Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Tempting a Three-Barrel Bluffer

Poker has changed in many ways. The game has mainstreamed and its tactics have evolved. And there are just so many more great players today than in the past. It is remarkable to see how quickly these players have been able to introduce new winning poker strategies.

There is one simple reason for this: online poker. It seems as if an internet player can cram seven years of experience into one.

Today, young players are simply more aggressive than the last batch that came before the poker boom: John Juanda, Allen Cunningham, Phil Hellmuth, Huck Seed and me. In the old days, a player who showed aggression on the flop, turn, and river, had to have a strong hand.

That’s not the case anymore.

It used to be that very few players were capable of the three-barrel bluff. Many had the guts to try one bluff on the flop, and some would even attempt a second bluff on the turn. But it seemed like only poker legend Stu Ungar had the guts, or even the know-how, to fire a third barrel on the river.

It’s a fact that all of today’s internet poker superstars are capable of the three-barrel bluff. Show them any weakness and they’ll pounce on you like a hungry tiger. It makes them more difficult to read and much harder to defend against. You're forced to guess a lot more often against these hyper-aggressive players. They’ll often bet every street simply because they don't put you on a hand strong enough to call three bluffs.

As with any new strategy, though, there’s always a counter strategy that can exploit such a play. Devising a method to deal with three-barrel bluffers and their aggressive play wasn't easy, but I think I've found a chink in their armor.

By acting like my hand is weak — when it's actually quite strong — I can induce them into firing three barrels. This ploy puts me in control of the hand, and that’s just where I want to be.

The key to this play is patience. You have to be disciplined enough to let your opponent hang himself and control the urge to raise prematurely.

Let's say, for example, that you’re in the big blind holding Ad-Kc, and one of these players raises from middle position.  You make the call.

Now the flop comes Ah-Kh-4c giving you the powerful top two pair. You check to your opponent and he bets. If you check-raise, unless your opponent flopped a strong hand himself, he'll likely fold. But if you simply call, he’ll probably continue to bluff the hand on later streets.

Then the turn card is the 9d.

Against a three-barrel bluffer, check it again. If he bets, hesitate for a bit, put on your best acting job, and then make the call. If you’re convincing enough, he’ll likely bet again.

Now, assuming he does fire out another round, don’t raise him back, as tempting as that may be. Just call the bet. You’ll be sending out a false signal that you only have a mediocre hand. The bluffer might wrongly assume that you’d never call a big bet on the river.

The river comes the 8d. Check one last time and hope for the big payoff.

Your opponent might try to represent the hand that you actually have. So when he bets, go ahead and complete the check-raise, but beware that this move comes with some risk. If he’s bluffing, he won't call your raise. If he does have his three-of-a-kind, well, that’s poker, right?

Utilizing this strategy against a three-barrel bluffer will actually limit your losses when you’re beat and maximize your profits when you have the goods.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

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