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‘The Course’ Skill #4 ‘Barreling’ #28


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 9, 2016

Barreling is a super important skill to master in poker.  I show you the math behind barreling and how to find opp’s likely to fold to your barrels without even looking at your cards through skill #4 in Ed Miller’s book ‘The Course.’

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


‘Barreling' | Podcast #28

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to teach you how to effectively barrel your opp’s off of their weak hands.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #4: ‘Barreling'


  • Title: Skill #4. Barreling; This skill is a transition in thinking. The first 3 were about your hand, now we’re thinking about what our opp has.  Are they weak or strong?
  • 21 pages long
    • Headers: Continuation Betting
    • Barreling Beyond the Flop
    • Bet the Turn
    • Multi-way Pots and Loose Games – 4 reasons to bet into multi-way action
    • Final Thoughts – ‘Playing the Player’

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter?  We’re obviously going to learn about how to push people off of hands through effective cbetting on the flop and barreling turns and maybe rivers.
  • Why are these skills important or relevant to my game? Well, we all know that aggression is what wins out in poker, but blind aggression is something we want to avoid.  This chapter will teach us to get aggressive for a purpose and help us find good spots and opp types to get aggressive against.  I know that for myself, when I’ve got marginal hands, even IP, it’s tough to call multiple streets, I feel like I could just be paying off a strong hand and he’s going for max value.  Using this tendency against my opponents will lead to more profits.
  • How can I implement these skills in my game? Let’s read and find out how we can employ more barreling in our game.


Great chapter!  So much to read and my margins are full of notes.  There’s way too much to unpack here for a podcast episode, but there’s one thing that I’d really like to focus on.  He said:

  • Barreling is not about what you hold or what you could hold. Barreling is about punishing your opp for having too many junk hands and his choosing to get rid of those extra hands by folding them.

This is like a mindset shift for when it comes to barreling.  This changes your perspective from, “I was the pfr, so I can rep the Ace on the flop and barrel him off” to “He’s got a wide, weak range so he prolly didn’t hit this flop hard and I can barrel him off his hand.”  So, you’re concerning yourself with just his weak range, you’re not even thinking about your cards anymore, they become sort of irrelevant.

Summarize and Analyze


  • From the first skill we learned that we want to target players with wide and weak ranges, and these guys are perfect to barrel against. They don’t hit a lot of flops strongly.
  • Most players find it hard to continue to multi-street aggression with weak hands. Remember the idea of avoid strength, attack weakness.  So we can use this against our opp’s b/c firing at pots over multiple streets is absolutely a sign of strength and most opp’s are smart enough to get out of the way.  And those that aren’t smart enough, we don’t fire multiple barrels against.
  • Barreling (and just about everything else in poker) is easier when IP. Your opp checking to you is a great indication of weakness, so barreling has a higher likelihood of success.  When you’re OOP, you have one less indication that they’re weak b/c they haven’t checked to you yet.  Try to barrel when IP.


  • When it comes to barreling math, we’re looking at the break-even point for our bets, that’s what matters.
  • The break-even math, which we covered a little bit back in episode 16 when I talked about having a list of poker weaknesses and leaks, is calculated as the size of your bet divided by the total pot after your bet is thrown in. So a 1/2pot bet into a $100 pot is $50 divided by $150, so it has to work 33% of the time.  So you only have to win 1 out of every 3 to break-even.  This is one of the milestones.  Here are all the break-even milestones you should memorize:
    • ½ pot needs to work 33%
    • ¾ pot needs to work 43%
    • Psb needs to work 50%
  • Now that we know how often certain bet sizes need to work, how do we estimate how often they’ll work?
  • So, what are the best stats available that will help us determine how likely our opp is to fold to our cbets?
  • Fold to Cbet (Flop/Turn/River) – These are prolly the most reliable stats for us to look at. From our history with this player we can see how often they fold to cbets, and this is a great indication of future decisions.  And remember, the bigger sample we have the better, but this starts to become a pretty reliable number after just 6 or so instances of facing cbets.
  • Cbet Flop/Turn/River – This tells us which street our opp gets honest on. The lower the cbet stat on a given street, the more likely they play straightforwardly on that street.  So for example, a Flop cbet of 80% means he cbets with almost anything, while a flop cbet of 30% means he only cbets w/ a pair or better, so this guy is flop honest.  When we understand what street our opp gets honest on, we’ll know how far we have to take our barreling.
  • VPIP – the bigger this number, the wider and weaker their range is, so the less likely they are to flop TP+ or a good draw and be able to continue in the hand while OOP. Not only can our HUD Stats help us, but previous history and notes we have on opp’s should help as well.  Make sure you’re taking relevant notes that will help you exploit your opp’s in the future.  You know, I think I need to do a future podcast on note taking.  Yep, writing it down now so I won’t forget.  But, regarding notes for barreling, if you know the opp is fit/fold or if he gets honest on the turn is important, and any SD’s where you’ve seen crap starting hands helps you gauge their range as well.
  • Now, how do we know how likely or unlikely their weak ranges are to flop good? That’s where Flopzilla calculations come into play. This kind of analyzing in Flopzilla, learning how well ranges hit flops, is important b/c knowing how often these wide ranges miss the flops gives us the confidence boost we sometimes need to throw out that first barrel and then the second and third if necessary.
  • You can find screenshots of all I’m about to talk about in the show notes for this page at
  • 22% CC range – only hits TP+ and oesd and pair+gs or better 30% of the time, meaning they whiff or flop very marginal hands about 70% of the time.  So, they’ll likely fold to your cbets and barrels.  That’s grrrrreat!


  • 36% CC range – 28% hit, 72% miss


  • 50% CC range – 26% hit, 74% miss


  • 72% CC range – 24% hit, 76% miss


  • So you can see that the wider their pf range, the less likely they’ll hit something on the flop worth sticking around for, and the more likely they’ll fold to your bets. Your ½ pot bet only needs to work 33% of the time, and if they’re whiffing 76% of the time, then you’re printing money with each of these situations you’re putting yourself in.
  • What does it mean if they stick around and call you down? You’ll have to refer to stats and notes to help with this, but either they’re super sticky w/marginal pairs and draws, or they’ve got something worth calling and your bluffs might not work.  This is where HH reviews and studying these situations over and over again will help your barreling game.
  • Choose your date range
  • Under ‘Hand Details’ choose ‘Player Position’ then ‘Flop’ and ‘Is in position’. Choose also ‘Player is Hero’
  • Under ‘Actions & Opportunities’ choose ‘Pre-flop’ and ‘Pre-flop Raises’ and ‘Any Raise’

cbet barreling opportunities

  • So this is looking at situations where you’re IP and you raised pf.
  • Now it’s time to review these hands.
  • Taking into consideration all we’ve discussed, from the bet sizing you make, to your opp’s stats and notes, to their ranges and how well they flop, are you making good cbets and double barrels? Are you getting them to fold?  Are your bet sizes big enough?  Do you give up too soon and skip firing that second barrel?  Are you paying attention to your opp’s stats before you make your flop/turn/river plays?  Are you playing fit/fold poker and just firing with strong flopped hands?
  • These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you review your hands.

Take Action

Now for the most important part in this whole process – taking action on what we’ve learned.

So, we’re trying to work on our barreling game and choosing good spots to try to get opp’s to fold.  This will be your focus in the next few sessions you play.  If you’re starting off with good hand selections and playing most pots in position and being aggressive pf, you’ll have plenty of chances to practice your barreling.

Be judicious in your choices and don’t barrel if it seems your opp won’t fold.  Even if he isn’t strong but he’s a calling station and will call down w/BP, make sure you have a hand that can beat what he’s likely calling you down with.  If you have a complete bluff, A, K or Q high or something, don’t fire blindly.  Have a reason for every bet you make with a reasonable expectation that he’ll fold.

If he ain’t folding and you can’t beat jack, don’t bet.  Save the chips and put them to better use later in profitable spots.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:
  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned?
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?


The next day you’ll do an assessment of your session.  This is a hand history review following the steps we outlined earlier and you want to review all your cbetting and barreling opportunities.  Ask yourself these questions again:

  • Am I making good cbets and double barrels?
  • Am I getting them to fold?
  • Are my bet sizes big enough?
  • Am I giving up too soon and not firing that second barrel?
  • Am I paying attention to my opp’s stats before I make my flop/turn/river plays?
  • Do I play “fit or fold poker” and only firing with strong flopped hands and checking-back everything else?

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, what you learned or questions you may have and things to follow up on for more study.  Make changes to your summary based on any relevant info.  Post difficult spots in forums or ask your poker buddies about them.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve made the initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session and try to barrel your weak opp’s off of their hands.  Use this new skill and make any adjustments you want to make, and then assess again afterwards.  We’re just going to repeat steps 5-7 until we decide to fully commit to this new skill of value extraction.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Purposely play your next three sessions with the sole intent of getting into as many hands as possible with weak opp’s, IP and as the pfr, and try to extract value or try to push them off their hands in good barreling spots.  This is actually MED #10 in the list I gave back in episode 24, so these are valuable skills to put into your arsenal.  Work on them now and ingrain them in your Unconscious Competence as they’ll help you move up the levels.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course'.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don't Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10


Sky Matsuhashi

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