The option for the second barrel bluff appears after you raised before the flop, placed a standard continuation bet on the flop and still got called. The community cards have all missed you, but your opponent hasn’t shown any strength. This is when you might consider firing the second barrel in an attempt to take the pot.
Bluffing isn’t normally something I advise in low stakes poker games. If you didn’t place a single bluff in your entire time at low stakes games, you could still make money. However, poker strategy is never hard and fast. There are always times when it makes sense to deviate from what is normally considered sound strategy.
These days, not everyone at the low stakes games is a complete fish. There are definitely lots of fish, but you’ll still find a few fairly decent players when you play. They understand the basics of not chasing draws too hard and folding when they don’t have anything worth showing down. These are usually the regulars that you run into on a somewhat-frequent basis at your site of choice.
It’s best to practice table selection and avoid the regulars even if the regulars aren’t the greatest players in the world. It’s all about getting that low hanging fruit. But, there will be times when it’s unavoidable. Sometimes you just run into decent players.
These semi-decent players are the best targets for the second-barrel bluff. Calling stations, on the other hand, are the absolute worst to bluff at. They call with anything and everything. Your best bet against a calling station is to just play a predictable ABC game of poker.
When to Fire the Second Barrel
Ok, we’ve already established who to bluff. Now it’s time to talk about when to fire the second barrel. I like to have at least three of the following things in place before I’ll consider bluffing on the turn.
- There is only one other person in the pot
- I have some kind of read on the opponent
- A high card hits on the turn
- A flush draw misses
First of all, I usually only fire the second barrel if there is only one opponent in the pot. This is a low stakes game and there’s no need to get too tricky here with multiple people in the pot. With more than one person in the pot, the odds are just too good that someone will call your bluff on the turn.
Next, it helps immensely to have some kind of read on your opponent. Something I notice fairly often among decent low stakes players is a tendency to float the flop with the intention of stealing the pot on the turn if you give up. These players like to steal small-ish pots with minimal risk by flat calling on the flop and placing a bet when you check on the turn.
If you have a read like that on your opponent, the second barrel bluff can work wonders.
The last two bullet points on the list describe situations that make it easier to sell your buff. If something like an Ace or King hits on the turn, it adds legitimacy to your hand. Small stakes players always put preflop raisers on AK. If either of those hit, you have a good chance of taking the pot on the turn.
I will also often fire the second-barrel if it looks like a flush missed on the turn. It helps to have a read on your opponent. If he’s the type that likes to chase cheap draws on the flop but isn’t a complete calling station, he’s a good candidate for the second barrel when the flush misses.
When Not to Fire the Second Barrel
The most obvious time to NOT fire the second barrel is when your opponent is a calling station. We already covered that earlier, so there’s no need to rehash that whole conversation again. There’s no point in bluffing at calling stations. It’s bad for your bankroll.
You should usually NOT fire the second barrel when the board texture is the kind that could have hit a lot of potential hands. If the board is showing something like K-J-9-8 and all you have is AQ, you probably shouldn’t fire the second barrel. You have a decent gutshot straight draw, but the odds of getting a fold are pretty bad. That kind of board connects with way too many potential hands. Just check it and hope for a free card.
I’ll also usually give up if the turn completes a flush draw. Low stakes players love to chase flushes on the flop. It’s a little predictable to give up every time the flush completes, but I wouldn’t worry too much about being predictable in low stakes games. The vast majority of the players aren’t going to notice.
Finally, I tend to give up if the flop is dry and the turn brings some random low card. For example, a board of 2-T-7-4. If your opponent didn’t believe you on the flop, he’s probably not going to believe you on the turn. The only hand you could possibly represent with a bluff is some kind of over pair.
You also have to wonder what your opponent has on that kind of board. He either has something fairly strong or is floating you with nothing. Your best hope is that he has nothing. However, that’s not enough of a reason to fire the second barrel unless you have a strong read on that person.
The second barrel is an effective move in poker and it makes you less predictable. It’s not something you should use too often in low stakes games. Buffing is generally a bad idea in those kinds of games. The second barrel does have a place against the right opponents, with the right read and on the right board. If everything lines up, you might want to give it a shot.
It takes some finesse to get the hang of firing the second barrel. There will be times when it blows up in your face. Learn from those times and adjust your strategy accordingly. You’ll eventually get better and better at spotting good opportunities to take the pot down on the turn.