This text is based on episode 8 of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by poker pro and coach Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood and Upswing VP Mike Brady. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.
Mike: Ready to level-up your poker game? I’m Mike Brady and as always I’m joined by my good friend, poker pro Gary Blackwood
Gary: What’s up guys, welcome to this week’s podcast.
Today we’re going to talk about firing that second barrel; when to do it, when not to do it, the best hands to follow through with on the turn after betting the flop.
Mike: That’s right, today we’re gonna help you understand when to follow up with a second bet after you c-bet on the flop, and how to know when it’s better to simply check instead. We’re going to go through a few different types of boards and talk about the types of hands that make the best double barrel bluffs on each one. We’ll also cover how to tell which hands are worth value betting for a second time.
This is the last episode of the first season of this podcast, but don’t worry. We’re just taking a four-week break. I don’t want to put too much pressure on Gary and I to pump out these pods every week. We’re going to be back on March 29 with the first episode of Season 2.
Before we dive into specific boards, I want to divide all double barrel bluffing hands into two groups so everyone is on the same page for the rest of the episode. Gary, what are those two groups of bluffing hands?
The Two Categories of Double Barrel Bluffs
Gary: So we have two different types of bluffs on the turn, our main category which is “equity”, and then we have “blockers”.
I say that equity is our main type of bluff because a lot of our bluffs are going to be high-equity bluffs. We’ll have some bluffs that aren’t straight or flush draws and they will be when we have minimal equity, but we instead have good blockers. We used to think that we never had “zero equity bluffs”, but they very much do exist and they can be just as important as bluffing with those straight and flush draws.
A very quick example of having good blockers is say we open in middle position (MP), the big blind defends and the flop comes down . We bet 1/3-pot on the flop, the big blind calls, and the turn is a .
We, of course, have a lot of spade draws, and some turned straight draws; those are our equity bluffs. But we also like to barrel some and type hands as well, and the reason for that is blockers.
The big blind will mostly raise their trips on the flop, but they should call/trap with certain combos, and hands like and block the specific combos of trips that the big blind is going to call with [on the flop], so even though we have no equity, we use these hands to bluff because they have great blockers.
The trick is working out which combos are the best to bluff with when looking for those preferred blockers.
Mike: I think a lot of people are familiar with that first category. Equity-driven bluffs, bluffs that you’re making because you have a straight draw, a flush draw, maybe some overcards in some spots will count as an equity-driven bluff.
But then we do also sometimes bluff with blocker-driven hands. Hands that block a good portion of the range that your opponent is either going to raise or call with versus your double barrel. Often times it’s going to be spots where your range is deficient for natural bluffs, but that’s not always true.
Sometimes a hand just has such good blockers, like that on example. You block the 96 suited, the 86 suited. Blocking those hands reduces, by a good amount, the likelihood that your opponent is going to call the turn. So those hands, even though they have very little equity when called, they still like to bluff.
Board Types and Double Barreling
Mike: Let’s get into some board types, starting with the boards on which there are a ton of those natural bluffs. Gary, how do you approach double barreling on these more coordinated boards? Let’s start with the value hands, then talk about the bluffs.
Gary: Let’s use the classic BTN vs BB; we bet our entire range on the flop for 1/3-pot, and the turn is the . My size on this turn would be an overbet, and as we’ve mentioned in previous podcasts, when our bet size is bigger, that generally means we bet less frequently. We are betting all of our two-pair combos, all of our sets, all of our really strong hands, and we are betting roughly KT and above.
Our top pairs with a weak kicker like K7 go into our checking range, and those hands play a key role in protecting the rest of our very wide range – remember, we raised preflop on the button and then c-bet with our entire range on the flop, so we arrive to the turn with the same range that we open preflop with, which is an extremely wide range!
Given our range is so wide here it’s really important we understand that our checking range has a lot of air, so we MUST protect that checking range with our weaker top pairs here. In terms of our bluffs, with the bringing a flush draw, super easy, we have a bunch of JT, QT, QJ, and turned club draws.
We don’t have too many blocker-related bluffs here, but the solver does find a bunch of random Q6 suited type hands with no flush draw. It can be a little daunting putting these into our bluffing range, so if we want to simply focus on barreling with equity only, that is completely fine, as we have so many high equity bluffs here to choose from.
Mike: One side note: in this spot a lot of those equity-driven bluffs have really good blockers too. For example on with the bringing a flush draw, has a flush draw, a gutshot, two overcards to middle pair. But you also block your opponent’s best two possible top pairs, KQ and KJ.
Gary, what does your bet sizing strategy look like on these boards?
Gary: So as mentioned I’ll use 133%-pot on non-draw-completing turns, really polarizing my range. If the flush completes or the board pairs I’ll use 75% as my size.
As far as overcards, say the board is J-8-2 and you bet 1/3-pot on the flop. If you want to overbet on those overcards that are really good for your range (like a K on the turn after a J82 flop), you can do that. If you want to keep your strategy nice and simple and use 75% pot on those overcard turns, that’s fine too. There’s not much of an EV difference between those two strategies.
Mike: I want to talk about overbets on a board like this, and help people understand why we do it. I learned this move years ago, at it kind of felt like a cheat code. Actually it still does, but these days more people do it.
Overbetting [on dynamic turns] puts a very good chunk of your opponent’s range in a tough spot. Let’s just think about the big blind’s range on that , turn . The BB is going to have a lot of 8x, 2x, pocket sixes. A bunch of Kx of course. They’re going to have 98 for turned two pair, but let’s put that aside, because there’s nothing we can do to put that in a tough spot.
They can also have hands that picked up a draw on the turn, like QJ or hands that picked up a backdoor flush draw. When you, as the button, bet 133% or 150%, the BB’s draws are in a brutal spot. They basically have to fold. And you’re getting them to fold quite a good amount of equity in that situation.
Gary: Before I started really working on my game, one of my leaks would be that I would bet the flop, and be really reluctant to barrel the turn. My mindset was that my opponent called the flop, they’re never going to fold on the turn. But like you said Mike, the big blind’s range in that spot is still incredibly wide. They’ve got a lot of ace-highs, a lot of pocket fours, a lot of 86 suited type hands that are going to have to fold to that turn barrel.
Finding Double Barrels on Boards That Lack Natural Bluffs
Mike: Now it’s time for the more interesting boards…the ones on which there are few or no natural bluffs from which to choose. How do you approach double barreling on these boards?
Gary: So the only real types of boards where we have few-to-no natural bluffs are paired boards: all other boards will have some type of draw that we focus on. Let’s look at two different boards.
First let’s look at with a turn, complete rainbow, no draws at all here. We like to use our best 7x blockers here, hands like 86s, T8s, all those middling types of hands. And it’s really important that we block the suited combos that block trips the most.
We never use hands like A3 or A4 or KJ, and the reason for that is not only are they too strong and have reasonable showdown, but they also block the flop floats in our opponent’s range we’re now trying to make fold on the turn. So, on when we c-bet our opponent calls with hands like ace-high and king-high, so when we have ace-high and king-high ourselves, we block the hands we’re trying to make fold on the turn.
But if we have ten-high or nine-high, we unblock those ace-high/king-high hands and we also block the trips a lot of the time as well. It’s really important to understand that our opponents won’t always have tons of ace-high and king-high in their flop calling range, but in situations where they do, we like to use our ten highs and nine highs to bluff the turn to make them fold their ace highs and king highs. Blockers are important, but unblockers are just as important in certain situations!
Mike: So you mentioned that the only boards where we have few or no natural bluffs are paired boards. But what about a board like K-8-4 rainbow? Suppose you raise from early position and the big blind calls, so we’re not super wide in the EP.
You c-bet and get called on that K-8-4 flop, and the turn is a 2. It’s a rainbow board. We only have a few draws there, like A5 suited, 76 suited, 65 suited. That’s 12 combos, is that enough natural bluffs to balance out the value range? Are you starting to implement a decent number of blocker-driven bluffs on that board?
Gary: So as you mentioned, we have some of those equity-driven bluffs. We have A5s, A3s, 65s, 76s. The rest of our bluffs are centered around blockers and unblockers.
There’s one other concept I want to talk about, and this is really quite technical. On K84 rainbow, there’s a big difference between 76 suited and 65 suited. The 65 suited is a double gutter, and has a lot of equity The solver wants to barrel that combo on the turn. The 76 combo, which is just a gutshot, actually doesn’t make it into our turn barreling range. The 76 also blocks 87s, 86s, pocket 7s, pocket 6s. Those are hands that the solver is going to fold on the turn.
Let’s use one last board to get us really thinking about our blockers/unblockers. BTN vs BB, single-raised pot, flop is A83r, turn is another 8. We have very, very few natural bluffs here. We want to barrel a hand like T9s on the turn but NOT a hand like 65s. I encourage you all listening to pause the podcast and think really hard about why T9s wants to barrel the turn, but 65s doesn’t……..
So both hands unblock the KQ/KJ floats that the BB will have in this spot, but 65s blocks pocket 5s and 6s we can make fold on the turn. T9s doesn’t have that problem because the big blind [assuming he’s good] will usually 3-bet with 99 and TT preflop, this example is very specific but it’s a really good one to get you thinking about your blockers and unblockers.
Last thing I wanna say is that mastering UNBLOCKERS is no easy feat, it takes a lot of practice before getting this concept nailed down, but it’s really important to get it right.
Mike: Yeah I can kind of feel some of our listeners rolling their eyes in disgust right now. I bet a lot of them are just getting their mind around blockers. And now we’re giving them a new concept – UNBLOCKERS. If you do want an intro to unblockers, we do have a great article on Upswing about it.
Turn Bet Sizing On Boards That Lack Natural Bluffs
Mike: Gary, What does your bet sizing strategy look like on these fairly uncoordinated boards?
Gary: Generally on paired boards I won’t ever use an overbet size, it’s just the 75% size on the turn. We’ve spoken mainly about using 75% today for most of our bets and then 133% for complete brick turns like K823 or JT25. You can kind of build your turn strategy around using only these two sizes and end up with a very profitable yet easy-to-play sizing scheme for all turn barrels in single raised pots.
Mope Tips For Double Barreling
Mike: All great stuff. Let’s wrap it up with a very general question and see where the discussion takes us: do you have any helpful tips for double barreling that we haven’t covered already?
Gary: Yeah. I think the best way to approach it is to first work out what your preferred size is, and then ask yourself whether or not your hand wants to bet. So look at the turn card, think what size your range wants to bet, and then think about whether or not your hand wants to bet.
Sometimes it’ll be VERY easy to determine, for example you’ll have middle set and the answer is “yes my hand wants to bet always”. Other times you’ll have a middling top pair and you’ll have to really think about it. Sometimes you’ll have eight-high and the immediate instinct will be to check always, but you must ask yourself if you have better bluffs in your range, or if you have good unblockers, and sometimes your eight-high will want to bet!
Mike: I think the way a lot of people start in poker is they look at their hand, and decide what that hand wants to do. And that can actually be okay against certain opponents. But I really like the advice of thinking about what size my range wants to bet first. Then decide if my actual hand is worth betting that size.
Gary: One thing I want to touch upon. A lot of listeners might have different sizes that they bet for different hand strengths. And it’s really important that we break that habit. Let’s use a K-8-9-2 board as an example. A lot of us, if we have bottom set, will be happy to use an overbet. But then when we have JT, T7 or a flush draw, we might bet 75%. You make yourself a much tougher opponent by working out what size your RANGE wants to bet, and then using that size for your entire betting range.
There’s one more thing we haven’t yet talked about and that’s when the turn is really good for your range, and you get to bet super wide with value/blocker bluffs/equity bluffs and even some complete airballs. For example, say we open the button and the big blind calls and the flop is 872. We’ll use a large c-bet here, so when we do, our opponent will NOT float us with a hand like QJ.
So that means on a turn Q, for example, the turn is so good for us that we get to bet a bunch of our air as well. Be on the lookout for spots where the turn is really good for you and like all parts of poker you get to bet super wide as a result of that turn being so good for you!
Stayed Tuned For Level-Up Season 2!
Mike: So, as I mentioned earlier this is the final episode of season 1. We’re gonna take a short four-week break, prepare some fantastic episodes for you guys, and we’ll see you when season 2 begins on March 29th.
Sign up for the Upswing Lab to get instant access to many, many poker lessons that cover the topic of double barreling extensively. We have a whole turn section that goes through how the solver, and our coaches, play turns after c-betting the flop, or checking back.
Keep in mind that when you join the Lab, it’s risk-free because your investment is backed by a 30-day, 100% money-back guarantee. We know if you go through just a small part of the Lab, you’ll see improvements in your game.
Thanks for listening to Level-Up, we’ll see you next month for Season 2.
If you want to check out more episodes of Upswing Poker Level-Up, scroll down on this page to find them