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Risking It All With a Triple Barrel Bluff
There are few moves in poker as exciting as a triple barrel bluff. It is also known as emptying the clip and is a powerful yet risky move.
Your blood will pump furiously around your body when you attempt this play. You either take down a pot you weren’t entitled to or you hand over a large percentage of your stack. The triple barrel bluff is, therefore, a move to use sparingly but one that has to be in your arsenal.
The Anatomy of a Triple Barrel Bluff
The concept of a triple barrel bluff is simple. You raise preflop, bet the flop, turn, and complete a trio of bets on the river. You do this without a made hand, hence, it being a bluff.
Anyone can pull off this move but the conditions need to be perfect. They only work against specific opponents and on certain boards. Emptying the clip on a whim is a recipe for disaster.
This play is more common in cash games than tournaments because you can reload your stack in cash games. Firing a triple barrel bluff in a tournament and getting it wrong puts you in an awful position.
Ingredients For a Successful Triple Barrel Bluff
There are three main components to a successful triple barrel bluff: your image, your opponent, and board texture.
Let’s start with the first one, your image. It is more difficult to run any sort of bluff if you have the image of a crazy person. Good players set traps for habitual bluffers. Your opponent needs to know you’re capable of making moves but also that you’ve not always got your hand in the cookie jar.
Your opponent type is important too. Don’t risk this against complete calling stations because they’ll call you down regardless. The victim of your bluff needs to be a thinking player, one who is capable of laying hands down.
The third major factor is the board texture. It is easier, and more advisable, to bluff on a Ks-7c-2h flop than a Jd-Td-8c flop for example. Your range of hands and your opponents calling ranges must be accurate in your mind.
Emptying the Clip in Action
Let us take a look at an example of a triple barrel bluff in action. We are at an eight-handed no-limit hold’em cash game with $0.50/$1 blinds. We have around $220 in our stack and the big blind is playing $170.
The action folds to us on the button and we raise to $3 with Js-Ts. This is a spot where we would be opening 100% of our range. It’s a strong enough hand in its own right, but also has a myriad of possibilities. The big blind calls and the flop falls 9d-6s-2c.
We have missed the flop completely on an uncoordinated board. The big blind could have connected with the board, but is unlikely to have a monster. Our opponent checks, we make a continuation bet of $5 and the big blind calls.
The turn is the Kh. This is another good spot to bet again. A card that improved us was preferable, but the king hits our range harder than the big blind. Villain checks, we bet $12.50 and villain calls.
Hardly any card that land on the river are stopping us completing our triple barrel bluff. The 2d lands on the river and our opponent checks. Now is the time to bet again and bet quite large. Jack-ten has almost no showdown value in this spot, so we have to bet to win.
Which bet size is best? Your optimal bet size here is one that you’d use for bluffs and value. Imagine you have pocket tens or jacks in the hole. How much would you bet here? Villain checks to us and we fire $35, which wins the pot.
Why did this triple barrel bluff work? It ticked all the boxes we mentioned earlier. The river is an interesting spot because a lot of people check behind here. As mentioned, checking behind following the previous action means we never win. Are they calling us down with eight-high?
Villain is calling 100% with a king in their hand, but what if they have a nine? Would you call with pocket sevens or eights here? Our opponent is folding anything less than a pair of kings, which he has the majority of the time, so we get our hands on a nice pot as a reward for our creativity.