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Triple Barrel Bluffs and Tournament Life
Perhaps the most unique strategic nuance of a Multi-Table Tournament (MTT) is the constant threat to your tournament life. Busting from a tournament represents a very large drop in expectation as it results in an immediate loss of your buy-in, but more importantly, a 0% chance of scoring big money. As the money at the top of the pay-out structure is so massive compared with the buy-in, even a very small chance of winning it can constitute a significant amount of expected value. This small chance is embodied by your tournament life – your continued existence in the event. It is no wonder, then, that many players become far too tight when their tournament life is under attack. One of the ways in which we can apply the most pressure to a player's tournament life is by triple barreling in a spot where our range is uncapped and theirs is capped.


Cappedness is a poker expression which describes how limited the strength of a player's range is based on their actions and the board. A range that should not contain a meaningful proportion of strong hands is known as a 'capped range.' A range which can contain the strongest possible hands is know as an 'uncapped range'. When your range is uncapped and your opponent's range is capped, we say that you hold the 'uncapped advantage'. This is one of the most profitable times to triple barrel bluff. This uncapped advantage becomes even more powerful when your third barrel threatens your opponent's stack, but not yours.

Example 1

We are in the mid-stages of a $55 MTT with the blinds at 200/400 wand a 25 ante. You are in middle position with and open to 1000. Your stack at the beginning of the hand was 36,000. It folds round to a disciplined medium stack in the BB, who started the hand with 16,000.

He calls and the flop (2425) comes down: . You decide to keep the pressure on with your overcards and gutshot and make a bet of 900. Villain calls relatively quickly.

The turn (4225) is the . Villain's fast flop timing was encouraging as it made nutted hands less likely – these would at least have paused for thought if they decided not to raise. At this point, we can assert with some confidence that Villain's range is probably capped. The blank turn has done nothing to reverse this. Villain checks the turn and you decide to keep the pressure on with a bet of 2500. Villain calls once more – this time after considerably lengthier consideration.

The river (9225) is the and Villain checks. His remaining stack is now 11,600. His most likely holdings at this point are top pair, second pair and some busted flush draws, many of which will be Ace-High. If you check, you will almost always lose this pot and so the EV of checking is close to zero. In order to start profiting with a shove here, Villain will need to fold just over half of the time. This seems incredibly likely. There are four reasons why your fold equity is probably much higher than it needs to be here:
  • Villain is a tighter player whose tournament life is at stake.
  • Villain's range is probably capped so his strongest hands are things like top pair.
  • Your range contains plenty of overpairs and better.
  • Villain will have no choice but to fold a busted nut flush draw.
You go ahead and execute the third barrel and Villain quickly folds. This triple barrel was a great idea as it threatened the tournament life of a tighter player in a spot where you held the uncapped advantage. Good job.

A Disclaimer

Not all players understand the significance of their tournament lives. The following is a much less sensible spot in which to triple barrel bluff.

Again, the blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante. Again, you have 32,000 and are in middle position; this time holding . With the weight of your big stack behind you, a raise seems fitting, so you make it 1000. Just as before, it folds round to the BB who makes the call, but this player is a loose recreational who has thus far been quite active and splashy with his chips. He has 16,000.

The flop (2425) is and when Villain checks, you go ahead and c-bet 1200. He calls.

The turn (4825) is the and again Villain checks. Happy with the idea that this opponent could have called a lot of random overcard hands on the flop, you decide to double barrel with your heap of equity. You bet 2300. This time Villain's call is instantaneous.

The river (9425) is the and Villain checks. By shoving, you would be threatening Villain's tournament life, but in this spot, there are some very good reasons why you should check behind instead of bluffing.
  • A fast turn call from this player is indicative of either Tx or a pair that has decided that folding is not an option.
  • Your hand can win against worst busted draws by checking behind.
  • This player type is very likely to make impulsive plays based on made-up reads. His turn call and timing suggests he is not experiencing any fear.
You check behind and Villain shows to take the pot.


Triple barreling in an MTT and threatening an opponent's survival can be a key play for increasing your profitability, but we must be aware of the limitations of this play and identify the warning signs that mean giving up is a better option.
What's your thoughts on the 'Triple Barrel Bluff'?
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