Double barrels are the next step up from continuation bet. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a double barrel is when a player bets both the flop and the turn with a weak hand, usually a complete bluff. The reference to double stems from the fact that it's the second bet being made in the hand. Double barrels are not the type of move that new players should be attempting and are instead generally reserved for the more advanced players. With that said, they aren't the most complex move in the world. With a little bit of practice, almost any player should be able to pick up some pots with well-timed double barrel attempts.
A double barrel isn't the same thing as when a player is only betting for value with a good hand. The barrel portion of the term comes from the fact that the player is trying to "fire away" at their opponent in an effort to get them to fold. The double barrel isn't the end to this play, however, as a triple barrel would be the next leg of the play. As each street progresses, the move becomes more and more risky. While there's some money on the line when you try to get a fold from a continuation bet, you are going to have no choice but to bet even more on the turn, and then even more on the river. This is one of the primary reasons why it's not a good idea for novice players to make too many double barrel plays.
When to Double Barrel
The best time to double barrel is going to be when, in a nutshell, your opponent has reason to believe that they are now in a weaker position than they were on the flop. This could mean that the player was unable to improve their hand, you are likely to have improved your own, or a combination of the two. If you feel like there's a realistic chance that the opposite of either of these has happened, you will not be in a good position for a double barrel.
Scare cards are the biggest aid to any player looking to double barrel. If the flop comes with all low cards and you are unable to procure a fold from your opponent, there's a good chance that they either have a pocket pair or made a pair with the board. Because of this, an over card will have a strong chance of having beaten them. This is one ideal situation where you can place a perfect double barrel.
Draw heavy flops will also create opportune times for double barrels. If a player calls a flop bet and is likely to be chasing some sort of draw, you can safely assume that they will be less interested in the hand on the turn if they miss their draw. Good examples of this situation would be when there are either three to a straight or three to a flush on the flop. Players like to call with the king or ace of the correct suit if the board gives them four to a flush, but they are prone to giving up if the turn blanks. If you are going to double barrel in this position, however, you need to be ready and willing to triple barrel on the river as well. If they miss on the turn but call anyway, a river bet on another blank will be the only way to take down the pot. In the end, confidence in your read is everything.
When Not to Double Barrel
When not to double barrel is partially a matter of who you are facing and the situation that is at hand. Sometimes you'll run into a player who isn't ideal for a double barrel try regardless of how the hand has been played. If someone isn't folding because they are a calling station, things like scare cards aren't going to be reason enough for them to let go of their hand. Once you have determined that a player is indeed capable of laying down a hand, you'll then need to make sure that none of the following scenarios are going to affect your play.
On the turn, just as a scare card means a chance for you to get your opponent off their small pair, another low card is a chance for them to become more attached to their hand. The real struggle with these spots is that the turn is often times the point of ultimate commitment. Once many players call the turn, they won't let go on the river for almost any reason. Because of this, you are going to be sucking yourself into a trap when you bet on a turn card that really didn't change the hand all that much. Think about how you would react if you were your opponent and then play the hand accordingly.
The worst time to double barrel can also be the best time to double barrel. This is never truer than when draws complete themselves on the turn. Whether it's four to a flush or a gut shot straight, turns that deliver completed draws are going to put a scare in any player without the nuts. This will mean that you have a chance to send players running away in fear when they have a small hand and a draw comes, but it will also mean that your opponent could have hit the draw themselves.
You'll find out which is likely to be the case by the time you place your bet, but the truly optimal strategy is to have this figured out as well as possible before it gets to that point. Instead of risking your money just betting blindly, you should have your opponent on a more defined range of hands. Either way, if you get called on the turn, just give up. Firing a triple barrel into a board that had a completed draw on the turn is just asking for trouble.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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