Triple-barrel bluffing is fun! It can also be extremely profitable against players from a diverse range of pre-flop styles, provided they share the post-flop leak of calling too light on the flop and/or turn (the latter often resulting as a natural consequence of the former). Whilst barreling on turn/river transitions comes naturally to many players (flushes are scary, can’t win if we check!), firing three barrels when the turn and river brick off can be more of a challenge. Today’s article will focus on one of the most common and accessible flop types: the nonotone made straight.

In a 100BB deep HU game, we raise to pot from the SB and are called by the BB. The flop comes down 987r, which hands in our range are candidates for firing three streets on bricks, and why?

Establishing the pre-flop ranges

The assumed SB range shall be the top 90% of hands, and I have used my default Heads-up BB calling range

1 which comprises around 30% (not 30% as ranked by PPT, I have constructed it from sub-ranges and it totals 30%) of hands against a pot-sized SB open.

Basic Math of the situation

With 6BB in the pot on the flop, if the SB plans to bet 2/3 pot on each street, then the BB must defend 21.6% of his range to stop the SB triple-barreling any four cards on bricks. It is of course true that some turn ‘bricks’ hit one player more than another. A deuce, while neutral in terms of nutted hands, introduces bottom set to SB range and is almost always a brick for BB. Similarly, BB will 3bet many KK/AA hands such that turn K/A hits SB’s range harder. Nevertheless, the width of SB’s range is such that these changes are minor factors compared to the fundamental mathematics of the situation2. The BB has a made straight on the flop 17% of the time, close to half of which are the nut straight. Unless you are a player who defends many {65xx,T6xx} in the BB, in which case your ‘made straight’ percentage may go as high as 24%, you should note here that theoretically you shouldn’t be folding any straight at all by the river when the board bricks off! The astute reader will remark that if we check-raise bluff this board with some frequency then we can call three streets with a tighter calling range. Whilst it is true that by check-raising the flop say 25%, including all of our JT on this board (and thus with 16-17% bluffs) we could reduce our minimum flop calling range to 35%, we would still be required to defend 0.36*0.35= 12.6% of our total range to three barrels. We thus still cannot fold the flopped third nut straight on the river, although calling down with the sets is no longer mandatory3.

Planning to fire three

Our hero, the SB, is trying to select hands to triple barrel with: {JT,T6} comprise 14% of his very wide pre-flop range and are trivial 3-barrels for value. {65} is interesting; if our opponent check-raises all/most of his JT and calls down with {sets, 65,T6} then 65 is a viable value bet since we are called when ahead 60% of the time on the river. If our opponent will not call down with less than top set we should check {65} behind on the river. Since {65} comprises a further 7% of our total range, this is not an insignificant consideration. After constructing our value range it is wise to consider our bluff range, and blockers to straights are the obvious candidates. Here we arrive at the first instance of the theme of this article; as our opponent will (and should) frequently take an aggressive action with the made nuts before we reach the river, the nut blocker is unimportant. If we reflect on our opponent’s call-down range, hands with a Jack acting as a working card do not appear! In fact, having JJ4 in our hand functions as an anti-blocker, since our opponent is slightly more likely to have connected with the board well (by the time we reach the river). In fact, the best blockers here are 66xx with both {T6,65} blocked from our opponent’s range. The SB holds {TT,66,55} without a straight 7% of the time and so if we wished to have a balanced river-barreling range and were only betting {JT,T6} for value on the river, I would suggest a total range of {JT,T6,TT,66,55}.

Further Practical Considerations

If the BB calls down with a range strong enough that we cannot bet {65} for value, we should pay attention to his flop and/or turn tendencies to discern whether his river range is weak enough for us to triple-barrel bluff in an exex5 fashion. With {T6,65,99} totaling 11.5% of his overall range, he must get to the river with no more than 20% of his range to stop us barreling the river with air every time we get there. An opponent who only check-raised 10% of the time, yet called flop and turn 60% of the time per street would arrive at the river with a 32-33% range. Against such a player, a river bluff of 22BB into 33BB would yield around:

0.65*33-0.35*22=  +13.75BB

We would have invested 13.5BB on the flop and turn to get to this spot, and so the entire line would be +EV; his leak is sufficiently big for us to plan triple barrels with air on such a flop.

Be alert for bottlenecks in your opponent’s range; some very tight players will intentionally fold too often on the flop to avoid difficult turn/river decisions. As a result their turn range becomes extremely strong and they can profit against players who continue to barrel them6. In our example, if our opponent never check-raised and folded 70% of his range to the flop C-bet, he would take a 30% range to the turn, over half of which was {JT,T6}. He can comfortably defend such a strong range and our turn barrel is likely futile (save when we have TTxx) and our river barrel will be suicidal. We should adjust by one-and-done C-betting the flop with a very high frequency against this opponent. It is also worth noting that {JJ} blockers now become valuable again; the nut blocker is most valuable when either our range is extremely strong or our opponent is very tight going to showdown.

I have introduced a couple of concepts here which will be explored in later articles: the ‘fundamental blocker’ and ‘bottlenecks’. As ever your comments and/or feedback are very welcome. Please subscribe in the sidebar if you haven’t already and I am especially keen to hear article suggestions from micro players. Until next time,


Show 6 footnotes

  1. I shall not disclose the details of this range, the reader is assured that it is the method which is most important in this analysis rather than the ranges themselves.
  2. This would certainly not be the case in many 6max range-on-range spots. I chose the HU example for a reason!
  3. In practice, if our opponent is triple-barreling with a high enough frequency (as he should be) that we must not fold 65xx we can almost certainly call down our sets. I don’t see many players value bet/bet/betting with sets as a default line here presently.
  4. The same argument can be extended for TT once we have a dynamic where the BB is check-raising T6xx for value. In practice, however, our opponent can only check-raise T6xx for value on the flop at 100BB+ stacks when the SB’s C-betting range is far too wide. As I am building this model from the perspective of playing well in the SB, we can assume that our opponent won’t raise T6xx for value.
  5. Short-hand for exploitable/exploitative; in this instance it refers to us having a narrow value range and yet greatly widening our bluffing range.
  6. In this way a tight player can create implied odds for himself simply by folding too much on the flop and then not folding much of his range on later streets. If you have nits in your database with huge win-rates and you have no idea why this is one of the more subtle causes.