Double Barrels in Tournament Play
Double barrels will get your blood pumping. Whether the pot was raised pre-flop or you started the action with a bluff on the flop, the turn will be the point in which you either breathe a sigh of relief or start to become very worried. One or two big double barrels could be the difference between a deep run and a crippled stack in a tournament. You need to make some big plays if you want to run deep, and a double barrel can be the perfect way to pick up an extra 20 big blinds in an attempt to pad your stack.
Double barrels are very well understood in the world of poker, but many tournament players have no clue how to properly execute them. There are a lot of poker players who take blind stabs at double barreling with no real reason or strategy in mind. It should go without saying, however, that this is about as destructive as it gets. There's a real art to double barrels, and the creativeness and skillfulness in this art is magnified in a tournament. You may very well crush your chances of a big win if you make just one ill-timed double barrel. It feels great to see your opponent fold on the turn when you have nothing at all, but your heart will sink when they instead go all in. Double barrels are the very definition of high risk and high reward in tournament poker.
The Right Opponents to Double Barrel
As with almost any move in poker, the first step in a successful double barrel is determining whether or not a player is capable of folding their hand. There's no shortage of players, and especially in tournaments, who just hate to fold any hand at any cost. You could make the perfect play and still wind up as the loser just because the other player wasn't ever going to play into your strategy. Targeting the right opponents for a double barrel isn't very difficult to do, though, so you shouldn't worry about conquering this facet of winning double barrel techniques.
If you are new to a table, double barreling shouldn't be one of the first things on your mind. Instead, the better strategy is to scope out your table mates in order to see how each player approaches the game. It shouldn't take too long before you realize which players need to get to showdown each hand and which players always back down to aggression. In terms of double barrel candidates, you should be lining up the weak and passive players who tend to crumble in the face of aggression.
The worst thing that you can do is to try and force a calling station off of their hand via a double barrel. It might be frustrating that a player never seems to fold, but you need to use this to your advantage. In fact, the calling stations are seldom even fit for a continuation bet, so double barreling these players is just asking for trouble. Find the weak opponents and exploit them. Wait to capitalize on loose players when you actually have a strong hand.
The Right Situations for Double Barrels
Just as the right type of opponent is necessary for a double barrel, so too is the right situation. It's all too common for a player to fire out another bet on the turn without giving consideration to the board or the action at hand. Imagine that you raised pre-flop, got a few calls, and the flop brought two spades. You then lead out with a c-bet and manage to get a few folds along with one call. At this point you are assuming your opponent either has a pair or stronger or a flush draw, with nothing at all also being a possibility.
Given this information, there are really only a few cards that would be bad for a double barrel. If the turn brings another spade, what should you do? Well, we know that a pair or better is unlikely to fold with a spade. Hands that floated can use the spade as a bluffing opportunity, and spade draws obviously aren't going anywhere. Using this data, you should know that a turn spade should mean an automatic shutdown as you'll only receive folds from a handful of hands. If the turn was the 9h, however, you would be in perfect shape for a double barrel.
Tournaments are slightly different than cash games when it comes to double barrels because of the ongoing fear factor. Tournament players are afraid to risk big portions of their stacks without huge hands, so double barrels will be able to force folds from a larger number of hands than they would otherwise be capable of. Use this fear in your opponents to your advantage, but don't forget that an ideal situation for double barreling isn't something that can easily be compensated for.
Double Barrels in Early Stages
Early stage double barrels will generally be quite useless. Even if you are able to pull off a double barrel early on in a tournament, the chances are that you aren't going to derive any massive benefits from it. You will probably win a handful of blinds that really don't increase your overall firing power by all that much. Double barrels are beneficial in tournaments when the pots won will increase your stack by a legitimate margin, but in the early stages this just isn't the case.
Double Barrels in Late Stages
As you get into the money and play down to the final table, double barrels will be more and more risky. On one hand, you could move yourself up a number of spots on the leader board, but you could also be priming yourself for an early exit.
Since it's impossible to determine when a double barrel is guaranteed to work, the only thing that you can do is to find the absolute best spots possible. This means that you'll need to be facing both an opponent that is capable of letting go of their hand and you must be in a spot where they are likely to be weak. If both of these primary elements aren't in place, you are better off not putting your chips and stack at risk.
You won't have many comfortable chances to win big pots in the late stages of a tournament, but just about anything is better than merely hoping that your opponent changed their mind about the hand between the flop and turn. Double barrels should be implemented in the late stages of tournaments only when you are sure of a high success rate.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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