pretty hard sell. We are pretty much repping TT or 33 only. Both are plausible given our preflop play but it doesn't necessarily mean that this pretty decent reg is going to give us credit for one of them and lay it down. So without any clear reason to bet here I think we should just check back and give up.

Examples #4


Opponent's HUD Stats:

We have 55♣ in the small blind.
The nit above opened from the button.

Even though he is a bit on the tighter side we decide to 3Bet anyways since his range is probably pretty wide when opening from this position. We expect to show a better long term EV by gaining the initiative back here rather than just calling OOP and hoping to hit our set.

He calls and the flop comes:


He only folds to flop CBets 38% of the time but after we 3Bet and on this board we choose to fire anyways.

He calls and the turn comes:


He folds 100% of the time to turn CBets although the sample is only 1. But the turn card is perfect as well. We apply pressure to all of those 66-KK pocket pairs since the ace definitely hits out perceived range and is scary for him.

He calls and the river comes:


Once again, in the absence of any information on our opponent folding to river CBets we can turn to the full popup and see that his WTSD is a very low 19%. This gives us reason to believe that he will get shy if we can fire again. 

Furthermore that river card is pretty good for our perceived range. He might have chosen not to believe us on the turn with his pocket 9's for example but now on the river with another broadway overcard he may be more willing to give us some credit. 

For both of these reasons I think we should fire the third shell in this spot.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this article has been useful for you guys. I know that this subject is something that is often talked about once you get to the upper end of the micros and need to start playing some real poker if you want to crush it. There is a a lot of mystery out there surrounding triple barrel bluffing though and hopefully this helps clear it up a bit.

If you take anything away from this article though I hope that it is that you need to have clear reasons to make this play. It is not something that I do very often. I certainly don't do it 50% of the time as this post might suggest. I picked spots purposely where it was possible to show you the reasoning. In most situations you won't have those clear reasons. 

Make sure every action that you make in this game has a purpose behind it. Don't bet for the sake of betting especially in spots like this where you are committing a significant portion of your stack. Lastly though, if you do find yourself in a spot where all of the planets are aligned so to speak and it seems right to fire the third bullet, don't get upset with yourself if they call. 

I have been soulread many times by the NL25 heroes. A lot of the regs at these stakes are straight up donkeys and won't give you credit no matter what. This is why it is so important to be sure that the situation is ideal before attempting this play. 

If you have any questions or comments on the hands above please leave them in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

blackrain79 - micro stakes strategy


  1. whats your bet sizing when you bluff the river?

    1. Good question. When I am barreling the turn and river I like to make it a decent amount to let them known that I am serious. Normally I bet around 2/3 pot.

  2. Hi BlackRain, i know you are a cash player, but for begginer is it better to play small stakes SNGs or cash game? Your articles are excilent!

    1. Thanks Anon,

      It is hard to say. I don't really have that much experience (like basically none) with SnGs so I would not want to compare the two. I think both are probably good starting games though. The one thing that I think is better about cash though is it forces you to play all of the streets because the stacks are deeper. This makes for an easier transition over to other formats in the future.

  3. Is it still easy to rise from 2 nl to 25 nl these days?

    1. Not as easy as it was 5 years ago but certainly not that difficult. For someone who takes the game seriously and is willing to put in the effort I don't see why it cannot be done within a relatively short period of time as well.

  4. "Went to Showdown" how can we decide low or not.. under %50 or over %30 ?

    1. Most winning regs are 22%-24%. So if you see 25%+ they are more likely to be a calling station. 21% or less you can probably bluff easier.