Continuation Bets and Double Barrels in Live Poker
Continuation bets and double barrels are plays that should be used in live poker, but not with as much vigor as they are online. The main goal of both of these plays is to force folds, and of course it's rare to find a table in live poker that is full of players who like to muck their hands. You'll need to know how to effectively pick your spots if you want a good chance of becoming a success with these particular plays. The good thing about c-bet and double barrels in live play is that they tend to be more cut and dry than what you normally would expect with these plays. Continue reading and learn how to work these standard plays into your live poker repertoire.
The first thing that you should note is that double barrels and continuation bets are very different from each other. A c-bet is low risk with marginal return whereas a double barrel is higher risk with an equally elevated return. If you are taking the same basic approach to both of these plays, the odds are that you are going to get yourself into trouble. You need to be able to properly calculate just how much risk is worth taking in any given situation. One of the biggest problem areas for players is when they blindly fire double barrels with the same casual approach that they apply to c-bets. Changing gears is absolutely crucial in poker and it's even more important when you are betting without a made hand.
Continuation bets are almost always in reference to flop bets that follow up a pre-flop raise or re-raise. If the action was either limped pre-flop or capped by you, a bet on the flop wouldn't qualify as a c-bet according to most people's definition. The reason that continuation bets work is because they are using an established aggressive image to imply strength, even though it isn't actually existent. If you are placing c-bets that don't make any sense given your pre-flop play, you are going to end up with a much lower rate of success.
Double barrels are when a player demonstrates aggression pre-flop, on the flop, and also on the turn. A triple barrel is simply an extension of this play where a bet is also made on the river. Now, a double barrel is going to require a much more precise read on an opponent than a continuation bet will. The reason for this is because your opponent has already shown that they are ready and willing to stay in the hand. If you got a call on the flop, there's a much increased chance that your opponent is going to stay in til the river.
A double barrel is going to be much more reliant on the board (community cards) than a continuation bet. The turn card will often times be enough to scare a player off of their hand, or it can mean that you should be slowing down. The longer that a hand plays out, the more dynamics that are going to come into play. Understanding this, we are going to now look at how and when to place both c-bets and double barrels to the best of your ability.
Understanding These Plays
There are three things that should be of the utmost importance when placing a c-bet or a double barrel. First, you need to know how much you are betting. Second, you should consider how the flop and turn plays into your image. Third, you should always be aware of the likelihood that your opponent will fold. If you don't have each of these under control, there's a much increased chance that you are going to get caught over and over again.
Of these three elements, bet sizing is going to make the biggest difference in the long run. You might get away with a mistake here and there, but these small mistakes will add up to bigger mistakes when all is said and done. Continuation bets in general will allow for smaller bets than double barrels. The reason for this is that a lot of players are ready to give up once they see the board. Unless you bet an amount that's exceptionally small, a player who is weak won't have any interest in continuing (unless they want to make a play). For c-bets, your best strategy is to bet around half the pot to three quarters of the pot. This is enough to force reasonable folds while not wasting too much when you are called or raised.
Double barrels are usually going to call for bigger bets because they need to overcome a more significant hole. You need to be really persuasive, even intimidating to get folds on the turn. Players, especially live players, are much more apt to see the next street if they already called a bet to see the current one. It's almost like they are sucked into a vortex where they can't find any way to fold. Use logic to determine how large of a bet will be scary, but don't go overboard in case you are up against a monster. Usually, a bet should be larger on the turn than it is on the flop, but you must be prepared to shut down on the river.
The board itself will be much more relevant with double barrels than it is with c-bets. Continuation bets are practically a formality in that you should be making them a high percentage of the time. Double barrels are a product of a particular situation. While it would be incorrect to say that a flop is totally irrelevant when continuation betting, it would be fair to say that it doesn't matter a whole lot.
The turn, however, is of great importance when double barreling. For example, if you c-bet a low flop with a draw, you could bet when a big card comes on the turn and the draw misses. Not only is your opponent less interested if they had a draw and missed, but they may very well also be scared that you paired on the turn. The turn is where you'll hear the term "scare card" used the most, and it's largely because of how much double barrels benefit from them.
How your opponent plays is, again, going to be of more importance when double barreling than when c-betting. The reason is again because of the greater amount of money that is at stake. With that being said, however, there are some players that aren't worth betting into no matter what (unless you have a made hand). If you run into someone who you think is folding only on rare occasions, a super small flop bet will do the job. If they call a small one, they'll probably call a larger one, so you'll be wasting your money if you put any more on the line.
If a general rule needed to be created, it would say that double barreling should only be done against competent players. Why? Well because a competent player is going to have the ability to lay down their hand. There are too many players who will pay just about anything to see the river if they think there's any shot that they have the best hand. Now, you can use this to your full advantage by value betting with big hands, but double barreling into calling stations is akin to lighting money on fire. First the situation needs to be such that a double barrel is believable, but you also need to ensure that your opponent is thinking enough to get out of the way. You could make a perfect double barrel, but if your opponent is incapable of laying down pocket twos, it isn't going to matter a whole lot.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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