We all know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a triple barrel (i.e. when an opponent bets on the flop, turn and river). Sometimes, when we’ve got the goods, we pray they’ll follow through. Other times–and let’s face it, most times–we’re praying they’ll check back.
The position we face the most triple barrels from is the big blind, as that’s where we defend the most. This has the added effect of making these triple barrel pots pretty darn expensive.
So how should you approach these triple barrel situations? And when you’re facing the river bet, how do you decide if they’re a) bluffing or b) if your hand is strong enough to call?
In his BBZ Bundle, Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond (a.k.a. BBZ) dedicates a 56-minute video to how he handles triple barrels when in the big blind. In this article, we’re going to look at just two of the many examples.
WHEN YOU FLOP WELL
In this first hand example, the under-the-gun (UTG) player (who is also the lojack) opens to 2.2x and it folds to BBZ in the big blind. He has ~29 big blinds and holds K ♠ 3 ♠ . At this stack depth, you can defend every suited hand from the big blind.
So BBZ defends and the flop falls 10 ♦ K ♣ 3 ♣ , a decent flop for BBZ’s hand. He checks as he would with almost his entire range, and his opponent c-bets for roughly half pot.
BBZ asks: “How often are you check-raising here?”
What would be your answer? We have top and bottom pair, a strong holding that can make money from top pairs and even pocket aces on later streets.
But there’s also a flush draw on board. This drives a lot of less experienced players to raise right now for value and protect their hand. But that isn’t what BBZ would do.
“I’m probably not check-raising this combo at all,” he says. “I’m pure calling this hand.”
There are several reasons behind BBZ’s choice. First is the stack depths.
“You’re going to see a lot of check-raising with top pair at these depths,” says BBZ. “But with ~30 big blinds, as a result of being shorter, we trap more. Stronger hands are more inclined to play passively than if we were deeper.”
Secondly, the fact that BBZ has top and bottom pair rather than bottom two pair or top two pair impacts his decision to just check-call.
“Top and bottom pair is the variation which defends the calling range the most, even at deeper stacks,” he says. “Bottom two pair is a very efficient check-raise, and top two pair coolers all other two pairs, so it’s also a very efficient check-raise.”
And thirdly is the half-pot size of the c-bet. Had our opponent opted for a smaller sizing–say one-third pot–BBZ would have been more inclined to raise.
We then check the charts to find out not only what BBZ should do with K ♠ 3 ♠ specifically, but what he should do with his entire range.
You’ll notice that K 3 -suited combos are indeed pure calls, while K 10 combos–top two pair–are a high-frequency raise, as is 10 3 -suited.
Interestingly, against a smaller c-bet sizing, we see that K 3 -suited combos are now pure raising.
The 8 ♣ then hits the turn, putting three to a flush on board. BBZ checks again and faces a second barrel of 29,901 into a 66,156 pot, a little under half pot again. He calls, leaving himself less than the pot behind.
The river is the 3 ♥ giving BBZ a full house (threes full of kings). Both BBZ and his seminar students agree that they’re rarely donk-jamming this river (i.e. leading out with a shove). This is because the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is too small.
He checks a final time and his opponent triple barrels, setting him all in. With a full house he makes the easy call and sees that his opponent holds 6 ♣ 7 ♣ for a turned-flush.
“We got lucky,” says BBZ.
WHEN YOU FLOP NOTHING
In our second example, BBZ is in the big blind with 187 bigs. The UTG player opens to 2x off a 33-big-blind stack and it folds to BBZ who defends with A ♥ 10 ♣ .
The flop comes K ♣ 2 ♠ 9 ♣ and BBZ checks. His opponent c-bets for a third pot.
“I’m not going to be doing much raising here,” says BBZ. “I’m just going to be mostly calling here. I think it’s too strong to fold against this sizing.”
Here’s a look at what the solver suggests:
“ A 10 is mostly a fold, but not when you have the club in your hand,” says BBZ. “Any variation with a club in your hand is going to make it a call, whereas card suit=”x”]A[/card] J without a club is mostly folding.”
He calls and the turn is the A ♠ giving BBZ top pair. He checks again and his opponent double barrels for 80% pot.
“It’s possible that you could add in some shoving here,” says BBZ. “But I think this hand mostly plays as a call here.”
That’s what he does and the river is the 8 ♥ . He checks once more and the opponent shoves for close to a pot-sized bet.
What would you do here with top pair and an average kicker when your opponent has triple barrelled and put their tournament life on the line?
For BBZ, this is a standard spot to “station off”, i.e. call.
“The 10 ♣ kicker is pretty bad, but it’s really difficult to have an ace, which is more important,” says BBZ. “Think about what happened. My opponent bet a king-high flop and the turn is the A ♠ . The only way for me to have an ace-high hand, for the most part, is to have some kind of club variation or some kind of spade variation, so the A ♠ strips out a lot of the A X components of my range.
This is important to think about when you’re playing. When the ace of a suit that has backdoor draws on the flop falls on the turn, it’s very hard for the big blind to have an ace. “It’s not impossible,” stresses BBZ, as he himself has an ace in this instance. “But it’s very hard.”
According to BBZ: “The big blind is now stripped to variations of an ace which include a club, or two pair.” As a result of this, you’re not going to see any aces fold to the river shove, in BBZ’s opinion. “If you call the flop with ace-high, you’re not folding the river.”
You can also simplify this decision with mathematics. The opponent has essentially shoved for a pot-sized bet, so you’re supposed to call with half of your range.
“You don’t have an ace very often,” says BBZ. “Do you think half of your range is two pair? Probably not. So if half of your range isn’t two pair, and you have to call the river half of the time, you’re probably not folding an ace.”
The solver agrees. Below you’ll see BBZ’s range on the river facing the triple barrel. To be able to call half of the time, he also needs to call with some K X combos and 9 X combos.
At the end of the day, when you face a triple barrel on the river and you have a bluff-catcher, you’re likely to ask yourself: is my opponent bluffing?
“That’s important, but the problem is that it’s unknowable,” says BBZ. “A much easier question to ask yourself is: is this hand in the top half of my range?
“Well, we don’t have an ace very often because we check-called the flop,” he continues. “The turn is the A ♠ which makes having an ace even harder. So we probably can’t fold.”
Make sure you check out the BBZ Bundle. It’s packed with a diverse selection of some of the most commonly misplayed and overlooked spots in MTT Poker.