Firing the Second Bullet by Greg Mueller
In No-Limit Hold ’em, one of the trickiest and, sometimes, scariest situations occurs when you bluff at a pot on the flop and get called. The turn brings a blank and you’re left with a big decision: Do I fire a second bullet and continue with the bluff?
Recently, while playing in the World Poker Tour event at The Mirage, an opponent launched a double-barrel bluff against me, and he got me to lay down the best hand. It was early in the tournament and I was in late position. My opponent, a pro whose play I respect, raised from early position, and I called with Ac-4c. The flop came A-J-7, rainbow with one club. My opponent bet out and I called. The turn brought a blank, and my opponent put out a very large bet.
I was in a tough spot. It was early in the tournament, and I didn’t want to call off most of my chips with this hand. I was pretty certain the bettor wouldn’t have fired a bet of that size with something like A-K or A-Q. With a hand like that, he’d have to worry that he was beat, and he’d probably try to get to the showdown as cheaply as possible. I figured he either had a very big hand – maybe a set of Jacks – or not much at all.
In the end, I decided to lay down my pair of Aces. My opponent then showed pocket Kings.
I give my opponent a lot of credit for playing the hand well. He had a good sense for how much heat I was willing to take. His play illustrates the most important consideration when deciding if you should continue with a bluff: Your opponent’s mindset.
If you’re up against an opponent who is unwilling to play without a very big hand, firing the second bullet can force them to make some bad lay downs. To make this work, however, you need to estimate the price a particular player is willing to pay, and then bet more than he seems capable of handling. In the hand I discussed above, my opponent zeroed in on a price I couldn’t stomach.
Sometimes, a meek player will get stubborn and try to get through a hand by calling you down with something like second pair. You need to have a sense that he’s trying to get through the hand in this way, then price your bets so that he won’t be able to call.
If, however, you’re against a guy who has shown a willingness to call any bet of any size with just about any hand, then you need back off and wait till you flop a monster.
In the end, the most important thing is to know your opponent. If you’re attentive at the table and pick up on the tendencies of those around you, you’ll find some nice opportunities for double-barrel bluffs.
That said, I should note that I’m far more willing to bluff on multiple streets in cash games than I am in tournaments. If I get caught running a big bluff in a cash game, I’ll re-buy with the knowledge that my actions will force some bad calls later in the session. In tournaments, if I bluff off my chips, I’m on the rail.
As your no-limit game develops, study your opponents and identify those who are vulnerable to bluffs on multiple streets. As you develop this skill, you’ll pick up some key pots and become a more profitable player.