Double barrelling refers to the act of bluffing into a pot twice. Since your initial bluff didn’t pan out, double barrelling can be a risky strategy. In this comprehensive article, I'll discuss when - and if - you should use it, and how to use it without shooting yourself in the foot.
Good news: when it comes to double barrelling in poker, you can get your hands on the strategy without having to obtain a permit. Best of all, when applied properly, the effect of double barrelling can be (metaphorically) crippling to your opponent, but without the jail time associated with using an actual gun.
Double barrelling refers to the act of bluffing into a pot twice – once on the flop and then again on the turn. Since the reason you're bluffing twice is because your initial bluff didn’t pan out, double barrelling can be a risky strategy. After all, your first bluff didn’t work because your opponent(s) called your bet, signalling they have an interest in the hand. For this reason you're going to want to think carefully about when to double barrel and against whom.
The Makings of a Good Double Barrel
Successful double barrelling is going to begin with a solid, dry board continuation bet (c-bet). Dry boards diminish the chances of your opponent connecting with the flop, which you’re going to want if you're risking this move. So, for example, a K, 6, 2 flop is much more c-bet (and by extension, double barrel) friendly because it offers your competition precious little traction. With a K, J, 10 flop, on the other hand, you run the risk of your opponent connecting or getting a piece of the draw. As always, there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, the drier the better.
Essentially, double barrelling picks up where c-betting leaves off
Continuation betting is a great poker strategy, but like all strategies, it's has its weaknesses. You can c-bet perfectly and still get called by players who have a piece of the action, want a piece of the action or recognize that the dry board is probably going to carry you over just as well as it’s going to carry them (i.e. not all that well).
Cue the double barrel
The best double barrel cards are not actually cards that help your range, but rather cards that bolster your perceived range. In other words, ignore what you have in your hand and focus on what you see on the board.
Let's say you've been c-betting with a J, 6, 2 flop. Your best cards for pulling off the second bluff in the double barrel are any cards higher than a jack. Limiting your action to this range gives you a relative degree of safety; anyone who called on the flop with a medium strength hand (e.g. pocket pairs) is going to have a tough time making it on the river.
The best bet. It’s best to keep your double barrelling limited to turns that reveal a card higher than the highest card on the flop. This isn't to say you can't double barrel with cards that are a little lower than the flop's high card, but your success rate will won't be as good.
A note on bet sizes: You want your bluff to be taken seriously, so bet 1/2 - 2/3 the pot size on the flop and 2/3 - 3/4 the pot on the turn.
The Other Considerations
You can't escape the human element of the poker, and double barrelling strategy is certainly no exception. In the end, your opponents can make or break even the best hand and most strategic plays. When it comes to double barrelling, you’re going to want to pick and choose your opponents wisely. Calling stations, for example, are never ideal picks if you want to pull off any kind of bluff. After all, by their very definition they'll call almost anything with almost any hand. Conversely, tighter players are good for a double barrel or two because they will bow out of a shaky hand rather than risk losing more money.
You will also want to consider whether or not your opponent is given to floating on the flop. If they do, then double barrelling is a good move. Attempting to double barrel an opponent who usually folds to your c-bet on the flop is not likely to work out in your favour since his or her willingness to stay in the game (and thereby your reason needing the second bluff) is probably indicative of a pretty decent hand.
Along the same lines, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve established yourself as a serious player. Everyone knows that bluffing happens in poker, but it doesn’t work if you’ve actually been labelled as a bluffer. The success of any bluff resides in its ability to fly under the radar.
It probably comes as no surprise that we say doubling barrelling works best in late position – the information position. Acting in late position means we already have a sturdy grasp on how the hand is playing out without having to risk any of our own money to obtain this knowledge. This intel can be used to decide whether or not it’s worth taking the second shot.
It is usually better to reserve double barrelling for higher stake games. When the stakes are low (like $1/$2), players are more likely to stay in just because they don't have as much to lose, rendering your bluffs totally irrelevant, and above all, potentially costly.
The success of double barrelling hinges on the planets aligning, so while this strategy can yield incredible, lucrative outcomes, it’s imperative that you have your ducks firmly in a row before you take aim. If they’re not, seriously consider a cease fire until the conditions improve – and they will. If there is one thing that’s certain about poker it’s that anything can, and does happen. Holster that peashooter and be patient, cowboy.